Monday, February 6, 2012

Motivation Part One: The Excuse

Welcome all, to my multi-part extravaganza about that dreaded thing called 'Motivation'. We've all heard and said it so many times.  Say it with me right now: "Mo-tiv-ay-shun".  Sort of an abstract concept, isn't it?

Motivation is what makes us go, and often we either have it or we don't.  There isn't really a middle ground.  You never hear people saying, "Oh, I'm only partly motivated today."  That's sort of like saying, "Oh, I'm only partly alive today, but don't worry about me, I'll be fine."  Yeah, sure.  And I'll only partly breathe today, but don't worry, I'll be fine.

Often, writers talk about motivation like it's something physical, something you can hold and touch and keep in a little cage by your computer.  Wrong.  Motivation doesn't come from any external sources; it isn't air, and it sure as hell isn't cheesecake. 

Here are some excuses that I commonly hear from writers claiming that their motivation has been lost in the winds of time or some other excuse.  Actually, these pretty much double for excuses of why people don't write.

1. "I'm just not motivated."
What does this even mean?  This spells defeat.  If you're not motivated to create a story, to polish and shine that manuscript, to torture your characters until they're screaming UNCLE! back through the computer screen, then what drives you to create?  How strong is your desire?  If the will is strong enough, the motivation will come on its own.

2. "I have homework/babies/lives to save, and I'm too busy."
While all of that may be true, it's still an excuse.  Sure, you're busy.  I'm busy.  We're all busy with this grand thing that most of us call life, or unlife if you're undead.  Take that motivation and store it away for the next day.  Jot down your ideas in a book, the notepad on your phone, a freaking napkin at a greasy diner, I DON'T CARE.  Just make sure that you cage that desire for tomorrow.

3. "I need inspiration before I can get motivated."
Ah ha, the famous 'muse' argument.  This is a particular breed of artist that pops up every now and then and gives the rest of us a bad name.  Inspiration surrounds us.  Everything is a miracle, and if you're waiting for the angels to come from their heavenly home to give you that motivation, you'll be waiting forever.

4. "After I catch up on all of my shows, then I'll be free to get motivated."
This is not lack of motivation.  This is lack of will.  But it still applies.  Don't use your entertainment as an excuse not to write.  Use it as a reward for when your motivation takes hold of your story and makes it change.    

5. "The story is really dragging and I don't like it anymore."
Another common excuse for lack of motivation.  It may be true.  Maybe your novel is falling apart beneath your fingertips, the characters are flat, the world is gray with a touch of gray, and the plot is a tangled string that a kitten has lost down the gutter of your mind.  Whatever the case may be, that mess isn't going to fix itself.  Either you gear up and beat some sense into that story, or you quit writing.  Personally, I don't really see how that's even a choice.

We all have excuses.  Many of us have real, valid ones.  That's fine.  No one is going to tell you to sit your ass down at that computer and write after your sharks have escaped from the tank in your basement, grown legs, and suddenly started eating people.  It's when we don't have a valid excuse that things get messy.  No more excuses!  Tomorrow, we'll talk about finding motivation.  Since it is this great beast which no one can catch, surely there must be a way to find it?

I am guilty of numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 as well as the unlisted 6-13.  What are your excuses?  What stops you from sitting down and creating?  


  1. I could claim 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 as well, but the truth is that I'm just not hard enough on myself! I'm in class, what? 15 hours of the week total? I have no job and no other commitments to speak of, but when I get home I have the choice of gaming or writing. Too often I choose gaming, and, once it starts, it takes a lot to make it stop.

    I think the question of discipline can sum it up for everyone. It's all a matter of making the conscious decision to spend your free time, however much or little it may be, grinding words onto a page, even if you don't like them and even if they don't seem to be going anywhere. No one said it was going to be easy!

  2. I have a dear friend, who is a far superior writer to me, but she consistently stops herself from writing with the 'I'm just not ready yet" excuse. She is so busy waiting for her story to percolate that she never writes any of it down. Drives me crazy, because doing NaNo, I learned that 1) we are never 'ready' and 2) you don't have to be ready to FINISH the thing in order to START it. Just WRITE. and then KEEP writing and the rest takes care of itself!