The Struggle Bus -- Motivation
This is another post in the series I've titled...!!!
The Struggle Bus
In this series I discuss common struggles we all go through as writers. Sometimes I'll provide a solution that has worked for me, but I've found many of these struggles don't have a solution... and that's okay. The solidarity in the writing community is so strong, with many who have "made it" eager to tell you that their journey to success was not linear, was in fact full of setbacks, sleepless nights, self-doubt, and the desire to quit all together.
I want to be one of those beacons that writers come online to seek out in the dark, scary, uncertain world of creative expression. Just hearing you're not alone is sometimes all the resolve you need.
Today I'll be talking about motivation... or lack thereof. And boy, is this as good a time as any for me to post on this topic.
Life: that little annoying but necessary evil. It happens, right? We as writers are trying to maintain a creative space in the midst of chaos, setbacks, and constant interruptions. Most of life is wonderful, of course -- family, celebrations, vacations, etc. are all things that contribute to the richness of life and -- bonus points -- make for some decent content for future writing projects. But life, the good and bad of it, can also get you out of your groove. This has been my struggle as of late.
I rediscovered my passion for this blog once I decided I was finally ready to query my novel, which has already been published, to literary agents. The agency I'd zeroed in on looked promising, and then I discovered they, like most or all agencies, want fresh material proposed to them. I thought I'd done enough extensive research to tell me this agency accepted already published works, but alas... it's better not to go that route with them, which is fair and common to the point of almost being the rule.
So now I'm editing my other completed manuscript, one I'm equally as passionate about, but which isn't ready to be seen yet. Getting the motivation to write in general is an uphill battle these days; as I write this blog post, I'm calling on every bit of inspiration I can muster. Currently I'm hindered by all those little bits of life I mentioned: lack of sleep because of my new baby, discouraging and scary world issues that are impossible to get away from, my mental health suffering because it isn't wise to do many of the things I normally do to reset (go to the gym, treat myself to a book store visit or quiet pedicure, etc.), and doubting myself and what will happen with my writing going forward since my aforementioned plans fell through.
Motivation goes up and down. One day, I'm enthusiastic and energized, ready to tackle a writing project. Then a few lackluster writing days go by, and my library work gets in the way, or I'm too mentally exhausted to do anything but browse Pinterest for funny writing memes or something, and I've lost my drive. I'm at my best in the mornings, and the earlier I can get started, the better. If I don't get started early, it's a toss-up on whether or not I'll get started at all. And if I spend a day or two not writing, I feel like a fraud. Why would I call myself a writer if I'm not writing? What right do I have using the label "author" if I don't even feel like writing? Shouldn't I always feel like writing? I used to. Writing used to be my cure-all. Now I'm letting the things it used to cure get in the way of it.
It is some consolation to know that every writer has these same feelings. When faced with a large task like creating something from the raw materials in your brain, it can be at once deeply satisfying and overwhelming. You can be excited and also dread it. Motivation is hyping yourself up to create anyway, to see past the work and toward the end result. Honestly, though, that end result is always more attractive than the work, even though writing is often a fun thing.
I always fall in love with my characters, my scenes, and the stories I want to tell. I hope I never get into a position as a writer where I'm churning out stories just to produce content. I want to be passionate about everything that ever has my name on it. Because I'm in love with all my ideas, and because I'm an introvert who loves to be inside my own head, I spend a lot of time developing the story internally. I come up with scenes and get excited about them, imagining them with real live people attached to them. This is potent motivation to take the story from my head and onto the page in the hopes other people will one day get to see it, too. Ironically, it's also usually a major detour to actually writing.
*I uploaded this meme instead of writing*. Seriously. I spent a lot of time on my Writerly Pinterest board looking for memes to accompany this post. Why didn't I write the post first, you ask? Right, because I was avoiding writing.
Lack of motivation comes from many sources, just as motivation comes from many sources. It all depends on the writer and what habits you've formed (because writing is all about habit, after all, and very little about inspiration). I'm unmotivated to write because of self-doubt. I'm unmotivated to write because I can't get into the right head space for it. I'm unmotivated because I don't know how I'm going to get this bear of a scene/topic/[insert-your-issue-here] down on the page. I'm unmotivated because I'm tired. So, to combat these unpleasant feelings, I avoid writing all together. And we all know how easy that is. There are tons of distractions out there, especially when you're seated at a computer. Often I've had to disconnect my WiFi and throw my phone across the room in order to rid myself of any temptation to hop on social media, entertainment websites, or end up in any "I went to Google to do some research for my novel and ended up on the dark web" moments.
I think the trick, then, is to turn those reasons for lack of motivation into all the ways you hype yourself up to write. Writers write because it makes us feel alive. It excites us. We love telling the stories that have been swirling around in our heads. We love our characters. We love the idea of introducing our stories to the world. Or, for nonfiction writers, it's cathartic, calming, or a way to write about something you've studied and in which you've become an expert.
So when I'm tired, for example, forcing myself to write usually awakens my senses, my fingers, and my passion. If I'm feeling some sort of self-doubt, I go back to one or two incredibly eloquent or powerful passages I've written in the past and remind myself I'm capable of producing art. If I'm having trouble getting into the right head space, I might listen to some music or read a favorite chapter by an author whose career I aspire to have one day. I remind myself why I write. I remind myself I one day want to be more than what I am. I remind myself to keep reaching, that the only way I'll achieve what I want is by -- say it with me -- writing.
Motivation is the key component behind habit, which -- to me --- is what lets a writer get things done. Not inspiration, but habit. When motivation is lacking, habit falls by the wayside. It's not always easy to stay motivated in a career as subjective, exhausting, and sometimes spirit-crushing as writing, but we persevere anyway. We push forward because we have no choice but to write.
And having no choice is probably the biggest motivator of them all.