Nope. This is not a post about how to find motivation to write. I know I’ve said it at least once, but I’ll say it again: You don’t need motivation. It’s just a little nicer when you have it. But you don’t need it. Not to workout. Not to write. Not to reach your deadline. Not to accomplish your goals. All you really need is the willpower to force yourself to get there.
That being said, it feels a whole lot better when you are motivated. Naturally.
Sometimes, a little too good.
Here’s my controversial take on it. If you haven’t trained yourself to work through low spots, days and weeks without motivation or inspiration, then you are going to flop hard when you do find inspiration and motivation. If you have trained yourself to work through those tough spots, it’s still crazy easy to be swept away by a moment of motivation.
Why is this? Why can motivation be bad for us writers?
The simple answer is because we’re writers.
It’s easy to be caught up in the passion of the moment. Even easier to see the images, feel the story in your head and heart and want to to follow it no matter where it takes you. The motivation, the inspiration, the sudden strike of genius just feels so good that we almost can’t stop to consider whether or not it’s actually good.
Think of it this way, how many ideas were you sure were a good idea only to look back a day, a week, a year later and go “Ew, I wrote that?”
The bottom line here is that motivation and inspiration are great. And we should write when we feel inspired. But we should never trust that inspiration.
So, now that we know not to trust it…what do we do? How are we supposed to write with motivation under these circumstances?
Don’t put it off until later, but wait a minute or two.
There’s a lot to be said for just hanging on one second. I’ve found that when I get suddenly inspired to create, if I wait an hour or two I’m actually more excited about creating. And the ideas that I had have had some time to grow. Instead of being inspired for ten minutes and fizzing out into a weird, half-written story, I’m inspired for days. There’s more to what I’m writing.
Besides, waiting and thinking about what I want to write is so exciting to me. I never used to approach writing this way but since I have I’ve found that inspiration finds me more often. Which isn’t a necessity, but it sure is nice.
This is one of the biggest problems with inspiration. We get inspired, motivated and start kicking out words faster than we can process what’s actually happening. We end up with grammatical nightmares. We end up with a thousand plot holes. We end up with a really, well, a really crappy story.
There’s no fluidity. No purpose to the words. As a reader you can almost feel how excited and rushed the writer was and this is not good.
So when you feel that inspiration and you do write, deliberately slow down. Take time to write out your sentences. And while I rarely advocate for reading over your work as you write it, go back at the end of each paragraph and make sure it makes sense. Taking a little bit of extra time will only help you in the long run. It’ll change the look on your face when you read it back tomorrow, I promise.
More than that though, slowing down does something else. It forces us to hold onto that motivation and inspiration. It forces us to feel the same feelings as when we are motivated but for longer. It’s forcing us to calm down a little and not be whisked away by the story. We are the creators of them after all and we need to have control.
Set the mood.
I’m making it sound like writing with motivation isn’t fun. But it should be. Sometimes, when we’re constantly just following the stream of thoughts and emotions, we lose track of how good it feels to write when we’re motivated. Take a moment to set the mood for yourself. Light a candle specific to that book, collection, etc. When I wrote my third book, I always lit the same candle and had the same playlist play when I was motivated. After awhile, when I did those things and I wasn’t motivated, I could still step into the stream of motivation.
I was setting up stimuli that would trigger those similar feelings in the future when I struggled. And it worked.
Stick to your schedule, a little.
Motivation can also lead to burnout. No one wants to experience that especially after such a high of inspiration. But it happens a lot because we don’t pace ourselves. This goes along with slowing down, but make sure you stick to your schedule (more on writing schedules later).
But, then the “a little” comes into play. It’s totally fine, and probably better, to write more than you scheduled in when you have motivation. But I would say be careful of how much you scoop onto your plate. Your brain can only handle so much. Take breaks every thirty minutes. Add on only a little bit more. A half hour, a few hundred words. Be careful with how long you exercise your writing.
All right, all right. I don’t want to bring anybody down. Motivation is a really wonderful thing but if our writing habit isn’t strong enough to withstand the monotony of writing when you’re uninspired, it isn’t strong enough to shine under the pressure of inspiration.
Motivation will come and go. If you’re uninspired, don’t worry. If you’re inspired, don’t worry. Either way, be proud of your work. Take the time to slow down. Take the time to be patient with your writing and yourself.
Writing poor work when you’re motivating feels awful but it’s a product of not knowing how to handle motivation. Good luck and happy writing!