We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we are all specialists of some kind and that you can’t really be a writer unless you’ve got something like a master’s degree. Obviously, we want dentists to be trained, but writing is human storytelling and everybody does it. (Margaret Atwood)
“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” C. Day Lewis
“Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly. There will be many mistakes, many things to take out and others that need to be added.” Anne Lamott
“A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.” Margaret Atwood
“Stories matter, and the ones who learn to tell them and live them influence the world.” Donald Miller
Sometimes motivation is just really hard to find (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve had the beginnings of this post floating around since October). Life happens, you’re tired, you don’t feel inspired, and you think to yourself “I’ll write more some other day.”
And then that other day just doesn’t come, and it’s been weeks since you’ve written anything… (sigh)
I recently encountered an article on Grammarly that isn’t really about motivation per se, but I think it can help provide some motivation when your writing life so grievously lacks it. It’s called “6 Signs You’re a Good Writer (You Just Don’t Know It Yet)” and you should definitely check it out (link here).
The basic idea from the Grammarly article is that you’re probably already doing things that lead to good writing without even realizing it. Things about yourself that you just take for granted (such as a love for reading and for words, or a penchant for vivid daydreams) may actually be contributing to your writing life.
This may not be super earthshaking, but it made me think about the fact that I get stressed out about my writing at times because I think I’m not doing the “right” kind of writing or I’m not taking it “seriously” enough. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.
I think sometimes the reason I have trouble finding motivation is that I think that everything has to be formed perfectly in my head before I start writing, or that something great has to come into being every time I put my pen to the page. And let’s face it, that is never going to happen. It can be tough to feel motivated to do something when I’ve already set the bar impossibly high for myself.
I’ve started to think about trying to incorporate more freewriting into my day, and not feel that everything I write has to have a purpose or mean something. If I just want to make a list of words that sound good together, I can. I may use it some other time and I may not. That’s okay.
I like to talk about how things seem to take shape in my head as I write, how things seem clearer to me at the end than at the beginning of a writing session. And a lot of the time, that is true. But if I start writing with the expectation that these things will happen, it’s a lot harder to get motivated, because I’m tired (or uninspired, or whatever it happens to be that day) and it’s hard for me to believe that anything good could come out of a mind that feels like a solid lump.
I’m going to try to remember that the little things are worth motivating myself for, too.
“Every single day, I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer, and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked and maybe they won’t, and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But ultimately that doesn’t change anything, because your responsibility is not to the people you are making the gift for, but to the gift itself” ~John Green
“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” ~Madeleine L’Engle
Several of my friends have been recommending Libba Bray’s books to me, and I finally finished reading my first Libba Bray book today, A Great and Terrible Beauty. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but after that I couldn’t wait to keep reading. The book is set in the Victorian era and tells the story of a girl named Gemma Doyle who sees mysterious visions. (Of course it’s about much more than that, but that’s my one-sentence, spoiler-free plot summary.)
The relationships between the characters in the book are fascinating; people constantly surprise you in little ways, just as they do in real life. The plot is engaging, and the book asks some really interesting questions about women’s relationship with power.
In an interview, Libba Bray has shared some advice for people who want to “live a writerly life” (as one of my college English professors would say):
(1) Read everything. Read what interests and moves you. Read what challenges you. Read for pleasure. Read for craft. Read instead of watching reality TV. Just read. It might change your life. I know it has mine. (2) Live your life. Writing’s all about that, anyway. And no one’s living your life, seeing things the way you see them, but you. You are unique, and this is a beautiful, beautiful thing, grasshopper. (3) You can write about whatever you want, just don’t lie. (4) Have fun, for heaven’s sake! It’s not brain surgery. You won’t kill anyone if you choose the wrong words. You can just fix ’em later. Writing is power. You are in control of it. You are able to say whatever you need to say, long to say, must say. And that is an amazing feeling.
Thanks for reading this. Now go live your life! 🙂
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should follow Anne Lamott on Twitter.
Also, I found a great Google poem completely by accident when I was trying to Google something just now, so I will share it with you:
How long will I love you
How long will I live
How long will Windows 7 be supported
How long will my money last
How long will diarrhea last
How long will the cherry blossoms last
How long will Vista be supposrted
How long will it take to lose weight
How long will it take to get to Mars?