Swoon Author Hanna Nowinski: Has Anybody Seen My Motivation and If So, Could You Tell It to Contact Me ASAP?
I’ve been writing for most of my life and therefore have absolutely no idea why I still have this image stuck in my head. You know, this image of authors sitting in their spacious studies, sunlight flooding in through the floor-length windows as they sit at their huge, tidy desks, shaking their heads at their brilliant ideas as they type away at their computers. For some reason, they also all have their glasses sitting down low on their noses and are looking at their screens over the top of them. Once they’ve reached the end of their chapters, they take off those glasses which have been useless all along, put them down on an old leather-bound book that just conveniently happens to be there, and smile to themselves as they lean back in their chairs, satisfied with their work.
Yeah, right. That’s exactly how writing works. Seriously, brain? Why do you insist on keeping that idea around? Don’t you know better by now??
I mean, I’m a writer and I have writer friends. Most of us don’t have floor-length windows or leather-bound volumes on which we put down our glasses. Heck, if I put down my glasses I won’t even see my desk anymore. Most of all though, who sits down and just types away at a thing for hours without once looking like they’re going to rip their own hair out if this next scene won’t start cooperating soon?
No one, that’s who.
Listen, setting aside writing time is a good thing. Having a desk is generally considered to be a good thing. It’s certainly more comfortable and better for your back than balancing your laptop on your knees or, I don’t know, hanging upside down from a pull-up bar and typing one-handed while holding your laptop with the other hand. Unless you’re into that. You do you. No judgement here.
Having some sort of routine and a comfortable space to write in—at home, in a coffee shop, in a library or wherever—definitely helps. But... well, it HELPS, which doesn’t mean it makes everything perfect.
A lot of the time, you’ll sit down at your desk (or hang from your pull-up bar) and absolutely nothing will happen. None of your characters will talk to you, you have no idea where that next scene will go, and seriously, is this whole plot even good? Because it seemed awesome yesterday but today you’re just kinda "meh" about it.
Motivation isn’t really something you can just conjure up whenever you want to, but it’s sort of really important to the whole getting-words-written process. And some days, you’re just not gonna feel like it.
Here’s the thing: Do it anyway. If you can manage it at all, squeeze at least a few words out of your brain and write them down. If that doesn’t work, try to do some other stuff. Make a list of WHY you think it doesn’t work. Not stuff like “I think my idea sucks.” More along the lines of “Character A doesn’t really have a reason to run into Character B here—find one!” Or “Character C’s cat needs a name!” Whatever you can come up with. Sometimes that will unblock you, and if not, you will at least have a few nice notes for stuff you need to do later. Maybe try to reread a few key scenes if you think that might help.
Basically, just stick with it. And if everything you write is awful, fix it later. Don’t worry about it right now. Easier said than done. BELIEVE ME, I KNOW.
But, as my favorite Starfleet captain Kathryn Janeway once said: “Sometimes you just have to punch your way through.” Okay, so she was referring to escaping through a tiny rift when her ship was trapped in a quantum singularity. But whatever. I think it applies to writing as well.