Writing Struggles: Motivation or Inspiration?

My best writing happens when I’m inspired and the words are gnawing at my soul, champing at the bit to get to the page. No problem finding motivation to write on those days. But how can I find motivation on days I’m not “feeling inspired”?

Here’s some advice you’ve likely seen or heard. Write every day. Write even if it’s bad. Don’t wait for inspiration or you’ll never write at all. If you’re not inspired, the writing rings false.

The barrage of messages from famous writers and publishing professionals on the topic of inspiration versus motivation can be overwhelming. And let’s face it: contradictory.

So, whose words of advice is a new writer supposed to follow?

Take it from a published author who remembers exactly what it’s like to struggle in those first months and years, there isn’t a wrong answer. As long as you sit down and write the story swelling in your chest, filling every thought—waking and sleeping—and pouring from your fingers faster than you can keep up.

But take it from someone who spent months staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike, don’t wait for the Muse to show her face. She’s a fickle creature, and I’ve found that if I sit down and start writing without her, she gets a bit miffed.

She’ll show up then, arms crossed over her toga vesture, and tickle her fingers along the base of my skull. A shiver of what most artists call inspiration will trickle in and the words that had been a leaky faucet burst the pipes.

Writing is work. You don’t need to wait for inspiration, but there are plenty of days you might need to manufacture motivation.

So how can you do that? Is there a tree somewhere that you can pluck a dose of writing mojo from? Maybe there’s a motivation treasure map.

Or maybe it’s all about the mindset you choose and the messaging you listen to.

What? Does the responsibility of this have to fall on me? I really hoped to be able to point a finger at my nasty Muse or my dirty floors or all those social media notifications that keep jangling.

Sorry, Sharon. You are in charge of what motivates you.

Here are some things that used to motivate me:

  1. Daily word count goals followed by a reward when I achieved them (these became page count goals during revision and editing phases)
  2. Posting my daily word count in an accountability group
  3. Having solid deadlines for when I needed to finish “this phase” of writing my book
  4. A schedule
  5. Knowing my publisher wanted what I was writing
  6. Imagining my readers diving into this newest story featuring characters I had introduced in my other stories

Did you notice I said “used to”? And that’s the rub. In different seasons of our writing life, we’ll have to discover what’s going to juice up our writing mojo today. Worry about tomorrow when it comes.

My best advice: fill up your arsenal with tricks to try when you sit at the desk (”butt in chair” is a highly Tweeted recommendation for getting words on the page), rest your fingers on the keyboard and draw a blank.

What motivates you to write?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.

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