Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Finding Motivation

By Kathy McNarie
Copyright 2008 by Kathy McNarie, All Rights Reserved

"I'm stuck.  I can't take my story forward. I sit down to write, but nothing comes to mind."

We've all been there...  But how do we cope? 

The high you get from writing is like nothing else.  Our characters move us in so many ways.  They inspire desire, lust, happiness, love, anger, fear.  We run the emotional gamut as we create them.  It's exciting and mind-altering, and when you finally get a piece finished that you've been working on for months or even years, you're on the top of the world. 

But next comes the editing phase.  Most of us dive right into it, using that residual euphoria that we got from finishing the project.  We plow our way through without giving ourselves the space we need to look at the piece objectively.  Why?  Because we're obsessed and we can't leave these people we've created alone.  They're our confidants, our heroes, and they give us so much that we can't conceive of letting them go.  For others, the mere idea of going through our story line by line again is daunting enough to keep us from even approaching the computer.  No matter which road we take, the infatuation calms like a second year of marriage, but it by no means leaves us completely.  

Then we get feedback, critique.  Some of it spirits us back to those highs.  We greedily read through each and every positive word again and again.  But some of it pierces that balloon of ecstasy and sends us crashing into depression.  We get defensive and angry, and even protective of our work.  But once we get past that initial reaction, we shake it off and sit down to our project again.  We concentrate on fixing the parts that didn't come across well, and we work until we're satisfied... again.  But some of us find that something's happened in this revision.  The tone of the piece has changed from what we intended, and all of a sudden it doesn't mean the same to us any more.  By now we've spent even more months or years.  And with this new development, we can't see when it will end.

But we sit here day after day, waiting for inspiration to come.  Why?  Because we still feel it's a good story; we still love the characters.  Most of all, we want to justify all this time we've spent.  We pick at rewrites, line editing here and grammar-correcting there, but deep down we know we're stuck.  We can't contemplate dumping the revisions we've made because we've come to believe that the original idea is flawed.  But we can't push forward either because we don't have the high that carried us through the rough patches before.  So here we sit with a project that once consumed us but now it's quite obvious that it has one of the pitfalls we know to avoid--a sagging middle, a weak ending, or a dull beginning.  And we truly don't know what to do.  We don't really feel like writing, but we we've spent too much time to quit. 

I could tell you my course of action, but I really wouldn't advise it because my situation was complicated by the deaths of family members and a business that was in serious trouble.  I really couldn't muster creativeness.  So, I took some time off--about 8 months.  When I came back to it, I truly had no desire and definitely no passion.  And the worst thing was that I remembered very vividly how I spent so much time and still to this day don't really have anything to show for it.

So... where does one go from there?  First and foremost, you must rekindle that desire for writing.  The best way to do that is to surround yourself with people who share your passion for the written word.  Whether it's a bunch of friends who meet once a week or a message board community such as Forward Motion, it won't matter.  You just need to get back into the fringe of the craft. Writing friends are the most remarkable bunch of people.  No matter what your problem is, they all know what it's like because they've either experienced it or are in the middle of experiencing it right now, or know someone who's been through it in the past.  All you have to do is be yourself and tell them your troubles, and they will respond.  Not only will you find your system of support, but you'll also get your fingers used to tapping out the ideas in your head again.

But even after doing that you find that you still sit in front of your keyboard picking and poking without any real success.  That means you're not quite ready yet.  You need motivation.  You need to feel the joy of writing again.  And most importantly, you need to feel the passion about what you're doing.  The best thing I've found to generate this kind of motivation is do some bite-sized activities. 

Forward Motion is chock full of tasks and challenges, perfect to help out.  Most of them require you to write 500 words with a given set of criteria.  Pick an activity that speaks to you, sit down and just let the words flow.  If nothing comes, don't worry.  You've merely picked the wrong activity.  Choose another and start again.  It will be slow at first, but don't let that bother you.  Just keep plugging away.  Keep adding sentences until you feel the flow.  Don't think about it.  Just do it.  Before you know it, you'll have a page worth.  Most importantly, you'll feel the rhythm of this activity, and you'll know where to end it.   Then once you've finished, don't be shy.  Post your results!  It doesn't matter if it's rough or not, only that you've done it.  Revel in the moment.  Feel good about what you accomplished. 

Even with this little bit of writing, you'll find something more inside than just dread.  And that's the goal.  Never lose sight of the fun of it.  I guarantee it will make you a better writer.

Suggested Activities at Forward Motion:

July Summer Challenge:

The Alternate Challenge:

July/August Dares:


Justin's Daily Exercises:

3 Little Words:

One Line at a Time:


Suggested Activities within a group:

1)    Tag Team Writing - Each person in the group adds 1000 words to an on-going story

2)    Story on the Spot - Each person in the group add one line at a time to an on-going story

3)    Scenes of Life - Given a predetermined theme and genre prompt, each person write a short story of at least 500 words

4)    Picture It - Given a visual prompt, each person writes a short story of at least 500 words

5)    Word Wars - Given a certain amount of time, each person writes as many words as they can--winner of the round has the most words (there's also a chat room devoted to this within FM)

6)    Be Your Character - Each member picks one of their characters that they'd like to understand more, and all role play as a group

7)    Think Tank - Each person of the group brings a topic to discuss or a story line to brainstorm for a certain allotted period of time (there's also a chat room devoted to this within FM)

8)    Say it with Style - Write a section of dialogue between at least two characters with no tags or regular text--the challenge is to write each character's dialogue uniquely enough that the reader isn't confused about who is speaking