How to Turn Inspiration into Motivation, and Motivation into Productivity


Last week, I figured out how my trilogy is going to end.

As it often happens these days, I wasn’t writing when the idea emerged from hiding. Actually, I was working, minding my own full-time, focus-requiring business when BOOM—there it was. Right down to the last line of the epilogue. I could almost hear the character speaking the words in my head.

Admit it, it’s happened to you before, too.

You’d think this would prompt a much-overdue happy dance. I FIGURED OUT HOW TO END MY SERIES! There are just a few problems with my new “discovery,” though. The most important being, of course, that at this point I have barely made a dent in Book 1. Even after almost three years of working on the project.

So here I am, with a beginning mostly written and a pretty awesome ending in mind. Now all that’s left is … everything else.

The moment I realized the perfect way to end my trilogy/series/whatever the heck it ends up being, inspiration hit. Really—if you’ve felt it before, you can back me up that it’s an actual physical, yet oddly satisfying slap in the face. Though I had the ending, and not much in the middle, thinking about my book again inspired me to work on the story despite not being anywhere near the end of it.

There is a common misconception, though, that the second a writer feels inspired to work on one of their [often many] projects, they get to writing, well, right away.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Inspiration does not always equal motivation, which does not always lead to productivity. I haven’t made much Elite progress since my “ending revelation,” but that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt inspired, and even motivated, to do so. Here’s how to get yourself from that fresh sensation of inspiration, onto the motivation train, all the way to Productivity Land.

Write Something Down ASAP

It doesn’t matter when, or how, or what. When inspiration hits, especially if you can’t start writing that second, minute, hour, day, week, just jot down something. Find a Post-It and scribble keywords. Write a note in your planner. Set a reminder in your phone.

While you’re not likely to forget an idea—and if you do, if the idea is good enough, it will always come back—making a physical note to yourself gives you something to go back to when the “right time to write” finally comes.

Journal About Your Idea Later 

For those “against” outlining, think of this practice as a way to expand the horizons of your inspiration before shaping it into a scene, theme or piece of dialogue. On that same Post-It note, marginal space in your planner or in your phone, without worrying about spelling, grammar or even full sentences, write about your idea. I have an untitled document on my iPad that consists of several pages of random thoughts associated with my trilogy, and when I am inspired to write but not motivated to sit down at my computer and do it, I open up this document and scroll through it first. This usually does the trick.

Writing your idea down, and then writing more about that idea, can give you a clearer picture of how you want to use it in a current story or even a future project. Additionally, if you’re inspired but still dragging your feet, return to those notes. Often, this will transform inspiration into “I have to write, right now!”

Choose One Piece to Run With

You’ll develop a lot of smaller ideas just from one bout of inspiration, probably without realizing it. One mistake writers frequently make is trying to fit all the pieces together in one sitting, then hopping onto their laptop and trying to crank it out right then and there. Highlight one small element you want to work on, and focus on that first.

Writing about your idea, instead of leaping right into working on the actual project, is not a waste of time. It took almost a quarter of a page of notes before I realized one of my characters has to battle a brain disease (spoilers, sorry, you’ll forget by the time, if, this thing ever gets to print), which eventually turned into a significant plot point throughout the entire series. For awhile, I focused just on this, and it has led to many more (slow) developments since.

When you feel inspired, get your idea on paper. When it’s on paper, motivate yourself by expanding on that Post-It/margin/screen. When you’re motivated, take one small piece from the notes you’ve made and start incorporating that into your project. It’s not complicated, and you might find it works better than another method you’ve tried.

These three steps will take you from the abstract to the concrete; the process is worth holding off on opening your project’s document in MS Word. Especially if you’re like me, who gets ideas in the middle of the work day and can’t stop menu editing to work on them. (If only.)

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.