Monday, August 23, 2010

Motivating Yourself to WRITE ~ 5 Suggestions

I'm having some trouble motivating myself to write lately. It's summer, and the sticky Georgia heat is sapping my creative energy. I'm busy with a new job, and the stress is chipping at my drive to tell stories. My cat is demanding more of my attention. Et cetera.

Summer makes me lazy as a cat.

Excuses. I'm not saying they aren't legitimate, but the problem remains. Either you aren't writing, or you aren't writing very quickly. What can you do to help yourself stay focused and write more than a sentence or two when you just aren't feeling motivated? I've been having this problem all month. Here are some of my suggestions for myself, and anyone else who might be feeling the lack of creative fervor the summer can bring.

1. Plan

I've mentioned this before. It is SOOOOOO helpful to know where you're going. If you've ever been driving down the road behind a car that isn't quite sure where/when to turn, you know how speed can be affected by uncertainty. When you're trying to stall for time to think up where you want your plot to go, this can affect your writing.

2. Leave some mystery regarding the plot

What's in the box? Write the story to find out ...
This might seem to contradict the above advice, but I'm just advising a blend of the two. Plan, yes, know your major plot points and movements and where you're heading, but leave some things to be discovered. Don't literally write out a bullet by bullet "he said, she said" for your book, unless that sort of thing helps you. (I'll wager it doesn't). For myself, if I don't want to discover what happens with a story, then I'm NOT going to be interested enough to spend the massive amounts of time and energy and sweat and blood and tears to write it down in order to find out.

So, that mystery of wanting to discover what happens to my characters can really keep me going.

3. Make yourself write

Sometimes you just have to shut the door, turn off the cellphone, log off twitter/facebook/youtube/etc. and just write.

I know. I KNOW. Sometimes writing is easy. The words practically spurt from your pen onto the page (or more likely through your fingers into the Word document) and you're rushing just to record the deluge of thoughts and ideas that won't stop churning in your mind. You're driven to write by a whip-wielding muse, but it's exhilarating and you love it even while you hate it.

And then sometimes writing feels like slogging through wet cement dragging the dead carcass of a gutted elephant. Writing can be AWFUL. It HURTS. It BLEEDS THE SOUL. I know. Bless your heart. You would rather clean bathrooms. You would rather scrub floors. You would rather get a root canal. But guess what? Not writing is just going to produce ... you guessed it. Nothing.

My advice? Just get in the zone and buckle down and force yourself to write something until you're there. Usually forced writing, for me, is crappy writing, but crappy writing can be REVISED. A blank page cannot. Something else that helps me keep writing is going back and rereading a few passages of what I've already written, parts I like or parts that capture the emotional elements of the story. This helps me get into the mood to write more.

4. Leave something to write tomorrow

Carrots = YUM
Never write until your brain is dry of ideas. Always leave a germ of something in there to mull over and think about between writing sessions. I especially like to leave a scene for later that I'm looking forward to writing, so when I sit down to do the hard stuff it dangles before me like a carrot. This strategy keeps me pushing forward when the elephant-carcass-wet-cement mentality is upon me.

5. Fall in love with your story/ write what you love

If you don't love what you're writing, how can you expect other people to like it? I've made this mistake before--I've written stuff I didn't really care about, and it was dull and dry. Of course, there are always exceptions (Sherlock Holmes springs to mind--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle apparently loathed writing it, but it paid the bills). However, generally speaking, if you aren't enthusiastic about your project then your subconscious might be telling you something. If you don't care about it, why not? What's missing?

Here's a helpful question I like to ask. What is driving your characters--what do YOU (and hopefully, the reader) desperately want to see them achieve? 

If you have a sympathetic character with strong motivations, you might write faster to see those motivations realized.

I hope these suggestions are helpful!


  1. Another thing! Exercise helps me think sometimes, and it gets blood flowing to my brain. If you're stuck and can't get any good ideas, go jogging or do some biking.

  2. The "leave something to write tomorrow" is great advice. Otherwise you're exhausted AND bored. I followed your advice and did that yesterday, and I'm excited to start today!

  3. nice suggestions! now if only i'd stick to the planning- that would help! number 3 is the key... must obey number 3!
    (came here via QQQE)

  4. Hi, Katherine!

    I happened upon Matthew's post (on QQQE) today about your query and thought I'd pop by!

    This are great suggestions. I really SHOULD do #1 more often but I tend to just do #2 and #3 instead. I'm working on the planning, it does help when I can do it.



  5. Great post! No matter who you are or what you do, at some point, it's always challenging to sit down and get to work on our stories. :)

    I popped on over from Matthew's post on QQQE to say hi, so Hi! :)

  6. Um, not sure why I wasn't following before but I am now:) These are some fantabulous tips!

  7. Great advice and timely. But my avoidance of work has found me a new blog!

  8. Good advice :) There are some days where it is harder than others!

    I popped over from QQQE - nice blog you have here! :)

  9. @Jaimie I read it somewhere but can't remember where! Some of the best advice for writer's block I've ever discovered.

    @Matthew Rush - thanks for the shout out! I am looking forward to the query stuff this week :-)

    @aspiring_x Yes ... I find that making myself write is the biggest part for me.

  10. @Mia Hello :-)For me, #1 isn't so difficult now that I know to do it ... it's #3 that KILLS me. It's absolutely as awful as pulling my own teeth sometimes.

    @Tabitha *waves* hello!

    @Candyland Why thank you :-D

    @Holly Awesome :-)

    @Jemi Thank you kindly for the compliment!

  11. Excellent advice! Especially the part about not being able to revise a blank page. I'll remember that tomorrow during my writing session!

  12. Ooops! Forgot to mention I popped over here from QQQE! Glad I found you.

  13. @Julie Thanks! I try to remind myself of that often, because I usually think what I'm writing at the time is terrible. But as long as I put it down on paper then I can fix any problems...

  14. I'm from QQQE. Good luck w/all. Sounds cool.


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