If you’re the type of writer who struggles to keep their motivation levels even, know you’re not alone. Even a prolific writer with lots to say and a million reasons to do it can be discouraged after a few bad days of writing. It’s as easy as being under the weather.
There’s no easy fix for this, but a motivational dose from a fellow writer can often do the trick. So why are you feeling unmotivated?
You’re Not Writing as Well as You Want To
Anyone’s first attempt at making anything is not going to be even close to perfection. You’d be lucky if there’s anything good about it at all, really. And constantly producing imperfect work when you’re ambitious can be very discouraging. What’s important to keep in mind in these moments is some perspective. You’re getting a little bit better at writing every time you make something, and during the times this is difficult to believe, look at some of your very early attempts at something, and recognize you’re miles and away from being that person in terms of quality.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
— Ira Glass
“Start early and work hard. A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.”
— David Eddings
I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
— Gustave Flaubert
You Keep Losing Interest In What You’re Working On
When infatuation with an idea does not translate to love of the work put into materializing it, motivation usually goes out the window immediately. This presents a difficult choice: do you keep following the pursuit, or abandon it in favor of another infatuation? The choice is yours to make, and there is no wrong answer. However, you shouldn’t feel bad that you lose interest. Lots of other writers feel the same way, too.
My idea of a writer: someone interested in everything
— Susan Sontag
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
— Orson Scott Card
You Have No Idea Where It’s Going
Having no idea where the story is going is a common symptom of the gardener type of writer. To you, the search fro where the story goes is half the thrill. Beneath that thrill, though, hides a silent terror that even though the writing is constantly going somewhere, it will end up nowhere. This fear will cost your rapid motivation loss, and you might end up abandoning the project altogether.
The thing that’s important to keep in mind here is courage. You’ve got to keep writing and discovering what it will be. Worst case scenario, it’s another rewrite.
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see ad far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
— E. L. Doctorow
If there’s one piece of advice that’s more valuable that the others in this case, it’s that you shouldn’t be discouraged. keep working hard, and you’ll succeed. To sum it all up, here are two quotes by Ray Bradbury:
“Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.”
— Ray Bradbury
“You fail only if you stop writing”
— Ray Bradbury
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