Motivation in a Vacuum

So if you’ve read any of my other rambling posts, you’ve realized by now that this blog will have a lot to do with writing. In truth, that’s what I want to do with my life. Just like a child imagining himself as his favorite pro wrestler, or baseball player, or… I don’t know, what’s a third dream occupation? Celebrity glass-blower? Well, just like that little boy, I often imagine myself as a successful, well-loved writer of fantasy fiction. It’s not about the fame, of course. I simply love to write. But if the jolt of joy I felt when I saw that this amateur hour weblog had six views in one day is any indication, having George R. R. Martin-level success feels amazing. So that would be nice, too.

Today, however, I don’t want to talk about my future aspirations. I won’t even talk about the story I’m working on currently, although I’ll probably shed some light on my pet project later. Please, please. Return to the softer, more spacious parts of your seats. No, today I would like to talk about what it takes to write–at least, what it takes for me to write.

I think that every story–screenplays, books, and short stories alike–comes from some source of inspiration somewhere. I don’t think any writer has a problem with inspiration, at least not in their glorious creative youth, before they become jaded and angry and alcoholic. Inspiration is that little spark that sets off the story. It’s the question that must be answered, or the character that won’t stop pacing around in your head, or the world that must exist in more imaginations than your own. Inspiration is a wonderful thing, but there’s on aspect of inspiration that you don’t realize when you first aspire to write: it’s very, very rare.

Inspiration can happen at any moment. Aha! Eureka! That sort of thing. It’s like a bolt of sexy, creative lightning. But how often can you expect to get struck by lightning? Even writers. I guess if inspiration is like lightning then writers are like lightning rods; they’re more prone to the phenomenon than other people, who… I guess are like people lying in a ditch? That metaphor seems to have wandered away from me. Anyway, my point is that even writers don’t get to experience the privileged presence of inspiration that often.

Therein lies the rub, my friends. Because, no matter how much you think you enjoy writing, you’re going to have to hate it sometimes to get any work done. You’ll get that delicious taste of a truly inspired idea, and you’ll be raring to go. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll make a map, or maybe write up some character descriptions. Maybe you’ll jump in and try to start writing right from Chapter One. If you’ve got a little more juice in the tank, you might even outline most of the story–enough so that you have a vague idea of where you’re going.

And then you’ll drop the project for months at a time. Not entirely–you’ll still think of it. A lot, most likely. But thinking of cool new things and awesome future scenes is easier than actually writing. So you’ll just leave it. Either that, or you’ll suck it up and do the hard work.

For me? It was the first option. For two years the story I’m currently working on milled around on my hard drive wishing someone would talk to it. I still thought about the story. A few times I’d open up the document. But I rarely touched a key after doing so. Because motivation and inspiration are not necessarily the same thing. And motivating oneself in the absence of inspiration is a truly difficult task.

That’s the shitty part of being a would-be writer. You think you like writing. But you won’t enjoy it a lot of the time. Getting those first words down on the paper is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Finishing a first draft–not worrying about making it sound pretty, but just getting the damn thoughts out of your head and onto the page–that is a nightmare of a challenge. It sure as hell is for me.

But I’m not letting my lack of motivation halt me anymore. Sitting around always telling yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow, and just letting the fun ideas run the show is not the way to go. I won’t be a slave to the whims of inspiration, and if you’ve ever yearned to be a writer, published or otherwise, you shouldn’t either. Have your idea, and then kick that bastard book’s ass.

More on my stuff later, friends.

Pro-tip: Listen to Neil Young’s Harvest. Shit is the mood music of the gods.

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