The Truth About Writing Motivation

The truth about those motivational articles and books that say you can find inspiration anytime and anywhere: They lie. They are written by a collective of cranky motivational “experts” who have devised ways to keep the rest of us in perpetual uncertainty, frustration, discontent, and torture.

I think they meet every Thursday at noon.

And they wear berets

A Writerly Life: Brenda Ueland

“Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first,–at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, lighthearted and generous to everyone else.”
— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

The Lexicon Practice

Some days I write and the words flow easily. Then, all of a sudden, I’ll hit a bump and run out of words.

No writer should be without a supply of Very Good Words.

So, I’ve started a lexicon practice. A Lexicon Practice is where you put actual time – regular time – into collecting words and phrases.

Leonardo da Vinci did it. James Joyce did it. Mary Oliver does it. Priscilla Long does it. She says, “The writers of deep and beautiful works spend real time gathering words”.

I have a small bound and sewn blank book that I put words in. I haven’t gotten far with it, but this small book is where I record words that strike my fancy. Words I want to savor. Words I want to own.

Dorothea Brande said, “Be on the alert to find appropriate words wherever you read.”

My Lexicon holds new words and old words that please me. It is part of my resource base as a writer.

If you don’t have a Lexicon, consider starting one today. Get a small notebook and start gathering words. Don’t ignore or diminish the power words have to make your writing work.

A Writerly Life: Robin McKinley

“One of the biggest, and possibly the biggest, obstacle to becoming a writer… is learning to live with the fact that the wonderful story in your head is infinitely better, truer, more moving, more fascinating, more perceptive, than anything you’re going to manage to get down on paper. (And if you ever think otherwise, then you’ve turned into an arrogant self-satisfied prat, and should look for another job or another avocation or another weekend activity.) So you have to learn to live with the fact that you’re never going to write well enough. Of course that’s what keeps you trying — trying as hard as you can — which is a good thing.”

—Robin McKinley (author of fantasy and children’s books; winner of the Newbery Medal)

A Writerly Life: Elif Shafak

“Male writers are thought of as ‘writers’ first and then ‘men’. As for female writers, they are first ‘female’ and only then ‘writers’.” ― Elif Shafak

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play

What’s your passion?

I want to write more. Let me streamline that a bit: I want to write more, send more of my work to an editor and/or agent, get published more, and make more money. You probably want something similar (that’s why you’re reading this, right?)

Now, I could ask myself, why aren’t I? However, a more interesting question that I’m pondering is, What pain am I willing to put up with in my life to work on my passion?

The pain is:
* the early mornings or late nights spend writing,
* the hours spent writing when I *should* be doing something else,
* the tough conversations about why I don’t have time to do ____ because I’m writing,
* the days that are so full that i have no mental energy left over at the end of the day to write,
* the fear that I’ll never make a “living wage” as a writer.

But you can’t win if you don’t play.

So, ask yourself, what pain are you willing to put up with in order to write?

When You Finish Writing, Celebrate!

When you finish a piece, celebrate.

When you are working on a long piece, put small celebrations in place along the way.

When you achieve a step toward completing a difficult piece, celebrate.

Why is celebrating important? Celebrating your writing triumphs big and small is a way of honoring your work and yourself. It is a strategy that give you a resting place. We need resting places. In Minding The Muse, Priscilla Long says, “Once we experience the feeling of deep rest after completing a work, it’s natural to strive to get there again” (p. 10). If you never rest, you may give up writing.

It is about the attitude that we as women writers take toward our own work.

Celebrating is about our relation with our own work. Celebration brings joy into our writing life. Choosing to celebrate honors our work.

Today’s Challenge: Come up with a list of celebrations, big and small, that make you feel special. When you finish a piece, a step, a draft, reward yourself with something on your list.

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