Losing Steam

= losing steam

I always find that it is difficult to talk about losing steam in my writing, because there is a certain amount of shame that I associate with losing motivation. The phrase ‘losing steam’ is horribly cliche, and yet it is such an accurate description of how I feel when I begin to lose motivation that I can’t help but use it.

Staying motivated, and focused on writing is one of the most difficult aspects of the writing process. At times I am inundated with inspiration; ideas seem to come too fast. I scribble my thoughts down furiously, afraid I won’t get them all out of my head in time. I can sit at my computer, writing for hours, lost in imaginary worlds.

Other times, I sit at my computer for hours, just staring at the blinking cursor on an empty page.

Part of my fear comes from a rather misplaced idea of perfection. If an idea isn’t flowing as gracefully and articulately as I would like, I’m  reticent to write it down. What if someone were to see this imperfect blotch of words on the page? What if I have to see it? Rationally, I know that these feeling are unreasonable.It’s a first draft, after all. And yet, there is still a nagging doubt that persists. Some days, I procrastinate so much, that I don’t even open my Word Documents to write at all; telling myself ‘I’m too busy to write today.’

And therein lies the true fault. There are no days when I am too busy to write, because even if I only have ten minutes, I could still sit down and write a paragraph. And no one is going to see my first draft, except me, so why does it matter if it comes out as an imperfect mess?
It doesn’t.

At times like these, it helps me to analyze the reasons behind my lack of motivation. It is not enough to feel unmotivated – I need to know why. Sometimes other aspects of my life are causing me stress, and impinging on my creativity. Other times, I feel stuck on a certain aspect of my novel, and it feels like an impenetrable wall I cannot break through.

At these times it helps to get out of my head, and into the world. I try to go outside, and be open to new ideas, and a fresh perspective. I also like to go back to my ideas on Inspiring Creativity, and work through them in a systematic fashion. This can feel infantile, as though I’m in grade school again. And yet, bringing my writing back to the basics can also feel like I’m hitting the refresh button.

Suddenly everything is clear again. There are steps to follow; goals to set. There is more than one way to get this writing finished.

Writing is a discipline, and so disciplined I must be.

This-is-how-you-do-it

So, how do you get motivated to continue writing? Tell me in the comments below!

 

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8 thoughts on “Losing Steam

  1. Hemmingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” Although, I do not agree with his source of inspiration, the concept of “edit sober” is so true that it’s like a sentence from a sober judge (pun intended). “Edit sober” is the time-consuming disciplined writing that is far less enjoyable than the freely inspired writing that makes us want to run to the keyboard and ticky-tacky our way through a half a dozen pages of potential-Pulitzer writing. Forced writing is the primary cause of etymological constipation (writer’s block). In its worst stages, the afflicted writer sits and stares at the blank page. “I don’t understand!” They want to scream. ” I know I’m full of it–why won’t the words come out?” Do not despair! There are treatments that can help. Personally, I do not recommend the mental laxitive that Hemmingway used because all laxaitives can become habit forming. I have discovered an all-natural, high-fiber mental diet that is guaranteed to prevent etymological constipation as long as you don’t cheat on the diet. However, it will take me a few more paragraphs to prescribe the treatment, so I will end this and go write it in my own blog. “When you gotta go–you gotta go.” Regularity is very important in writing.

    Blessings of life,
    Granny Waterwyk

  2. Dear Rachael, after sleeping on it, I felt I should add another comment. Your blog was honest, heartfelt, and well written. And, dealing with writer’s block is serious and frustrating. It can even cause some people to give up writing altogether. I don’t believe that will happen to you because your blog proves you can still write.

    My first comment yesterday was a spontaneous attempt to use humor as the best medicine for melancholy. I hope it was not inappropriate. Humor is subjective and timing is critical. I worried that my timing may have been bad.

    Another treament I discovered for Writer’s Block is to use your characters as muses to inspire a scene. Imagine Darci and Tobin showing up for tea and muffins. “Well, are you ready to discuss the next book?” you ask. “I am,” Darci replied, “but first let me say these magic mystery muffins are the best you ever made.” “Thank you, Darci, I needed a little magic tonight.” Tobin looked serious and set down his teacup. “If we’re going after that villian we’ll need a little more training in magic spells and magical artifacts.”

