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Question of the Day #55: Writing Motivation

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We all started somewhere. Whether you started writing in the womb, or just picked up a pen yesterday, its all valid. What brought you to writing in the first place? Some of us have kept up the habit, others have taken years-long breaks. What keeps you coming back? And sometimes life hits you like a hammer, and motivation is low. What do you do on those days when you don't feel like writing?

Why did you start writing? What keeps you writing now? What do you do on the days when that feeling fades, to stay motivated?

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I don't really know why I started writing. I was a kid, I just wanted to write. I had this crazy, vivid imagination and just wanted to get the stories out, and the writing bug never left me.

As far as what keeps me writing now...I mean, I've come SO far as a writer. It took a LONG time, but I finally have the discipline to stick to one draft long enough to not only finish it but get to the point of edits/rewrites, and that's huge! Most people my age who've been writing for as long as I have probably have at least a few finished drafts, and maybe even published books, under their belts, but I apparently do things at a sloooow pace. I'm really happy with how far I've come with my writing, and that's a huge motivator. I know I can get it to the point of being publish ready, and even if it takes a few more years for that to happen, it'll be worth it.

As far as staying motivated...honestly, this community is a huge motivator. I come online every day, I look at the forum, I look at Discord, I chat in Discord...I see people doing word wars, talking about their writing, asking questions, etc. I say something like "I should be writing" and someone says "so write!" It's the little things like that that help motivate me to write. Now, there are totally days where I just don't feel like it, and I justify it to myself to not write those days because of X, which is okay. As long as I get something written at some point, since I"m not on a deadline, that's what matters. Sometimes it's tough. There are days where I just don't feel like it, where I don't have the brainpower. Sometimes I push through and get something written anyway, sometimes I just put it off because it's better to not force it. And then there are the days where the words just flow and I feel really proud of myself, and those make the unmotivated days worth it.

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Hiya All,

I first just wanted to say that I am sorry that I haven't been around much for any of these discussions. Real life stuff and all that. But I figured I should try to participate a little bit more. So here is my first attempt at being more active. LOL. 

I have been writing for roughly 25+ years, creatively. I can remember writing these silly little stories in school with my friends about random things. Once I really got into reading in 2nd and 3rd grade, I thought, "Hey, I want to do what these people are doing, it seems really fun." After that, I was writing a lot more and reading even more. I fell in love with books like Louis Sachar's Wayside School Series and Ursula K. Le Guin's Catwings Series. Those books were some of the first that inspired me to become a writer. 

What keeps me writing now is the same thing that started me writing, to begin with, my love of books and the written word. I am currently in the process of writing 15 novels (yes, that is a lot LOL.) Even though I take breaks, I always write. 

When I am feeling stressed and just plain old blah about my own novels, I tend to turn to write fan fiction, it keeps me writing, and I can just relax while doing so. Then I can go back to my novels with fresh eyes and refocus on what I wanted to do with the part that I am writing. Writing is a long process, and it is best not to get stressed out. Find something fun that you like writing that isn't something you really have to worry about creating everything from scratch. It will get the creative juices flowing. Sometimes writing poetry helps too. 

Well, thanks for reading if you did. I look forward to reading what you all have to say on the subject. 

Take care,

Ama

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I'm pretty sure I'm incapable of NOT writing. Or, rather, I'm incapable of not coming up with numerous stories that I just have to do something with, and writing is the most accessible way for me to get them down and retain pretty much complete control over them while I'm doing so. I mean, with things like movies or podcasts you need a whole crew of people with potentially varying creative visions to get it done. To write a book, you just need a laptop and some time. 

I can't say I'm in love with the process of writing. It's sometimes exhausting and nearly always hard, but I love telling stories and I can't not tell them. So that's what got me started and that's what keeps me going through all the bouts of procrastination. :) 

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When I don't feel like writing, I am resting. I always come back, and since I grew up, I always finish what I start (until mid-high school, I had some unfinished things too - lack of inspiration and lack of plotting and documentation, I'd say now).

Sooner or later, I finish all my writings. I do editing/ revising/ completing, more than re-writing. I mean, the story was already finished once, and it's being polished during editing/ revising. Changing repeated words, deleting small conversation/ description snippets without significance, adding a detail or another (or correcting a plot hole/ an inaccuracy).

I am writing since first grade. I started writing and kept writing because I have always had stories inside me which wanted out. And being read...

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My motivation for writing is I just like it. Always have. I won't say it's always easy, and I jump around from project to project, and sometime I'm too tired to even try, but I want to write because I get that urge to create something. I like making things up, and I like experimenting with setting and characters, and I don't have the patience to draw a comic. 

On days when I don't feel up to it, it's usually because I'm feeling burned out or swamped by things in my life. Waiting for the other things to pass or switching project helps most of the time. I once heard that referred to as "mental crop rotation". Different projects would use different energies, so when you come back to it, you'll be refreshed and ready to go.

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My favorite part of the writing process has to be the part where you get to create your own world and its inhabitants. You can paint whole landscapes or scenes and then populate them with characters doing interesting things, all with little more than simple words. It isn't easy by far, but it can be rewarding when you manage to overcome the difficulties and pull it off.

Writing is also a medium that helps me speak my mind in a way that entertains people or at least grabs their attention. Sometimes I'll have an idea that I really want to share with people, so I'll build a little story around it for readers to enjoy. Other times, it gives me an opportunity to show people how I see the world and its history (the same applies to my visual art as well). Creativity in general is a wonderful tool for self-expressive communication.

