Believe it or not, there are many writers out there, including published writers, who don’t particularly like writing very much.
It’s true! Some find the process tedious, even torturous, and find it difficult to stay focused for the length of time it takes to finish.
Like many writers out there, I’m someone who finds writing really difficult. I ultimately derive great pleasure from the writing process and feel incredibly fortunate to have the time to devote to it, but that doesn’t mean I find every moment riveting.
What burns in the heart of writers varies from person to person, so you’ll have to find what works for you. But here are some ideas that might help keep you in the writer’s chair.
Cultivate your fear of failure
Despite what Yoda might have you believe, fear does not always lead to anger, hate, and suffering. Fear is one of the best motivators you have. Invest in the idea of your novel. Develop the idea that you’re letting yourself down if you don’t finish it. Put pressure on yourself. Be afraid the regret you’ll feel the rest of your life if you don’t accomplish your dream. Fear is a feeling that can keep you going.
Set deadlines with teeth
Deadlines don’t actually work that well for me personally (they tend to just stress me out), but I know people who swear by them. The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.
Daydream a little
It’s okay to imagine what would happen if your book blew up and you were on the cover of fifty magazines (do those still exist?) and you were the toast of the literati and a gazillionaire. Don’t let those dreams become expectations to the point that not getting those things gets you down, but give yourself the freedom to imagine those best case scenarios.
Befriend writers who have finished a novel
Before I knew professional writers, the idea of writing a novel seemed so impossibly vast it seemed almost magical. But then you get to know the people behind the books, and there’s not as much of a secret to it: They are people who sat in place for as long as it took to write a novel. Get to know them. Lean on them. They may give you a blank, pitying, horrified stare when you start fretting you’re never going to finish, but that blank stare will get you back to the keyboard in no time.
Write something you love
It may be tempting to try and chase the flavor of the moment or what the industry says is selling or the novel you think you should write, but that doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish.
What about you? What motivates you?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: Gelée blanche by Camille Pissarro