Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Writing 101: The Truth About Motivation

In school, some smartypants always starts a paper with the definition of the word that encompasses the subject of said paper. Some teachers hate it so much, they tell their students not to write that way. So here's your warning: this is a post about the definition of least, the one I've decided to use for the word when it's applied to authors. Because I've discovered the ugly truth about motivation, and I know the dark secret no dictionary is ever going to tell you.

Synonyms and Staying Focused

You've got to stay motivated. You've got to be motivated. As long as you're motivated, you'll be able to write!

If this sort of advice has ever made you physically queasy, then you understand the dark pain that some writers are forced to face. Because the truth about motivation and writing is this: you can have it, and still not do anything about it.

I'm motivated to write -- clearly, I am doing so right now (real time for me, in the past for you). And like any good writing soldier, I'll whip my manuscript out when I've got free time on my hands. I'll grab that bad boy and scroll all the way to the bottom. And I'll stare at it. Maybe, just for fun, I'll put my hands on the keyboard. And even when I'm feeling fired up, and eager to spend my time getting another scene down on the page, I don't always produce words.

The truth about motivation is this: that's not the main attribute authors need. Much deeper than motivation lies simple hope. Now, you're not going to find that word hope listed in the thesaurus among synonyms for motivation (I checked), but you can bet your best typing hand that motivation without hope isn't going to get you anywhere in that novel.

And you can force writing, if you've really got to -- but nothing says it's going to be any good. You can turn off your heart to write...but you can't turn it on. And if you're not feeling in any way positive or hopeful about your book project, you're not going to have an easy time of writing it. You can still have the motivation to write, you can still have the ambition, but if you're feeling despair, or exhaustion, or helplessness or any other emotion that eats away at your hope...well, it's going to get messy.

So my advice is this: forget about motivation. Keep thinking about your stories. Keep hoping. When something bad happens, you get an ugly review or that 200th rejection letter, hope that next time you'll get a better review or a more positive answer. Keep hoping, and motivation will come naturally. Your writing will be better for it...and the words will come more easily.

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  1. I try not to focus too much on motivation because sometimes even when I do have it I find it difficult to write. And then if you don't have motivation, you can blame your lack of writing on that. I like your idea of hope--it's something better to focus on.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Sarah! Glad you liked the post.