Momentum is often very fickle and in my writing life it comes in fits and starts with little without any real consistency. This is a problem for somebody who wants to write for a living and it’s one of my goals to find the momentum to finish every project that I start.
One of the keys to staying motivated is to simply start from where you are right now. I tend to place writing on a pedestal and think my way into a wasted writing session. I have to remember that not every word has to be perfect before moving on. The key is to be in motion and stay in motion. That means putting away that inner editor for a moment and simply let the words flow on the page as they are. There will always be time to fix things later.
It helps to think of every writing session as practice no matter how important, or not important, the assignment it. Practice means setting a deadline for yourself to finish, having a goal in mind before getting started and not worrying about the end. That can be hard to do, but try and occupy the nagging part of your brain by giving it other things to think about like keeping track of time or listening to some music in the background.
The other key, and perhaps the hardest thing for me to master, is not to be impatient about something that I am working on. Impatience is deadly to a project and it is imperative that you don’t attach a reward to finishing a story. It’s done when it is done and there is no pushing something through prematurely.
That sounds odd considering the goal seems to be finishing, but the reward should be in figuring things out. That’s easy for somebody who does writing on the side and has another career to sustain them, but it’s different pressure for somebody sees this as a life-long career.
I understand there’s a financial pressure to getting your book out there for the world to see, but everybody is on a different path when it comes to getting published. You will find success, the key is to be patient and find reward in the process of seeing a story through to its end rather then in the end itself.
Being impatient tends to make me push an idea through to what I think completion should be rather then what it is. This makes my writing sound contrived and that does not work. If you quite trying to “work” on something you’ll meet less resistance in finishing it.
This may sound silly, but I really don’t know what I’m doing when I write a story and that’s ok. I sit down at the blank page with an idea in mind not a 50,000 word novel or a 3,000 word short story. As the words come down from on high a piece slowly takes shape. Trying to get in the way of that process creates bad writing.
One caveat to that are writing assignments, including freelance ones. Those are parameters for you to get paid and you have to follow them, but I don’t sit down to work on a piece of journalism with an angle fully formed and ready to put on the page. It often takes time and a lot of extra words to drill down to the 500-1000 words that are ready for publication so be prepared to know less before you know more about what you’re writing.
The hardest part is finding the motivation to get through this long process on a consistent basis. Especially those boring assignments that inevitably get you paid. Unless you’re financially stable and have time on our hands to write, not every assignment you do is a an exciting creative project.
The trick is to think long and hard about why you are working on a novel, short story or even that press release you feel that nobody ever reads. If there are specific reasons for doing something then there is a motivation for doing it (or to stop doing it). Once you find that remind yourself of it every time you sit down to work on a project.
Writing is similar to seeing that light at the end of the tunnel. You’re motivated to reach the light and get to a new destination in your writing life, but once you get there you find yourself eager to find another long dark tunnel to get through just to see where else you’ll end up.