Finding the Motivation to Write

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by Susan A.J. Lyttek

I love writing. You’d think after that statement that I would jump out of bed and head down to my notebooks and laptop with unbridled enthusiasm each morning.

Not so.

In fact, I will often putter around and do anything other than write. I will suddenly need to spend a lot of time in Bible study, respond to e-mails, log into my games, and deal with my teaching and tutoring jobs. Even household chores can take precedence when I feel stuck on a project! All these distractions can often feel more real than my writing. Truthfully, their awards and rewards come quicker. And perhaps that’s why the writing I love gets pushed to the backburner.

So I do I get past the distractions and onto real writing? On some days, I don’t. It is an ongoing struggle. However, the days that I am successful (like today) have a few things in common.

  • I set small, specific goals. For instance, a recent goal for a fantasy project read “complete dragon scene”. With focus, I knew that could be done in about an hour. Then, that sense of completion would spur me on to do more. Setting word count targets doesn’t usually work for me unless number 2 is in effect.
  • Get the project in someone else’s view so that I have a real deadline with consequences. I am much more likely to jump for an editor or publisher than I am for myself. Also, outside competitions, like NaNoWriMo, will push me and give me enough external motivation to keep going. If a project is in a stage too early for an editor to look at, I try to find a reader who is willing to keep my feet to the fire.
  • Use shorter pieces, such as blogs, articles and contest entries, as brain fuel. Writing this blog, for instance, will get the words flowing and the pump primed so that I can finish my latest chapter. Having writing that will reach ‘the end’ sooner also boosts my sense of worth and says “I can do this through Him who gives me strength”. A mix of ongoing projects also allows me the flexibility to switch to another when I get stymied. That way, I’m still making progress overall.
  • Pray and write anyway. Inspiration often just doesn’t come. I can’t figure out to get my heroine from point A to point B, the dialogue I’m currently writing is plain stupid, and I’m less than enamored with my results. Usually, this mood feels like an attack so I need to remember to treat it like one. And I have to remember that a rough draft is just that—rough. Editing will be the polish to make it shine, but it has to get written first. And what do I pray to help me through? I pray for my fellow Christian writers and the impact their words will have on the world around them. When I reposition my focus from within to without, the words often flow of their own accord.

Susan A. J. Lyttek, author of four novels, award-winning writer, blogger, wife and mother to two homeschool graduates, writes in time snippets and in colorful notebooks. She also enjoys training up the next generation of writers by coaching 6th to 12th grade homeschool students.



Comments 0

  1. Susan, this is so true. And we have to strike the right balance between waiting on God and NOT waiting for inspiration. This is truly not like any other profession.
    I’m a “Seven Habits” girl and I like Stephen Covey’s advice to “sharpen the saw.” If we don’t have a deadline imposed from outside ourselves, i.e. editor, agent or contest, it is sometimes good to get away from the desk. I know exactly what works for me — talking with other writers, a day trip to the mountains, a good book or movie, or going to Boston for anything from a Red Sox game to an art museum. I always come back refreshed and ready to write.
    But sometimes we do have to plow through, and that’s where God comes in.
    Kathy Bailey

  2. Why is it when we don’t have the time to write we wish we did, then when we get the time, we procrastinate! We let any distraction divert us from the computer. Thanks for a timely (for me) post!

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