Motivation and inspiration are two of those things writers lament, cry, and gnash their teeth over. Not to say it’s not frustrating as all get-out as a writer to lack the spark of inspiration so you really have to work hard to string words together instead of the magical muse-fairy dropping them into your brain. We’ve all been there.
But inspiration is something we can do something about. We can get it from an external source and often by simply recharging ourselves. When you think about it, it’s actually pretty easy:
- go for a walk
- change your location
- do something else for awhile to give your brain diffuse time for creative thought
- gain some insights through research
- read something that’s not your own writing
- or just generally get new input into your head through any means, so you can spit something out
I’ll likely catch hell for saying it, but writer’s block is a myth. Having worked as a commercial copywriter and a freelance writer, you better fucking believe it’s possible to find some inspiration when a client is waiting for you to pull brilliance out of your arse, so you can get paid and you have to do it so you can pay your rent and buy food for dependents, so they don’t die. Trust me, that stuff is a massive motivator.
Oh wait. Funny how that slid right into motivation, eh?
Motivation… People talk about it all the time now. That they need some, need to find some, don’t have any.
Let’s think about this logically for a minute.
I mean, since when did we need to motivate ourselves? Before people had free time, they didn’t need motivation to work and do the things they needed to do to survive. They just bloody did them.
Y’know, it wasn’t until we got into the Industrial Revolution that we even saw the word “motivate” printed anywhere. Nobody used the term until after around 1900. Why? Because our own sense of self-preservation was enough to get us moving on those things that needed doing to prevent us dying. We were hardwired for it from birth, too. Nobody in ancient times ever suffered from a lack of motivation to grow their own food. Okay, well, I suppose it’s possible, but we wouldn’t have heard about that idiot, because they’d have died off and so would have their defective gene pool.
Anyway, the point is, historically and evolutionarily speaking, we’re not that far away from the times of our lives where the need for motivation was non-existent. Barely a hundred years. That means, we’re still hard-wired that way. Once you incorporate that understanding into your modus operandi, it changes the landscape upon which you write.
How do you find that magical land? For one, own it when you don’t do any writing. Stop blaming it on other things – social media, Netflix, the dog was too cute and you just had to play with it during your writing time… Learn to grown-up, okay cupcake? Own your shit.
Let me give you a “for instance”. I cranked out 7 full-length manuscripts in the middle of being a single parent with four kids, which is a feat in itself, while holding two and sometimes three jobs. And not all of those jobs were writing. Most of it was crap manual labour that kicked the shit out of me or soul-sucking retail customer service, because they were the only things that provided a steady paycheck while I also wrote freelance and squeezed in such exciting occasional jobs as throwing newspapers on foot. And on top of it, for reasons unknown, my place is where everyone comes when they’re in trouble – domestic, drying-out from substance abuse, lost souls who have nowhere else to go… I really need to investigate the invisible sign over my door that draws them, because I pick up more strays than an animal shelter.
But the point is, this isn’t a pity party. This shit is just life. Everyone has one. What I’m saying is, learn to deal.
So what does this mean as a writer? How do you get your pay-off?
Figure out your priorities. What’s important to you? And then once you figure it out, don’t allow anything to get in the way of it. How? Just don’t. I have three very clear priorities that I cast in stone in my brain a long time ago – basic survival, my family and writing. They’re competing priorities and all hold the same level of value for me. I make it work. Every time something happens that throws a roadblock in my way, my perspective on it is, it’s the universe saying, “Okay, smartass, so how bad do you want it now? Gonna give up?”. Maybe it’s just my personality, but backing me into a corner is a surefire way to get me to come out swinging. The hits keep coming, but I don’t care. I just bob and weave around them.
Understand that motivation really isn’t a thing. Evolution has already provided you with a gift – the ability to go full steam ahead all day every day to survive. If you attach the same value to your writing as you do to survival, you can use that quirk of evolution to your advantage. You’ll become the most prolific writer anyone in your circle has ever seen.
Every time something tries to derail you? View it as theft. Do you allow anyone to steal from you? Fuck no. So don’t allow it from your writing, either.
Ask yourself right now – how bad do you really want it? If you can honestly say that spending time on Snapchat or losing weeks binge-watching Netflix hold greater value for you than writing, then let it go. So stop lamenting over how those outside things get in the way.
I’ve said it a million times – I’m a great believer in understanding that the things we sacrifice for are the things we prefer to do with our lives. So step back and take stock. Critically look at where the bulk of your time is spent and where your heart laments for you to be. You may find there’s actually something else you dearly love, but haven’t allowed yourself to go there, because it’s quirky or weird or you fear what other people would think. You know what? Screw other people. Everyone deserves the right to be happy. If it’s not writing? Find your bliss and grab it with both hands. But you have to give yourself permission to find it first.
And if it’s writing? Grab it with both hands, some super clue and a nail gun, because it’s a long hard ride you’ll never want off.
Remember, the only thing that gets in the way of you being successful as a writer, or anything else for that matter, is you. And when I say successful, I mean consistently prolific and feeling fulfilled by it, not monetarily rewarded. Write because you need to. Don’t write when you need a break. But either way, own it.
So, how bad do you want it?
Is it your reason to live? Do you need it to bleed off the crazy, so your head doesn’t explode? Motivation toward that sort of thing is moot, because at that point it’s not about writing. It’s about your survival. So attribute the same value to it as needing to eat and breathe. Once you live there in your head, you’ll write longhand with a crayon on a roll of toilet paper if you can’t get near a computer, so you don’t die.
Motivation? Fuck that. How bad do you really want it? Once you figure that part out, the rest is easy.