It’s a familiar scene. You get all fired up, ready to write that most amazing of all amazing novels, start the first few chapters, and then you hit a wall. The fire dims. The words don’t come as easily. Your characters stop talking to you. About midway through the novel you’re sitting at a keyboard, staring at a screen, wondering where all that gusto went and wishing you could get it back. Some people call it writer’s block. Some call it lack of motivation. Too many decide it’s not worth it and quit. Their amazing of all amazing novels never see the light of day.
Sad. The poor novel really did want to get written. The fact of the matter is, you’re going to experience times when you just don’t want to keep going. You’ll have days, weeks, or months where it feels like you’re yanking the words from your brain while they’re screaming in agony the entire time. “No! Let me go! It’s safe in here, wrapped in the fat folds of your brain! Leave me aloooone!” Rrrrrriiiiiipppppp, you pull another word down, slowly getting it out on the page. H e c r i e d. Yes! An accomplishment! Then you go back, grab hold of another one, and it keeps going. On and on. This happens. This is part of the writing life. Every person that puts a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard at some point or another is going to feel like the words just aren’t there.
That being said, while you are going to have these experiences you don’t have to let them destroy your dreams of finishing your book. See that guy, sitting on a stack of books… that’s what it feels like when you finish. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. You did it. You wrote an ENTIRE novel. Seriously, you created a story and a world out of nothing. You gave life to characters that had never been in existence before. You gave them emotions, actions, experiences, love, hate, pain, anger, joy, passion… all of this. It’s no small feat. Truly. So when you get stuck in the middle of the book, bogged down by writers block and characters that aren’t coughing up words, here are a few tips to keep you going.
I know I say this in basically every blog post I ever write, but these are the most valuable words any writer can take to heart. When you keep writing, you keep the creative energy going and it becomes easier to pull yourself out of writer’s block. Even if it’s just a simple paragraph, write it because it will help you keep going.
Pull away from the project.
This may seem like terrible advice, but if you think about it, oftentimes you get stuck because you’ve been thinking about what you’re writing for too long. Your brain really does start to feel like it’s on overload. Take a break for a day and write something completely different. Or, if this doesn’t sit well with you, then take your characters and throw them into a scene that’s entirely unrelated to your book. Two things will happen with this. First, you’ll likely see creativity start flowing again and second, you’ll uncover parts of your characters that you may not have known. The more you know about your characters, the more complex you can make them, which only adds to the overall delivery of the story.
Write for yourself.
This one is important. Most writers have the end goal of publication in mind, so it’s not uncommon to be thinking about your story from that perspective. What are publishers going to like, what are people going to like, what is going to sell, who are you writing it for? The answer to all of those should be… it doesn’t matter. There will be publishers that want your book and there will be publishers that don’t. There will be people that connect with your story and love it, and there will be people that don’t. You cannot please the masses, I promise. You can only please those who connect with the work in some way and, unfortunately, you do not know who they are. So when you write, write a story that you would love and something you connect with. If you do, chances are somebody out there is going to connect with it too.
Keep yourself accountable.
This is my absolute weakest point. Accountability does not happen in my life when it comes to my writing. Everything under the sun gets in the way and every week slips away with me sitting here wishing I had written something. Guess what? I’m getting older, life is happening, and eventually I’m going to look back and realize that what I wanted to get done, didn’t. If you want to write a book, make it happen in your life. If you can write every day, write every day. If you can’t, at least write three times a week. Set aside time for this to happen and hold yourself to it. If you can’t keep yourself accountable, then find a mentor or a writing partner that will hold you to your word. Too often in life we make decisions for ourselves and then never follow through with them because we let everything else get in the way. It’s our job to have integrity with ourselves and do, for ourselves, what we say we are going to do. The payoff is huge and the cost is just as huge. Make yourself a priority.
Find a friend or writing partner that will give you feedback.
A lot of the time we stop writing because we decide what we are writing must actually be a bunch of junk. Our story is awful and our characters are flat and somehow the sentences feel stiff and forced. We suck, our writing sucks, the end. We quit. Don’t do this to yourself! Every writer feels like this. We all have days where our writing sucks. We do. And then we have days where it is absolutely glorious. You get to have the good and the bad with this passion so give yourself space to experience the bad. Having a friend read what you’re writing and give you feedback is helpful for a couple of reasons. First, if your writing really does suck they will tell you and offer suggestions to make it better. Second, if your writing doesn’t suck they will offer you feedback and make you feel better. See? Either way, you win. Get a buddy. It’ll help.
While the list of ways to motivate yourself could go on and on and on, in reality what it boils down to is you. You’ve got to find what works for you. Some of these suggestions will be right up your alley. Others, not so much. You may find that you need music, or a walk to see something different. There is a good chance you’ll find other ways that work much better than any of these. The key is to find what works for you and keep going. Knowing that I lose motivation all the time, I would love to know what some of you do to keep yourself going until you finish your novel.