Hello and happy Wednesday!
The more I write, the more I realize something very important about writing.
Writing is hard.
We may love writing very much, but at some point or another, even our most beloved projects are probably going to feel like a struggle to work on. Our characters won’t cooperate, our theme feels flat, our plot lacks excitement…we may wonder why we ever thought the story idea was worth pursuing.
And it can be the same with non-fiction writing too, like articles, essays, or personal stories. Why are we even writing? Maybe we’ve lost inspiration, maybe we’re exhausted, maybe we just can’t seem to find that motivation that we had at the beginning of the project.
It’s a frustrating thing. On one hand, we know we love writing and that we loved the project at one point. But now, we feel so exhausted and discouraged that it looks tempting just to throw in the towel and find something else to do. This is where those ‘shiny’ story ideas end up causing trouble. Surely a brand new idea will stay exciting and wonderful, right?
Instead, many of us end up trapped in a cycle of pursuing a project only as long as we feel motivated and inspired by it. Once the happy feelings and excitement is gone, it becomes next to impossible to keep working.
And if we’re physically burnt-out, it only gets harder. Maybe we’ve been working too hard at our stories for a while, or maybe the rest of our lives are just extra exhausting and stressful right now. Either way, if we don’t feel good physically, it gets very hard to be creative or find inspiration for anything.
I’ve dealt with this often – and I suspect every other writer has at one point or another. Probably a lot. The struggle is real, but many of us end up beating ourselves up about it. Real writers don’t have this problem, we think. If we were good at writing, or if our story ideas were actually worth telling, we’d feel inspired all the time. Or we’d be able to push through the pain to do it anyway.
What starts as a simple loss of motivation – usually due to factors outside our control – ends up causing us to doubt ourselves, hate our novels, and feel like giving up on something that we truly do enjoy very much.
I think what most of us need to realize is that this happens. To everyone. It’s not a sign of whether or not we’re good at writing, or whether we should be working on our projects. It just means that we’re tired, and human, and fluctuations in our motivation and energy happen. Often.
What matters is figuring out how to work through those valleys. Over the past few years, I’ve dipped down into many valleys like this, where I’m searching for motivation but have been lost in how to find it. But as I’ve discovered, even though it can be extremely difficult sometimes, it is possible to get motivated to write again.
So today, I thought I’d share my best tips for regaining our motivation to write. As always, I’m no expert, but as I’ve dealt with my share of burn out and dissatisfaction with my stories, I’ve have discovered a few things that help me. I hope these tips are helpful to you as well – and hopefully inspire you to get writing again!
Read Writing Advice
This is a piece of advice that has to be taken with a grain of salt. And the reason is because it’s all about balance. Reading through books, articles, and posts full of writing advice and inspiration can either be the perfect way to be motivated to write again – or it can lead to procrastination and writing even less. So we should be intentional about the time we spend researching the writing craft, but also not be afraid to soak up more knowledge!
So assuming we’re not just procrastinating, writing advice can be an extremely helpful way to get motivated again. For myself, if I don’t feel like writing, reading writing advice and tips almost always gets me going again. Maybe it’s seeing that someone else has pushed through their discouragement and reached their goal, or maybe it’s just a good way of getting into the right headspace for writing, but it usually works for me.
This is especially beneficial if you tailor it to your stage in the writing process, rather than just browsing through random writing articles (though that can also work sometimes). Are you struggling with outlining? Finding ideas for the middle of your novel? Editing? What about writing your synopsis or brainstorming characters? There’s good advice out there for every situation, and it may be just what you need to find your motivation again! If you’re looking for good places to find helpful advice, I’ve listed some of my favorites here.
Why did you start writing this material in the first place? What was it that piqued your interest and sparked your passion? Who did you want your writing to impact – even if that person was just yourself? There was a reason you started writing this story or article or poem. If you can remember that, you have the beginnings of some very good motivation. Your why is the reason why you and only you can write this project, so remember it!
Think back to what first made you passionate about this piece. Is it because of a genre or time period that you love? Is it full of your favorite story tropes, or do you think someone you know will be excited about it? Is the theme one you’ve learned through hardships and now feel called to share with others? Maybe you’re writing an article or something sharing your personal experience and lessons – do you feel you can make others’ lives better?
