19 January 2011

When my Inner Writer is stomping her foot in protest....

I love writing. I really do. Editing, not so much. Background info....meh. But I love writing.

And yet, there are days when I sit at my computer and open my WIP*, and all I can think is, "Okay....now what?" Yes, as much as I love writing, there are days I don't really feel like writing.

There are generally two camps in writing that address motivation: write every day and write when you're inspired.

Write every day

The first camp is one that says you should write every day, no matter what. Even if you don't feel like it or don't have anything to say, or know as you're writing that you're going to have to delete everything the next day. The point is to get words on the page.

Those who have participated in NaNoWriMo often see the value in this camp. Those who have read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way may also see the benefits from this approach.

Of course, this camp says that even if you don't feel like writing, do it. If it's on your schedule, do it. You can fix it later.

Write when you're inspired

The other camp is more forgiving when it comes to motivation. If you're not inspired to write, if you don't know what to say, no worries. You can write later when you're motivated to write.

This camp doesn't necessarily write every day, but when you are inspired to write, you keep going as long as you can. So your schedule may say to write for an hour, but if you're on a roll, you keep going for two or three or more hours because you're inspired to write.

Both sides have their advantages and disadvantages.

The write every day camp is good because you, yanno, write every day. But if you know you're writing something that flat-out won't work, is it worth it to take the time to put down on paper?

The write when you're inspired camp is good because, when you do write, you're writing something that you're inspired to write, that's more likely to be kept through editing. But if you only write when you're inspired, how long will you go between writing session?

I bring this up because I haven't been entirely motivated to write lately. After Bean being sick, I've had a little trouble getting back into the swing of things, especially since I'm still doing a lot of background writing (that can get a little tedious, to be honest). I think I've managed to come up with a good compromise that puts one foot in each writing camp, and that works for me.

I do try to write during my scheduled writing times, but if I know I'm forcing it, I use that time to be productive in other ways. I might work on some background/outlining, I may do some administrative stuff (filing invoices, catching up on emails, etc.), or I may take the time to read something beneficial instead. That way, I'm still using my writing time to further my writing, but not necessarily by actually writing.

Maybe you find that you really do need to write every day, no matter what. Or you may find that you really do need to let your story be unless you're inspired to work on it. Or some combination of both. Or neither. As always, you have to figure out what works best for you.

How do you handle motivation--or lack thereof--in your writing life?

*WIP=Work In Progress


  1. I love this post! You know why? Because it's damned good advice. I'm firmly in your camp, roasting marshmallows over your fire: Do something writing related every day, write the fiction itself when you're so inspired you'd have better luck stopping a freight train with a finger than stopping up the flow of words.

    Inspiration comes and goes, but the busy-work necessary for making the inspiration shine (and, incidentally, bringing on more inspiration!) is always there, always necessary, and far too easy to punk off if you're telling yourself you have to write actual prose during your writing time. It's so good to see a published author saying that, too!

    (PS, I used to find the background work meh too, but now loving it. I'll hope the same happens to you, so that it's not so much a chore as a delight! Alas, I see no way for either of us to ever enjoy revision, but who knows what the future will bring?)

  2. I'm glad you found it helpful!

    I do enjoy some background work. For example, the character biographies for the coffee house book have been fun. But some of it gets tedious, or I use it to keep from really writing. ("Oh, I have to adjust this outline so it looks prettier" or "I should organize my files in a binder for easy access, and it has to be done RIGHT NOW!")


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