Episode 42: Finding Motivation


Motivation often comes in waves. And while you can’t always control how long or when those waves will come, you can clear the way for them and take advantage when they hit.

This is the process I’ve heard quite a few times from the writers I’ve worked with:

I got really excited about this novel/story/article idea that I had, and I started working on it. In fact, I did what you said and planned it all out first before jumping in. So, I got several paragraphs/pages/chapters in, and then I hated it and loved it in turns. I just couldn’t keep going.

That may not describe how you feel exactly, but I think all writers get caught in the middle-of-the-project doldrums. After all, a project is always more exciting when it’s either still in conception or finished. The middle part—the writing and revision—can suck the fun right out.

There are no simple answers for getting back the spark (just don’t call it writers’ block) on a particular project. However, there are ways to help.

  • Go back. If you’ve lost some of the fire, revisit your notes. After all, the conception stage got you excited about the project in the first place.
  • Find another outlet. There’s no shame in moving on to a different project for a few days and then coming back. The point is to simply get something written—even if it’s a different topic/genre altogether.
  • Get silly. One of my favorite ruses for getting back on track is to write something I know that I won’t really use. My sophisticated socialite might decide that she needs to run away and join a fishing expedition in Alaska. Once I’ve gone off the deep end, I delete it. Often, however, this silliness gives me ideas.
  • Talk it out. Find someone you trust (friend, agent, editor, writer) and let them know where you are. Perhaps they can see the problems you’re missing.
  • Make a storyboard/diagram. Sometimes thinking visually will help you to make connections and to see where your work needs to go.
  • Check your hand. Problems stop writing cold. While you may not even know that there’s an issue, plot holes, argument weaknesses, and other problems often cause motivation to drop. If you can’t press forward, maybe you need to take a look back. Make sure that everything fits together like it should.
  • Kick it to the curb. Sadly, there are some projects that just aren’t going to make the cut. If you’ve worked through the other steps above and nothing seems to be working, it may be time to put the project in your archive for some future date.

Motivation is often about finding different ways to look at the same problem. If you’re stuck, don’t rely on the same approach—try something new (or get more coffee).

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One thought on “Episode 42: Finding Motivation

  1. I used to have this problem a lot. Then I realized that my writing slowed when I hadn’t been reading enough, or widely. As long as I kept my nose in a book whenever I had the chance, I could write, even if they weren’t related at all to one another.

    Of course, same goes for video games, movies, and music. As long as I’m immersed in other media, I can create things. Once I stop learning, or reading, or just start sitting around, everything slows down, stops working.

    It’s strange, really.

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