A previous version of this article originally appeared on amwritingfantasy.com.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it before. That cold, nagging doubt telling us we aren’t good enough, that we’ll never finish our book. Or maybe that whisper of writing being too hard, or even a waste of time. That you simply aren’t up to the task of penning a fantasy book, or short story, or whatever else it is you are writing. Whether a beginning writer or a master, it is something almost all have to conquer.
And where do these thoughts stem from? One place.
A lack of motivation.
Beginning to write, especially for the first time, is difficult. Be it imposter syndrome, your mindset, or schedule, there are plenty of obstacles. That first already was certainly the case for me — I put my novel to the side for a year and a half, thinking myself not made of the stuff for such a monumental task! Yet, after restarting my last fall ago, I now find myself a published author — and anyone else can too, as long as they have the desire to succeed.
Whether a novice with a single notebook-bound story or a bestselling author with readers around the globe, you still need motivation to keep the process enjoyable and yourself going. In this post, I’ll outline the best ways to help find that motivation, drawing taken from my own personal experience. Don’t feel obligated to follow what I suggest, but I hope you will still take away some strong habits that will help you write — and maybe even publish — even just a little bit faster.
Failure’s Reasons and Solutions
There are three Major Reasons (capitalized for their importance!) behind failure, which I’ll outline below — as well as methods for overcoming them.
Reason 1 — ‘It’s Too Hard, I’m Too Busy’
People naturally avoid difficult things, a habit backed by science. One such ‘hard thing’ is novel writing, which requires a massive time and hence effort commitment In fact, ninety-seven percent of people who start out writing one don’t finish it; in the face of such odds it can be hard to imagine yourself in that successful 3%. This ‘it’s too hard’ mindset is Major Reason #1.
But with the proper motivation, you can easily have this be a worry of the past.
This is fundamentally a question of perspective. Humans can do almost anything — go to the Moon, domesticate wild animals, harness the power of our planet, and so much more. This is only more true for publishing a book — many have done so, often during difficult positions: J.K. Rowling was on welfare, Octavia Butler was a dishwasher, and Stephen King a janitor.
But look at what they accomplished. If they can do it, why can’t you?
There’s certainly no guarantee of reaching the same level of stardom with your manuscript, but what you can achieve is the same basic thing: writing a book. And that’s an achievement in and of itself.
Another argument for continuing to write is that, surely, you can spare even just five or ten minutes a day just writing half a page. Those pages add up, over time, to form something beautiful and very yours.
Motivation could thus come from actually finishing, by keeping the end of the tunnel in sight. Putting aside ten minutes isn’t too hard, and may turn into a habit within a matter of weeks. Tell yourself you will only be spending X minutes on writing daily, and then to commit to doing so. This X doesn’t have to be large — but as long as you get in the initial habit of writing every day, the rest, as they say, is history.
Another passive way to encourage yourself to continue writing is to follow successful people — especially authors — or read about people’s success stories. Whether through social media, blogs, or books, you’ll gain valuable inspiration and clarity.
Reason 2 — ‘What Is The Point?’
A rather large voice often clamors for attention in the heads of those new to writing. It asks the same, simple question: what is the point of you writing this? Once more, a lack of motivation is the root cause. Many I’ve met insist that they write for future fame, or to make money, or to be remembered. But these are all external motivators, and hence unlikely to keep you going throughout the entire journey.
This is Major Problem #2.
Honestly, if you are in novel-writing for the money or fame, then you should leave before sinking in more time. The vast majority of writers don’t earn a living from it, and less than a quarter are even published.
You should write to prove something to yourself, not to brag to the world.
So focus on the fact that you are writing for personal pleasure, and while sure, you may earn some money — which would indeed be a good thing — that isn’t your primary goal.
Reason 3 — ‘My Book Will Fail / I Will Be Laughed At’
Some believe that they aren’t cut out to be this whole ‘author person’, and that eventual failure will be dramatic. They think that although they slaved away over their computers, spent many late-nights reading guides, and made writing a central part of their life, the only result will be a mere few sales to family members and friends. Or even — something I’m guilty of myself — that they will be laughed at for their writing by those who do actually take a look.
For a long time, I was deathly afraid of people reading my work, and felt ill at ease after publishing my novels for quite a while. But after seeing sales — and positive reviews — of my series by not only family and friends, but even complete strangers halfway around the globe, I felt proud instead.
And so should you.
Why would the people you know look down on you for writing a novel, even if they don’t enjoy its contents or style? Looking at these pixels stating that makes this presupposition seem plain incorrect, does it not? When most don’t even put pen to paper, let alone lift it months later, actually finishing is incredible.
And even if you do receive negative feedback, remember that you were writing this for yourself, and the response to Reason. Surely your book wasn’t written and published for the express reason of allowing you to read through a litany of 5-star reviews.
Being laughed at for accomplishing something (writing a novel) is infinitely better than not being laughed at for accomplishing nothing. Failure is subjective.
Not all lack of motivation comes from the reasons looked at above, so here are seven other methods you can consider using to escape from the rut of demotivation.
Take baby steps. Try getting to the next page, finishing a chapter, finishing a section, and before you know it your latest goal will be finishing your work as a whole.
Try and avoid all distraction. Find a quiet writing space and use it.
Take breaks. Not too frequent ones, but be sure to take a break every now and then. You’ll be more productive in the long run, and less likely to become burnt-out.
Read. Nothing will motivate you more than a good book written by someone in similar shoes to you.
Tell people you will be (or already are) writing a novel, and will be doing so every day. Peer pressure!
Reward yourself. After achieving your goals, don’t just blindly set new ones — also reward yourself for your hard work.
Find a clean, smooth interface that you want to come back to. I went for 750words, which I could write a whole new post about! It’s my personal favorite, but anything similar will do.
Wherever you are in your struggle and journey, I sincerely hope that this article will have motivated you to write more, and get what is in your head onto paper and then out there!