Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Three tips for staying motivated with writing

A couple days ago, a GTW (Go Teen Writer) asked about staying motivated with writing. She shared something I think we can all relate to, which is that she'll be excited about an idea, but quickly loses interest. Anyone but me feeling her pain?

Sarah Dessen, who wrote my favorite book This Lullaby and many other wonderful YA novels, has been quoted as saying her favorite book is the one she hasn't written yet. Why? Because she hasn't had to do any of the hard work yet. She hasn't stalled out yet or found flaws with her plot. She still has that spark.

Losing motivation is common. It happens to us in all areas of life, doesn't it? Here are a couple thoughts on it:

1. I've said this before, but that old adage about health and exercise, "a body in motion stays in motion" applies to writing as well. A writer in motion stays in motion. My husband loves exercising, but there are still days that it's difficult for him to feel like exercising. You know what he does? He does it anyway. As artists we tend to lapse into, "oh, my muse just isn't around today," but that's not the attitude to have if you want writing to be more than a hobby. You make yourself write regardless. Sometimes when I do this, I write some real crap. But most of the time, I get into a rhythm, fall back in love with my characters, and work myself out of the funk.

2. But sometimes we lack motivation because we're drained. Tired in our soul. We've got nothing left to put on the page. Be nice to your inner-artist. It needs replenishing same as your body needs sleep. Spend some time reading your favorite book. Watch wonderful movies. Enjoy life for a while. Observe. Give yourself a couple weeks vacation, and then I bet you'll find yourself eager to get back to the pages.

3. Utilize the buddy system. I know this can be hard, because writing isn't like soccer. You can't just go join the team at school, you know? In high school, you know how many girls I knew who were trying to get a novel published? None. I had no writer friends, and no hope of finding writer friends. But with beautiful sites like Facebook and, ahem, Go Teen Writers, you have the chance to connect with other people your age who are also serious about their writing. I have a couple of writer friends I'm close to, and I can't tell you what a difference it's made for my writing that I can send them an e-mail saying things like, "This sentence isn't working, can you tell me why?" Find yourself some writer buddies.

Or if you can't do that, find somebody in your life who you can talk to your writing about. Who's interested in hearing your stories, and even reading them. A good friend of mine in high school, Janette, was wonderful about reading my stuff and offered me wonderful feedback. Her aspirations in life were different than mine, but she was still interested in my desire to be a novelist and didn't mind helping me out.

Anybody else have tips to share?


  1. This is exactly what I needed to read! Thanks for sharing.

    I think another great motivational tip would be to commit to journaling. I'm not great at keeping this up, however there are many benefits to doing so, especially if you are an aspiring author.

    Maybe during this winter break I'll let my inner artist rest. It's been through a pretty long journey this year. =)

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.


  2. Tessa, journaling is a great habit to get into! The discipline of it can really keep you engaged in writing.

    Hope you enjoy your Christmas too!

  3. This past summer I heard from a publisher regarding one of my stories, and they wanted a rewrite. I started out excited and strong, but soon faltered and had trouble moving from chapter to chapter. The reason wasn't lack of motivation, but rather I wasn't excited about the direction the story was taking. It turned out I had to go back and reevaluate the goals and motivation of my main character. I made a major change to the story, and bang, it started flowing again and the excitement returned.

    If lack of motivation stems from being bored with the story or feeling there's something wrong with it... that gut instinct is probably right! For example, if the author is bored, it's possible the reader will be too. So... spice it up! Go deeper into the characters and the plot to find something that's going to make the plot sing... and then the author will probably do the same. :-)


  4. This really helped me =)
    I tend to slack and tell myself I just don't "feel" like writing... or I'm not "up to it".
    All I need to do at times is read a little bit of one of my books and POOF I'm motivated. =D for a little bit at least... haha

    Thanks for posting this! This helped! =]

  5. I have trouble staying motivated. I have an idea or write something & then go back the next day & think it's lame &'not good. Maybe that's more self doubt than motivation related.

  6. Diana, thank you for sharing that! I think us being bored with our own story is definitely a sign that something is wrong. Character motivation is a good thing to keep tabs on.

    Jazmine, I'm definitely the same way. Something I've started doing is ending my writing day mid-scene, rather than at the end of a scene or chapter. For me, it makes it easier to dive back in the next day.

    Tonya, self-doubt can certainly play a role too. That's when it's good to have writer friends, or if not that, just someone in your life to whom you can say, "Does this suck, or am I being overcritical?"

  7. I've just gotten an idea for a book -- previously, I've written about stuff that everyone else has already written or is writing. But this time, I'm writing about something that I'm actually interested in -- the slave trade. You know, Amazing Grace the movie and William Wilberforce and all that. At first I thought it was totally boring, but I really got into it after we spend hours and hours on it in English. Everyone was sick of it, but at the end, I found myself wanting to learn more -- not to never hear the words "slave trade" or "William Wilberforce" again. And for me, it's pretty exciting!

    Diary writing is something I definitely do. I try and write everyday...

  8. I feel like this little bit of knowledge was just for me! Especially since I havent't written anything new in oh three weeks? But now I'll just force myself, like workin out. hahah
    Thank you again, Stephanie!

  9. Emii, you must be a historical writer at heart. I love it when ideas just click like that!

    Mary, I think December is a particularly tough month to write, so be nice to yourself :)

  10. That's funny. I don't think ever read or written historical fiction before! There's always a first time for everything...it just seems to, like you said -- click!:)