    Sure it’s not writing that you’ll use in a story, but it’s fun to hang out with your fictional friends. It keeps them real and makes it easier to write about them.

    As long as your writing is enjoyable you will keep doing it.

    Looking forward to your next blog, Rachael.
    Susan

    • Oh Susan!

      I thought your first comment was hilarious! It added some much needed humour to a rather angst filled post. I have been writing for at least a half hour the last few days and I have found it to be very theraputic. By ‘forcing’ myself to sit down and write SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t feel inspired, or articulate, I’m getting over my fear of that blank page, or worse – the blotch of inarticulate words.
      And you’re right, not all of it is usable in my novels, but it’s absolutely fun to hang out with my fictional friends;) And most of all, sometimes the drudgery of forcing myself to write yields some surprisingly inspiring writing!

      Thank you so much for your comments (both of them)! I love hearing your ideas about writing!

  3. Good post!

    I have found that if you stick to the regular discipline and routine of writing you will EVENTUALLLLLLLLLY work through it. I used to wait for inspiration to come to me, but now I know if I work at it regularly and often I will increase my incidents of inspiration.

    I take heart from other authors who have talked about writings difficulty. I have a quote posted on my study door from Richard Adams when someone asked him if he enjoyed writing Watership Down and he quite plainly said “No, I hated it. To be quite frank, writing is bloody hard work.”

    I find the hardest decision is knowing when to work through difficult periods and when to let them go and move on. Had a bout of that not to long ago on a short story I kept reworking and reworking until I was thoroughly mired in my own ramblings.

    But another idea you might try is to just open a fresh word document and allow yourself to do stream of consciousness thoughts about where you are at…even if you just talk about how you don’t know where you at but start to come up with reasons why you might be stuck. Then when you get that out you might be free to proceed!

    -Ryan Sean O’Reilly

    • Hi Ryan!

      Thanks so much for the great ideas. I too find it comforting to know that all writers experience this at times. I loved your point about knowing when to let go, and when to move on. That’s a pretty important differentiation to make. I’m going to try the stream of consciousness idea! Maybe that’s the problem – too many thoughts rattling around in my head;)
      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!

  4. Great topic!

    Several things work for me when I get stuck. The first is listening to music. I listen to classical whenever I write. If I get really stuck I go to a thrift store and buy some vinyl. I have a–gasp!–record-player and it really helps to listen to “new” music (though it is centuries-old) when I am writing new material.

    The second thing I try to do is to set a daily word count and strive to reach it. Right now, my word count is 500 words per day. If I meet that I feel great, if I don’t meet it, I try not to beat myself up (yeah, RIGHT). Some days I do less, some days I do more, but I try.

    The third thing is reading, with an important caveat. I believe that reading great literature inspires good writing. I also think the best books are written while reading (or so I told myself when writing my dissertation).

    The caveat is that reading can be used as an excuse to not write–as in, I’ve just got to read one more book before I can write this chapter because I don’t entirely understand string theory yet (okey-dokey).

    Third, squash the infernal internal editor that wears many hats, yet is most often known by the name of perfectionism. Seriously, perfectionism kills. I read somewhere that even Dostoevsky wrote lousy first drafts…well, everything is relative, I suppose. But first drafts are lousy by definition. And it is better to write something than nothing. At least when you write something you have something to work with.

    Last, but not least. I read other writers who write on writing (I tried desperately to get another variation of writing into that sentence, but alas!). If you haven’t done so already, check out Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg, two experts who really put their money where their mouths are.

    I hope this helps.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Best,
    Matt

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful suggestions Matt!

      You’re absolutely right, the ‘internal editor’ is a killer!
      I am finding that getting outside has worked wonders for me. I noticed while I was on a three month tour of Europe one summer that my best ideas and most prolific writing was done just sitting in a park and watching the world, as an observer.
      For me, just getting out of my little writing nest seems to be the best remedy!

      I will definitely try your music suggestion the next time I feel like I’m losing steam;) Although that might be just another world of procrastination!

  5. […] feels like nothing will ever come. I’ve discussed my own experience with writer’s block here. Still, lately, I’ve had absolutely no trouble writing, and I think it comes down to several […]

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