I’ve heard the saying that no ‘why’ is too shallow, or silly, or insignificant. Whatever your reason, your passion, your motivation…it just is. And that’s going to be what carries you through to the end of your project. If it’s a project that you’ve never felt strongly about, or if you lose sight of the initial reason why you started writing it, you’re either not going to be able to finish, or the process of finishing is going to be miserable. And people that read your work can tell if it’s something you truly found joy in doing – or if you hated it.
Talk About It
I’m a verbal processor. But I also don’t like to talk about something unless my thoughts are in order and I’m sure I’ll make sense. It can lead to some interesting conundrums when I feel stuck and need to process something with my writing, but also don’t want to sound like a fool while doing it. I’ve experimented with many different ways of breaking past this – whether by talking to myself (so much for not sounding like a fool, right?) or others.
Assuming I’m talking to someone else about my story or other writing project, I’ve realized that I often don’t even need to talk about the part I’m stuck on. If there’s someone willing to listen, I can just start telling them about my story in general, and there’s been many times where something will just click, and I’ll figure out that plot hole while not even trying to. Or, if you don’t mind working through the problem with them, you can do that too.
But if you’re not stuck, and just lack motivation, it’s crazy how well talking to someone can work. We tend to get very critical about our own projects, and the more we feed ourselves thoughts about all the work it needs, the more we lose sight of the beauty and excitement our project actually has. So talk to a supportive friend about your characters, your world, your plot, your topic…whatever used to interest you. Describe your project as if you were recommending someone else’s work, and let yourself get excited about it again.
Use Breaks Wisely
Breaks are a very necessary thing when writing. If you never stop to let your mind and body rest, you’re going to end up very burnt-out and your motivation to return to your project again is going to disappear. No one feels like writing when our heads hurt, we’re out of ideas, and we’re so tired that we just end up falling asleep at our desks anyway. We need to stop and rest, and allow our imaginations to refill with creativity and purpose.
And on the other hand, we also want to make sure our breaks aren’t just procrastination with an acceptable name. Scheduled breaks to refuel and rest are a very good thing, and you should definitely make sure you take plenty. But just make sure that you do come back to your project afterward. When I’m stuck in my story, or having doubts about why I’m writing, my mind searches for any excuse to just stop.
If it’s time to be done for the day, or the session, then I just make sure I schedule the next time I’m going to write and stick to it. The more times I brush off a writing appointment, the more likely I am to continue doing it. And if I’m just taking a short break in between writing sprints, I like to spend my break doing something that still helps motivate me, like listen to music or watch a video about something pertaining to my story, read a chapter of a similar book, or…talk to someone about my project, haha.
This probably sounds like a horrible tip at first glance. And it is simple. But just like I mentioned above, one of the best ways to get motivated to write, is to write anyway. I definitely struggle with this. When I don’t want to work on my story, or I’m stuck on something, I just don’t want to. I’ll usually find anything and everything else I can do to avoid it. My brain is lazy apparently, and when the work is hard, it takes off.
But a funny thing happens when we buckle down and work on our projects anyway, even if we don’t really feel inspired. As we immerse ourselves into our stories or articles, the inspiration comes. Maybe not in the glorious, emotional way we’d like it to, but it does come in some form. We slowly get more ideas, we slowly get more immersed in the world of our writing again, and we may even end up not wanting to stop when we do need to.
If I’m not feeling motivated, it takes a lot of discipline to make myself write anyway. But I’ve never regretted it. Even if it’s hard the entire time, being able to look back and see even a small amount of progress makes the struggle feel worth it. And if you really don’t want to work on your main project, try starting with something small that relates to it. If it’s a novel, write a drabble or a scene from somewhere else in the story. If it’s an article, try writing just one paragraph, one bullet point, or one description. Many times, that motivation will follow.
Well, those are five of my best tips for finding motivation and passion for your story again! Everyone deals with burn out and growing tired or critical of their stories at some point, but there’s a reason you started writing your story. I pray that if you’re struggling, you’re able to find that reason again, and let it fuel you to continue telling your heart’s story!
Did any of these tips stick out to you? Are you using any of them in your own writing journey? What are YOUR favorite tips for staying motivated to write? I’d love the chance to learn from you – so let me know your thoughts in the comments!
1.You can find more writing-focused tips here.