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I write because I like it, and also because I've invested a lot into writing as part of my self image, so if I abandon it my very sense of self will suffer 😐

For reals though, its challenging to tell a story properly, its a hobby that doesn't cost much, and can keep you going for years. I'm not seeing any downsides here.

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Why did you start writing?

That's...a good question. I have no idea. I've been doing it forever, and the only time I can really recall not doing it I was pre-literate. But I was still making up stories.

I'm thinking it came from being alone so much when I was small--I had a single mom who was always at work, and when she came home she had to do all the chores and other home-stuff so there wasn't a lot of time to just sit down and be with her kid. She tells me I was always fine playing quietly by myself and I could do so for hours. She said she'd sometimes listen at the door as I was playing with my toys and just marvel at the stuff I'd make up.

The only thing I recall I recall from my earliest days of writing was pressure. Mom really took to the idea that I wanted to write, just like her, and I felt obliged to do it even when I didn't feel like it. If writing was simple for me I suppose I would have just quit then, but it never was.

 

What keeps you writing now?

Necessity. I mean, I did quit writing, for a long time. And I reveled in having my free time back. I also fell apart mentally.

This passage from Robert Heinlein's The Cat Who Walked Through Walls perfectly sums up writing for me. The first time I read it I about died laughing, because he'd described my entire writing experience to a T. Of course the passage is much longer and I've cut pretty much all of the best bits--it goes on for a couple of pages--but this is the part I always think of when conversations like this come up:

Quote

            I stopped to kiss her, thoroughly and carefully. "I'm glad I married you. But I will indeed have to write."

            "But you don't enjoy it and we don't need the money. Truly we don't!"

            "Thank you, my love. But I did not explain to you the other insidious aspect of writing. There is no way to stop. Writers go on writing long after it becomes financially unnecessary... because it hurts less to write than it does not to write."

            "I don't understand."

            "I didn't either, when I took that first fatal step--a short story, it was, and I honestly thought I could quit anytime. Never mind, dear. In another ten years you will understand. Just pay no attention to me when I whimper. Doesn't mean anything-- just the monkey on my back."

            "Richard? Would psychoanalysis help?"

            "Can't risk it. I once knew a writer who tried that route. Cured him of writing all right. But did not cure him of the need to write. The last I saw of him he was crouching in a corner, trembling. That was his good phase. But the mere sight of a wordprocessor would throw him into a fit."

--Robert Heinlein, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls

And that's about the size of it. He captured it, that driving, clawing need to write, even when you hate it, even when you'd rather be doing something else, even when it takes up your time and ruins your social life and drives you absolutely bonkers. It is very much like an unwelcome addiction.

I mean, don't get me wrong, like any addiction it comes with it's own pleasures. I love my worlds and my characters, the glow I get when read back on my work and go "damn, this is actually quite good" or I get into an old story I haven't touched in a while and look up an hour later and realize it couldn't have been as bad as I thought because I just lost track of time reading it and now I want to know what happens next. Writing and doing it well is like casting a magic spell, you can ensorcell and entice, glamour and even change the world around you. You can literally transform the people who read your work with the wave of a literary wand, often temporarily, but sometimes permanently. And that's just amazing.

But damn, the drawbacks can be just as great. To write well you have to be willing to dig deep, tear open parts of you that you'd rather not see, to bleed vulnerability onto the page, and then to cast the diary of yourself into the wide world where there's a hundred percent chance people--some or all--will tear you to ribbons. It's easy to tell yourself that haters gonna hate, harder to deal with it when it actually happens. And the pounding, clawing need to write can be it's own happy little hell, especially when I'm stuck, or suffering writer's block, or too depressed or stressed to write because now I have all this pent up need and no way to get it out. It's crazy-making. Plus the actual act of writing can be So. Damned. Tedious.

I laughed so hard at Heinlein's description of writing; it was nice to know I wasn't alone in this madness.

 

What do you do on the days when that feeling fades, to stay motivated?

I don't always. Sometimes what I need most is a break, so I take one. I'll binge-watch TV or play video games or go hang out with friends and just recharge my batteries and lower my stress meter.

However, when that's gone on to long or I really need to write something, anything, I'll often start flipping through old work. I'll try to decide what mood I'm in, dig up some unfinished story, and start chipping away at whatever section I became stuck on. The drawback to this is it can sidetrack me far longer than I meant to be, but at this point I've placed my importance on getting back in the habit of writing daily and not squeezing my way to a finished product. The act of writing alone is an accomplishment and whether I progress quickly through one manuscript or slowly through many, progress is still progress. I might change that up later, but for now it's working pretty well. :)

I'm also trying to start reading more again. I did the adult excuse of "I'm too busy to read" for a very long time. Of course I wasn't--I still watched TV and played video games and hung out on the internet--but it felt like I was too busy at the time.  So now I've been making time for it. Reading helps recharge my creative batteries and spurs me to write.

I also try to forgive myself the times I can't write. I've found being too hard on myself creates a nasty cycle--I can't write so I get mad at myself, which stresses me out and makes me feel guilty, which then frazzles me so much I can't write so I get mad at myself, which...you get the idea. These days I try to be a little gentler with myself. There is nothing I feel like doing everyday, not cooking, not sex, not even feeding the cats (though I do anyway), so it stands to reason I won't always want to write, and that's okay, as long as I don't turn a legit day off into prolonged procrastination. Still balancing that last bit, but it's coming along.

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