Writers need to be self-starters. The act of finding an idea, developing it, putting it through its paces to make sure there is enough meat and material to turn it into a certain length requires an enormous amount of motivation. More so, because there is no tangible gain: no promise of a fat advance for your manuscript and no guarantee that your indie book will sell millions of copies. That itself is a huge barrier to writing.
The delicious irony of being a writer is that the act of writing a piece of fiction also involves creating characters that have 'motivation'. Without motivation, your characters will not have enough juice to power your novel's plot. So, as a writer you are doing double duty -- motivating yourself and finding some for your characters. It would be great if you could find a bottle of that wonderful ingredient called Motivation in a store, wouldn't it?
Don't lose heart though. There is always a way around every problem that seems impossible.
The first step is to recognise the signs before tackling it. Are you stymied because you don't seem to be generating enough story ideas? Or the ideas seem uninspiring, boring, cliched? Well, the good news is that you need to go after inspiration with a club. Here are some simple and fun ways to do it:
- Read something that's totally not in your comfort zone. If you are an avid reader of fiction, read non-fiction. Or vice-versa. If you are not into poetry, take a shot at it. Seems simple enough? But here's the catch. Read mindfully. Keep your mind alert to absorbing new ideas and concepts. And you will be surprised at how new thoughts and ideas pop into your head.
- If that doesn't work for you, go for a long walk -- preferably in an area that you are not too familiar with -- and leave your smartphone behind. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be observant. After you return from your walk make a quick note of things that you liked or what you didn't. Do this a few days in a row and you will not only shed some unwanted kilos but will also find your brain throwing up new ideas.
- Invite your friends or relatives you haven't met for a while and spend some time reminiscing over the past, finding out what they are doing right now and their hopes and desires for the future. Make it about them. And you just might be inspired by some event, incident or thought. You're a writer--don't be scared to lift ideas. The best part is that you can give it your own unique twist.
- Talk to strangers. No, I'm not encouraging you to stalk strangers. But if you find yourself waiting in a queue, talking to the person standing next to you may be a good way to pass the time. Recently, I was at a government office and found myself pulled into a discussion by a total stranger. The fun part about this is that you may or may not find the conversation scintillating, but it's always helpful to mindfully listen to how people talk, to pay attention to their mannerisms, or an interesting turn of phrase. You never know when you could use that to make one of your characters more interesting.
- If all these methods fail, you can fall back on the tried and tested way of kickstarting the writer in you. Attend a writing workshop and commit to doing the exercises/homework. It always works for me. Or check out some of the prompt-generating sites to get started.
Would love to hear your thoughts on how you find inspiration and motivate yourself. And don't forget to check out the video series on writing.
In the next part of this article I shall discuss how you can motivate your characters. Stay tuned!