What To Do When Motivation Is Lacking
When you’re writing something as huge as a novel, it can be difficult to remain motivated, and that is a fact. Most other projects are easy to look at and see progress, but with a novel, all you can clearly see is the increase in your word count. Without reading the draft, it’s hard to know whether your novel is flowing, making sense, or turning into the creative delicacy that you’re envisioning in your mind.
First things first, it’s not. Right now, you’re dumping words on the page. You’re drafting! When you read back your first draft, the novel is going to be a few ticks shy of a masterpiece, for sure. But don’t be discouraged. This is all part of the process.
When motivation is lacking
When my motivation is lacking, I like to think about writing like a marathon. Although, because I don’t like to run long distances, it would be more in keeping with my preferences to describe it as a journey (or a road trip).
Every step of the journey isn’t ideal. There are long stretches of road through Nebraska where you can smell those industrial farms, and there isn’t a gas station for another three-quarters of a tank. Hairpin turns wind up into the mountains where you feel like you’re risking your life just to get to the vista. There are those long overnight drives where it’s all you can do to keep your eyes open, and you end up sleeping in the driver’s seat parked at a little off-highway rest stop.
So why think of writing like this journey? Because when you’re on a road trip, you know you can’t skip over these parts. You have to take every mile of the road exactly as it comes until you get to where you’re going. While writing doesn’t have this strict visual–the roads and the roadmaps–you can easily adopt this metaphor and realize that it’s true. Writing a novel is a journey, and you can’t skip any of the parts.
Turning metaphor into motivation
How does one turn feelings of inadequacy or boredom into motivation?
Let’s return to our road trip analogy. Of course, you want to get there. You want to reach your destination. But there are no shortcuts in a journey of this nature, so the more shortcuts you try to take, the more wound up you’ll be on those back roads.
It’s true, motivation is a sticky subject because we need it. But no one else is going to give it to us. If we have the motivation, we have to get it from within ourselves.
When I’m struggling, I often try to visualize my future, usually through journaling. After all, I’m a writer, so it always helps me to take it back to the pen on the page.
Journaling for when motivation is lacking
Answer these questions for yourself in your writing journal:
- What is my ultimate goal as a novelist?
- Why do I want to write my story?
- Do I want it to be published?
- Do I want to simply share my story with friends and family?
- Where do I see myself in my future?
- Will I be a prolific writer who writes novel after novel?
- Or will this be my one story?
- What about this process of writing is not working for me?
- What is working?
- How can I better prepare myself to take this journey so that next time I enjoy it more?
Writing a novel is not easy, but if it’s your life’s work–one time or for all time–it’s up to you to land on a process that works for you and makes the process enjoyable. Motivation is about you, the novel is about you, this entire process is yours and yours alone. Take what you need to make your life’s work a joy.