This is not a post about New Year’s resolutions—to begin with.

Macro view of frozen winter ball

Photo credit: Aaron Burden

It may seem that way given the time of year and subject matter. I am not here to tell you to create a list that you will tear to shreds or lose in a month.

However…

I like the idea of a set time to put everything in a metaphorical basket and start fresh. To finish one notebook (regardless of whether I’ve filled up every page) and begin another one.

Choose what metaphor works for you: there is something to be said for releasing whatever baggage you have and resetting—if only for a little while.

 

Some time ago, I started using the seasons for this. The start of each season is a time for me to reset, realign, rediscover. No concrete goals, just an amorphous idea.

 

Well, the winter solstice has just passed and my nebulous idea this season is motivation. Read on if you want to join me in this abstract resolution of harnessing motivation in a time when it is so easy to do the opposite.

 

What They Did

Sometimes to find our motivation, we can look to the wisdom of the past. Here are a few examples of how creatives either worked or kept themselves “well” enough to create. Note: the following examples are cited from

Currey, Mason. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. New York: Knoff, 2013.

Francis Bacon read cookbooks before bed to relax

Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up, using his refrigerator as a desk.

Patricia Highsmith sought to create the most pleasurable writing experience possible, creating as she punned it, “a womb of her own” (She wrote in an almost fetal position.)

Anthony Trollope began writing at 5:30 a.m. and, in his words, “allow[ed] myself no mercy”.

Beethoven wrote more music in the warmer months because long walks were instrumental (apologies) to his process.

 

What can we learn from this spattering of examples, besides that Thomas Wolfe was absurdly tall?

 

The takeaway should not be, “start writing at 5:30 a.m. and you will be successful”, or “take long walks to clear your mind and you will create wonders”. These quirks, these rituals, are what the individual creative used, in part, to motivate them. Highsmith was motivated by making herself comfortable, and Trollope by the opposite.

 

Find Your Quirk

 

It doesn’t have to be a quirk. You don’t need to write using a novelty pen to be motivated, or write only in the nude, or write everyday between 5:42 and 11:34. Find what works for you.

 

Motivation is about the process not the product. You need to be motivated to start let alone continue in order to create anything. And the only way to be motivated to do something, without a pressing external factor such as making enough money to sustain yourself, is to enjoy it.

What do you enjoy must about writing, and how can you bring it to the forefront of your practice?

 

If you believe that writing is a constant work in progress and a journey of constant improvement, writing every day might elevate your enjoyment of writing.

If you believe that writing is a community of people sharing the stories worth telling, being part of a writing group or class might elevate your enjoyment of writing.

If you believe that writing requires you to be physically present as well as mentally, then writing standing up (or even walking around) might elevate your enjoyment of writing.

If you believe that writing is fuelled by the power of the words themselves, and that words arranged just so will unlock some hidden truth—first, might I recommend poetry, and second, speaking aloud as you write might elevate your enjoyment of writing.

If you believe that it is your duty to expose others to important worldviews they may not be aware of, then travelling (locally or otherwise) as you write might elevate your enjoyment of writing.

 

I could go on, but these are just meant to spark your own reflection.

 

What intrigues you most about writing, and what steps do you need to take to pursue that enjoyment?

 

Pitfalls and Burnout

Writing is like anything else. If we get too consumed by it, we run the risk of either losing sight of what we are doing, or we become so exhausted we can’t do it anymore. How do you avoid losing sight of what you want out of your writing, or how do you avoid burnout?

a person drowns underwater, their hand stick up from the water against a stormy background

Photo credit: Stormseeker

I circle back to the beginning. Take whatever time you want, but I recommend it being a set time.

Put aside any project that has become more frustrating than invigorating and start again.

Write postcard pieces based on prompts. Write poems, or short stories, or novel ideas, or essays, or blogs—but whatever form it takes, write it in a way that you enjoy what you are writing.

Write with smaller goals in mind so you can remember that writing is not a never-ending slog.

Write for yourself, not for publication.

Write standing, sitting, curled in a ball, or stretched to the top of your fridge.

Write in a genre that is new to you.

Write from a perspective that’s new to you.

Read some of your older work. See how far you’ve come, how much you have learned and then maybe decide to learn more.

Draw inspiration from others—whether from books or classes, but don’t let that overshadow your own work.

Celebrate your writing, by yourself or with others.

 

And remember that if you are reading this, you like writing—embrace that.

 

 

We are starting a new year. For some of you, that might mean something, for others, it might just be any other day. But the reason New Year’s resolutions exist is because we need some marker to delineate the important parts of our lives.

 

Rediscovering your motivation to write is important, and January 1 is as good a marker as any to delineate that.

 

Some work better on their own, but if you are looking to celebrate, share, or commiserate with others about your writing process, goals, and frustrations, AWCS offers a great community.

 

Whatever path you choose, if you have read this far,

Thanks for reading.