How often do you fall into the trap of believing that you have to be inspired or motivated in order to write?
Sure, inspiration and motivation can make writing FEEL easier but you don’t NEED to be inspired or motivated in order to write.
In fact, once you learn to write without them, you will get a lot more writing done, a lot faster, because you aren’t waiting for them to show up.
And, oddly enough, once you have started writing, you will find yourself both inspired and motivated to continue.
The trick is in getting started.
To help you figure out how to start, let’s think a little bit about selling T-shirts.
Writing Is Like Selling T-shirts: An Analogy
Imagine that you are a salesperson in a T-shirt shop.
Will you feel like going to work every day? Probably not.
Will you be *on* and have a top sales day every day? Definitely not.
But could you go into work on those days anyway and just plug away at things? You definitely could.
Selling T-shirts will have its ups and downs. Some days you will have lots of eager customers. Some days, you will have very few. But you’ll show up every day and try to sell shirts and keep the shop running.
And the more practice you have at selling T-shirts, the better you will get. You’ll start to have more good days than bad. And you’ll find that even on your most blah days, things will still get done.
Your writing can be the same way.
Because writing is a creative act there is a pervasive, false idea that it always happens in a passionate outpouring of ideas and words.
The truth is most writers have more in common with the fictional T-shirt seller than the fictional constantly-inspired creative.
Most writers get their work done by showing up time after time and just putting their words on the page. Some of their writing will be fueled by inspiration and motivation but more will be fueled by sheer stubbornness.
Just like the T-shirt selling version of you shows up at the shop, you can show up and work on your writing without feeling the fire of motivation.
And, over time, you will build your skills and be able to write what needs to be written when it needs to be written.
Imperfect Analogies Are Still Helpful
Of course, I’m not suggesting that selling T-shirts is exactly like writing.
The T-shirt selling version of you has a proven product that is sold in a specific place in a specific way. They have a sort of script to follow to make sales. And they have ‘busy work’ to do when they don’t have a customer present.
Obviously, your writer self is doing a different kind of work. You are creating something new that involves emotional and intellectual risks. It will take probably longer for your efforts to pay off.
But, even with those differences, you can borrow some ideas from your fictional T-shirt-selling-self to help you when you need to work without inspiration or motivation.
Part of what makes T-shirt selling more straightforward than writing is the structure of the process. T-shirt sellers don’t need to be inspired or motivated in order to get started, they need to show up.
The same can be true for your writing if you put a supporting structure in place. If you can find ways to focus on how to get started instead of on how to find inspiration or motivation, you can write more regularly.
Can you make a list of what you need to get started?
Here’s what my list looks like:
- a few short periods of time each week.
- a plan for what project to work on during each one.
- an answer to the question ‘What does my reader need to know at the end of this section?’ for each project I’m working on.
- a willingness to trudge along for a few minutes, even if the words don’t flow.
Perhaps you have more specific criteria or a different question to ask yourself but the important thing is to let go of the notion that inspiration and motivation will always be your starting points.
There’s a pithy quote from Picasso that speaks to this exact thing:
Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.Pablo Picasso
If you can consider your writing practice to be a little more like selling T-shirts, you will get more writing done. And, as you write, inspiration and motivation will show up to keep you going.
PS – I know this method works because I was neither motivated nor inspired to write today but I started writing anyway. Motivation showed up about two paragraphs in and inspiration showed up when I reached the T-shirt shop.
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com