Writing requires two things to flow smoothly– inspiration and motivation. I’ve already ranted about the fickle nature of inspiration here, so today, it’s motivation’s turn.
We’ve all had those weeks where it feels like we’re carrying around 500 pounds of iron. Where even breathing is too much work, and the lure of creativity pales to that of our bed or TV. But life can’t just stop, can it? No matter how much we don’t want to deal with anything, wishing to bury our heads in the proverbial sand, we have to suck it up and carry on. And while that attitude can get you through the dreary act of day-to-day chores, (barely), it’s as good as cyanide to your muse.
Muses are easily chased away by anything from stress, to illness, to exhaustion. That perfect combination of inspiration and motivation? It only strikes like a lightning bolt in a blue moon. If you wait for it, you might get a whopping 3 days a year to write, and they’ll land on days when you don’t have more than two seconds to yourself. Guaranteed. So what do you do instead? What do you do when motivation leaves your sails deflated and your muse MIA?
Just like inspiration can be tricked into making a reappearance, you can kick-start motivation. Everyone has their own methods, but here are some of mine. Feel free to give them a try if you’re suffering a bout of motivation-less blahs like I am.
- Read: I find reading relaxing, so whenever my muse decides to take a vacation without me, I turn to books. Reading puts me back in the literary frame of mind, and nothing is more inspiring than reading someone else’s brilliance. You never know, maybe some of that brilliance will rub off on you like the dust from a butterfly’s wings.
- Listen to music: Music is such an integral part of my storytelling process that it’s no surprise this is on the list. Since it’s the root of all my inspiration, spending some quality time surrounded by the songs tied to my works-in-progress can jump-start my inner projector and get things back on track. So if you don’t already use music as the excellent source of motivation it is, try creating a playlist of songs that evoke your story in some way, either the emotional content, the visuals, or the overall tone, and see if your muse will decide to come dance in the melodic rain for you.
- Watch TV/Go to the movies: Storytelling is storytelling, and sometimes just being immersed in it can be enough to rekindle the sparks of motivation. (Yep, I just gave you license to be a couch-potato. You’re welcome. 😉 )
- Chat with your critique partner: No matter how lame I’m feeling, a critique buddy can instantly get me fired back up. Plus, I really hate to let people down, so my sense of guilt for being a slacker can sometimes be enough to spur me back into action. If you have a critique partner, you already know there’s nothing better for motivation than commiserating with a fellow writer. If you don’t have a critique partner, find one. It’s amazing what having a little accountability can do.
- Work on something easier: I find blogging to be exceedingly easy compared to fiction. (Although this week has been like pulling teeth, so maybe this theory is a bust.) Anything that uses what I call “Essay Voice” doesn’t require as much thought for me. So I use it to get the words flowing. If fiction has come to a grinding halt for you, try working on something else. Either something that has fewer expectations of greatness because you’re less invested in it, or something that uses a less formal voice. Even Tweets and Facebook can count. Sometimes. Just don’t let your social-media addiction derail any motivational value you might get from them.
- Deal with the To-Do list: I’ve found that I can’t write a darned thing when my To-Do list is as high as Mount Everest. So when my internal stress alerts start to sound like a bomb about to explode, I take a deep breath, set aside any thoughts of writing and tackle that list one step at a time. Eventually, I get to the end and am able to write burden free.Distraction is a writer’s worst enemy, so whether you’re worried about finances, your house needs a thorough bath or your DVR is about to overflow and erase all your favorite shows, (No? That last one’s just me? Awesome), face the demon. Take the time you need to deal with that particular set of worries. Balance your checkbook; figure out where all your money is going and how to stop bleeding green. Clean your house. Watch those shows. (I really want you to be a couch potato, don’t I?) Do whatever you have to in order to clear your head. Then, get back to writing when motivation isn’t being buried beneath six feet of stress.
- Take a nap/bath/shower: Creativity is akin to dreaming in many ways, so doing things that promote that state of mind always helps. For me, those activities are sleep (which is also beneficial if you’re a walking zombie and can’t even function, let alone write), or anything related to the shower. Don’t ask me why the combination of hot water and bubbles cues up the movies in my head, but I swear, the shower is the best place for me to write. If only they made waterproof laptops I could install in the tile wall. Point is, whatever location is most conducive to your imagination, go there. Maybe it will trigger something.
- Force it: This rarely works for me, as evidenced by the somewhat lackluster drivel of this post, but for some people, it’s the only answer. If I try to force it, kicking and screaming like a kid about to go to the doctor for a shot, I spend the whole day staring at a blinking cursor and end up with four sentences I delete later anyway. So this is a last resort kind of thing for me. But maybe you’re the kind of person that can grit your teeth and force your muse to play like a bully forcing an unlucky victim into a locker. If you can, then more power to you. My muse is too fragile for that kind of brutality. It would leave me forever if I tried that approach.
- Give up and wait for the blahs to pass: Sometimes you really just need a day off. I’m an admitted workaholic, so I take a true day off once every 3-4 months. (A “true day off ” meaning that I plunk my butt on the couch and watch as much TV as I can in a single day. See? You wouldn’t be alone in couch potato-land. Come join me; it’s fun!) And I immediately feel guilty for it. But sometimes you really just need to recharge the batteries. Our beloved phones can’t run on empty, so why should we? Remind yourself it’s OK to be a slacker every now and then and give yourself a break. The blahs will pass once your battery hits full and motivation will return with a vengeance.
Now, it’s your turn. What are your strategies for jump-starting motivation? Maybe you have some nifty tricks up your sleeve that I haven’t tried yet. And I could really use an ace right about now. So feel free to share in the comments below. Help a brotha out, or something like that. I guess technically it’d be sista, but whatever, you know what I mean. 😉