What Is Writing Motivation, Actually?

In the end, it’s all up to you.


Have you ever felt “unmotivated” to write? Of course you have; we ALL have. Or, we thought motivation was to blame, anyway. There are plenty of reasons why we find and give in to excuses for not writing. Motivation, or lack thereof, goes a little bit deeper than a shallow excuse.

What do we mean when we talk about motivation, in terms of writing? Probably not what you’ve always thought. Let’s break it down.

It’s not something you can go looking for

Don’t mistake motivation for inspiration. There’s enough of a misconception of what “writespiration” is anyway. Motivation isn’t a feeling. It’s still not as tangible as you might like it to be, but it’s something you are in complete control of. It is a mixture of desires, goals, strategies and plans. The Return to Your Reason challenge we attempted a few months ago focused on the idea that everyone has a specific reason, or motivation, for writing. You’re the one who establishes that. It’s not out there somewhere waiting for you to find it.

Searching for your motivation to write doesn’t mean there is one specific tool, activity or emotional state that is going to somehow give you writing superpowers. In reality, writing motivation is more about the big picture. It’s the thing that drives you to sit down and write not just once or twice, but consistently over an extended period of time.

Your writing motivation can only come from one place

And that place is, as you’ve probably already guessed, within your own head. This is why YOU must be the one to decide to commit to your writing, and YOU have to be the one to set the goals, and YOU have to come up with plans and strategies to make it all happen. Take the guide I included in last week’s newsletter, for example. It’s called a ‘guide’ because it’s only a suggestion. My role here is to give you tips and tools for you to go away and try on your own, not force or tell you how things should be done.

It’s really a matter of taking responsibility for your own writing. As humans, we’re not always good at that, so it’s understandable that you might struggle here. We just naturally like to rely on other people and feel like others’ contributions to our goals makes a difference. A lot of times, it doesn’t. Regardless, it has to start and end with you. No one else truly knows why you want to write this thing in the first place. Only you know that.

It’s going to take other attributes to turn motivation into productivity

That’s what this whole series of posts over the past week has been about. Attributes like discipline and focus and motivation all work together to fuel productivity. Once you have your true “reason” for writing – you have a mission to teach people something through writing, or you have a specific message you want to send through a particular story, etc. – you have to use that to get started. But other things have to be in place in order for you to keep writing.

This is why having a series of clear end goals and creating schedules to help you move toward those goals is the most effective way for you to write what you want to write. I can’t stress enough the importance of being specific about what you really want to use writing for or what you want to accomplish while doing it. I know this is hard. But it’s what’s probably going to help many of you get from where you are to where you want to be.

Motivation is more than just wanting to do something. Just because I want to finish my novel by November 1 doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around and wait for a day I feel like working on it – because there’s so much else going on, I very rarely do. I’m telling the story for largely a personal reason, but that is my motivation. So I set a time to sit down and work on it on specific days, and that’s what I do.

Is it hard? Yep. Do I want to do it, most of the time? Not really; it’s almost been a year and I’m ready to move on the moment it’s finished. But I keep doing it because I don’t lose sight of that underlying motivation I have to continue on even when I don’t feel like it.

That’s what you have to do. Figure out your motivation. Use that as a foundation, and start writing.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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