There have been many times I’ve tried to write a story and it hasn’t turned out anything like how I imagined it in my head. Can you relate? Out of all the questions I get asked as a writer, this is the most common by far: What do I do when I lose motivation while I’m writing?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on this, but with my years of experience in creative writing, I think I’ve figured out a system of how to get past this block. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely abandon works in progress due to lack of motivation. Is this easy to overcome? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Will the process be the same for everyone? Probably not, because luckily we’re not robots and each of us is a unique individual with our own writing styles. But I think this is a pretty good method that you can adapt to your own unique way of thinking and writing.
So let’s look at my “Stop, Look, and Think” method. You get an idea for a story and it’s glorious, miraculous, something no one’s ever thought of before! You get excited. Immediately, you go to write it down. (Just a sidenote: I suggest writing a brief 1-2 sentence overview of your story idea first and then begin writing/outlining/whatever your first step is!)
Once you begin writing, it usually becomes apparent within a few minutes whether or not your writing is getting across your idea the way you want. (And to be clear, this is the number one reason why we lose motivation as writers!) Are you more excited about the story, or is the excitement waning? If it’s the latter, this is the first thing to do:
You’ve probably heard the opposite of this before; I know I have! But in my experience, continuing to write when you have no motivation is simply a waste of time. If your heart’s not in it, going on will only discourage you more.
The important thing is this: don’t despair. This isn’t the end; it’s the first step! Every writer faces this problem. You’re not alone.
In other words, identify the problem. Don’t be concerned with the quality of writing; that’s not the point here. Instead, get the original idea back in your head. Look at the 1-2 sentence summary you wrote. Think about what made it so exciting! Then look over what you’ve written and try to find the disconnect.
Personally, the number one problem I identify in my writing when I get to this step is point of view. Seventy percent of the time, once I change the point of view to a different character, everything falls into place. Angels sing. All is good and right in the world, and I carry on writing.
The second most common issue I find is where I start the story. Sometimes I give a whole lot of background that’s not strictly necessary, so then to fix it I end up starting the story in the middle of the action and it works like magic. Other times, it might be the other way around; I might need to give more backstory before I get into the action!
There are lots of other issues you can find. Character voice. Writing/narration style. Setting. The list can go on and on! Though you might find multiple issues, remember that we’re looking for the main problem here. Once again, this isn’t about critiquing your writing quality either. It’s a rough, rough, rough, rough draft. Give yourself a break!
This step is the most important because it’s why most people stop writing. They give up without trying to figure out what the issue is. 99% of the time, you’ll be able to identify it! And once you can identify it, you can fix it. But not always right away.
Let your work rest for a few days. Don’t get discouraged; let your original idea fill you with joy again. Think about how you can rectify the major problem you identified, but don’t go back to writing it yet (unless it’s to briefly jot down some ideas so you don’t forget). When you come back to it fresh, oftentimes you’ll find that you have a whole new inspiration to write.
And that’s about it. After you follow these steps, you can come back to your writing and fix the main issue you found. It might mean rewriting from the beginning, or just tweaking what you’ve already written. Even changing one little thing, like point of view, can entirely change the way you tell the story; so don’t underestimate the little things!
The number one thing to remember is don’t give up. This isn’t a foolproof method; I have some partially-written stories sitting around that I abandoned long ago. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. (Though I will say that you shouldn’t completely scrap anything; you might come back to it in a few years and see your idea in a whole new light!) But we’re writers. We always come up with new ideas, and eventually you will find something that works!
I hope this helps someone who needs it. And if you have any questions, drop them down in the comments and I’ll do my best to help. Keep writing! 🙂