The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
People tell me all the time that they haven’t written “lately” because they “just haven’t felt like it.”
And I get it. I do. There’s a lot going on. It’s hard to break out of a dark state of mind when everyone and everything around you is constantly feeding you reasons not to.
But if you want to write — if you really do want to take your writing seriously and are struggling to find the motivation to make it happen — you first have to be honest with yourself and accept that a lack of motivation to write really isn’t a great excuse for not writing.
You can overcome that, though. We all can. It’s just going to take some work.
Review your writing goals — and if you don’t have any, set one. It’s very easy to say “I’m going to write today” but much more challenging to actually follow through. For many aspiring writers, this is because “I’m going to write today” isn’t a goal that’s specific enough to convince them to actually do it.
A lot of a writer’s motivation comes from reminding themselves that there’s still a point to doing the work. Because let’s be honest: Some days, it’s hard to remember you’re not just silently screaming your thoughts into the void. (Well, maybe sometimes you are — but it’s not all for nothing.)
That’s why you need a goal — something to push yourself toward even when you don’t “feel” like it. Some days you aren’t going to feel like doing anything at all. But if you fixate on this thing you desperately want to accomplish, you’re at least giving yourself one more reason to try. You should always try, even if you only come away from it with a few hundred words. That still counts. It’s better than none.
Tell someone you’re going to do xyz today. It’s somewhat “controversial” in the productivity space to advise people to talk about what they’re going to do before they do it — and it’s totally understandable why that is. I’ve written more than one blog post over the years about how you should spend more time writing then you spend talking about what you’re going to write.
But the reason I give that specific advice is because many writers talk about their intentions expecting other people to act as their motivators. And you’ll be lucky if you have even one friend or follower who will give you even the smallest “you got this” in response to a tweet or text saying you’re going to write today, for example.
This isn’t because no one else cares about your goals. The exact opposite might be true, in fact. But here’s the thing about people, you and I included: We tend to care mostly about ourselves and our own priorities over everyone else’s. So it’s not that other people don’t want to support you. They just aren’t always going to act as the support system you feel like you need.
So what do you do? You tell the world about what you’re working on today … and then you work on it. Doesn’t matter who’s paying attention. Social accountability works even when you’re just throwing your progress out into the universe for all to see. It might feel strange to do that. But if you’re the kind of person who works best under pressure, when you know the whole world could be watching? It might be the exact form of motivation you’ve been searching for.
Write. But Meg! If I don’t feel motivated to write, how am I supposed to write?
For the most part, motivation is not something you can summon even in your most desperate hour. This is something many beginners really struggle with. “I’m not feeling motivated to write, so I can’t.” And they keep repeating this to themselves over and over, day after day, and wonder why they haven’t written anything lately.
If you need motivation to write, the best way to get it … is to write. Sit down, even if you don’t want to. Open that document, even if you don’t want to. Shut out/off your distractions, even if you don’t want to. Force yourself to focus long enough on what needs doing and you just might forget you were ever avoiding it.
There are many reasons a person might not “feel” motivated to write. There will be times you just have to do it anyway. It’s not going to ruin the quality of your writing to push through your “I don’t want to” mindset. It’s not going to make you hate writing. Once you break through that barrier, often times writing becomes almost … easy.
Just write. I know you’ve heard those two words a hundred times. I know it’s not always that simple. But there is exactly one way to fail as a writer, and that’s to not try writing anything at all.
Give yourself a chance. You never know what might come of it.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.