Monday, May 30, 2011

Reviving your writerly willpower

College students put off their short stories until the night before workshop. A lot of writers depend on their critique partners to push them to complete that next chapter. Even some published authors push the deadline when it comes to getting things done.

And, of course, there are the writing books, which urge you to finish things as quickly as possible. Your friends and relatives who want to know if you've edited your entire book in the last week because they want to read it. Even your blog readers can lay on the pressure if you set yourself a public deadline.

Seeing a pattern yet?

All of these are forms of external motivation, and writers are addicted to them like caffeine. While they're definitely effective, there is one fatal flaw: external pressure is always trumped by internal pressure. If you don't want to write, don't feel like writing, don't have the will to write, then nothing anyone says is going to change that.

And it's easy to lose the will to write. Maybe your story seems like such a mess that you don't know how to fix it. Maybe it's just impossible for you to write until you take the time to fit the puzzle pieces together. Maybe you just hate everything and it all seems like a waste of effort.

Not writing isn't a bad thing, but losing your willpower is.

It's obvious why. In order to write, to be successful at writing, you need to want to write. Sounds simple right? But you're always on your own with that. Those external sources might poke a finger or two in your direction, but none will break through unless you want them too.

My suggestion? Remind yourself why writing is wonderful. Read some books and focus on actually enjoying them. Write a short story or fiddle with a side project--don't go committing yourself to another book, but shape some sentences and play with some words. The idea is to get the juices flowing again so your current project will lose its nightmarish cast.

If that doesn't seem to help, go read Laini Taylor's delicious post on how to fall back in love with your story. The core of what she's saying is the same, but her method is a lot different. She'd rather you keep trekking with one story and hardcore brainstorm until things are brilliant again.

So what do you guys think? Supposedly everyone is either a drafting person or an editing person--are you partial to one step of the process and do the other steps eat your soul? Have you ever just lost the will to go on? If you did, how did you get it back? Tell me in the comments!


Kate said...

Great post and oh so true.  I love that article by Laini Taylor and have referred to it several times. I find that reading how others conquered this problem  is  helpful.

Sarah Robertson said...

Glad I could help! :)

Annerb said...

A lot of getting me back on track comes from you. Actually, it all comes from you. I don't really talk to other people about it. Or, I buckle down and tell myself to get it done.

Sarah Robertson said...


Aww, I'm glad I helped! :3

Annerb said...

You do. More than I can say.

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