We’ve all been there. You get fired up and excited over an idea for a story. You sit at your computer and, in an all-consuming passion, bash out the first few pages. This is it, you say. The greatest story / article / book I’ve ever written! Yippee!
The next day, you write a few more pages. Still going strong, but perhaps without the same breathless excitement.
The day after that, maybe there’s a few less pages.
And even less the following day.
Before you know it, you start doing other things during your once-sacred writing time. Like dusting. Or eating chocolate (I know which I prefer!). Eventually it all comes grinding to a halt, leaving you feeling flat and uninspired and no longer motivated to write.
Hopefully it’s not the end of the dream forever – just a lull. So what can you do to fan those flames of excitement all over again?
Take a break
Sometimes lack of motivation comes from overdoing it at the start. It’s hard to keep up a breakneck momentum. Slow it down, take a break and eat that chocolate. Or better still, go for a walk and get some fresh air. While you stroll, let your mind play over your story idea. No pressure – just drifting. You might find yourself ready to have another go when you get back to your desk. If not, at least you had some healthy exercise!
Most writers are avid readers. If your writing is not inspiring you, try reading something by one of your favourite authors. It will reignite your interest, and remind you of why you wanted to write in the first place. If your story requires research, now’s the time to immerse yourself in it. It can get you back into the groove.
Write something else
Anything will do. Lack of motivation often stems from fear – ‘I really want to write, but I’m scared I can’t do it well enough, so I’ll just stop now.’ If this sounds like you, try writing something that is not earth-shatteringly important. Just fun. It might be about something happening in your life, something on the news, something you can see over the fence … I’m getting interested already!
Often in my workshops, I give my students writing prompts (you may remember I shared some of their responses in a previous blog). Prompts are a great way to get the creative juices flowing and overcome the fear that can strike when we look at a blank page.
The important things is to enjoy. However many reasons we have for wanting to write, surely enjoyment should be up there among the highest.
Fake it ’til you make it
Even if you’re not in the mood, tell yourself that you are. Slap on the facial expressions that go with the mood – that is, look alert and smile – and sit up straight, rather than slumping despondently over your desk. Psychologists tell us we can trick our brain into feeling a certain way by going through the physical motions. Give it a go, and most importantly, give it time to work. Don’t give up after a few self-conscious seconds!
Just do it!!
Most professional authors, myself included, laugh hollowly when asked about motivation. ‘What’s that?’ they ask, eyebrows raised. Yes, we do often feel motivated to write … but not all the time.
For me, motivation is highest when I’m planning a book or starting to write it, but then reality hits. This is going to be a lot of work! Hard work, at that. And there’s some dusting I’ve been meaning to do…
But then habit kicks in. This is my job and I have a deadline. Most people don’t feel overwhelmed by enthusiasm when they turn up at work, but they still manage to perform. So I sit at my desk and write. Most days the mood builds as I progress and get into the flow. Some days it doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter. I keep going regardless. The words keep coming, and the book gets written. If any bits feel a bit flat I go back and re-write them later on, when the hard part has already been done.
The trick is to make writing a habit. Part of your routine. Set yourself a goal – for instance, to write for an hour a day. Then don’t over-think it – just do it!