No matter how much you love writing, there’s going to come a point when it just. Sucks.
Maybe you’ve been working a lot of overtime and you have no energy left. Maybe your creative muse has decided to drop everything and go to the Bahamas for a three-week vacation. Maybe you’ve been editing nonstop and yet your novel is still nowhere near being done.
Whatever the reason, you want to write, but every time you sit down in front of your computer/typewriter/pad of paper, you suddenly realize that death is an appealing alternative.
Here’s how to get your mojo back:
- First off, don’t panic or beat yourself up. Creativity is like a deciduous tree: it goes through regular dormant periods. Even if you don’t feel like writing right this second, you are still a writer, and the will to write will come back.
- Set a routine. Have a dedicated space for writing. Write at the same time every day, for the same amount of time every day.
- Try some good old classical conditioning. Play a particular song when you start, light the same scented candle, or engage your senses in some other way. I had a friend in college who brushed his teeth before sitting down to write; within a week, all he had to do was smell a piece of minty gum and he’d get the urge to sit down and write.
- Set small goals. “I will write for an hour” or “I will edit 100 pages” are big goals—a little too big, if you’re struggling to find enough motivation to even open up your novel. Instead of writing for a full hour, write for fifteen minutes. Instead of editing 100 pages, edit ten. The bite-sized tasks will be way easier to complete, ensuring that you actually get something done.
- Make your progress visible. Have a good outline so that you can track your progress. Make a list of small edits that need to be done—consistent pronouns and verb tenses, eliminating text bombs, etc.—so that you can have something to cross off.
- Allow yourself to do some crappy work. Novels are freakin’ huge, and nobody does it 100% perfectly. There’s always time to go back. Just put a in a margin note so that it’s easy to find your bad work later and keep pushing.
- Treat yo’ self. Have you finished your first draft? Patched up a major plot hole? Come up with the perfect ending? Celebrate! If you’re always looking at what still needs to be done, you risk losing sight of everything that you’ve accomplished so far. That’s enough to make anyone lose their motivation.
Writing a novel is an enormous undertaking, and as with all enormous undertakings, you’re eventually going to hit a wall. When the joy of fiction writing has left the building and you’re stuck trying to figure out ways to motivate yourself to just keep going, just know that eventually, it will re-enter, probably wearing a white pantsuit covered in rhinestones.