Motivation is a fickle thing when writing. Sometimes it comes and (more often) it doesn’t. But motivation is necessary in order to write (you need to be motivated to do something in order to do it). Likewise, inspiration is often a key component in motivation, but inspiration concurring with motivation is rare indeed.
As somebody who used to only write when I felt inspired (and motivated), let me say this: It’s a terrible strategy.
Because you will rarely write. You are waiting for the stars to align, and it isn’t going to happen.
I’ll admit I was a firm believer in only writing when I felt “inspired” for a really long time. And I had been told many, many times to “just write.” The problem with “just write” is that it’s hard to write. It’s so incredibly hard. Wouldn’t you rather be doing one of many other things, or at least, wouldn’t it be easier to do almost anything else right now? Probably.
So what changed my mind? An author said she could write 1,000 words in an hour (in response to a question asking her how much she writes per day), and most everybody in the room seemed impressed. I, however, did some math. 1,000 words per hour is 100 words every six minutes or 16.67 words per minute, which seemed incredibly doable (and not that impressive). And when you think about it, 1,000 words is a hefty chunk of writing. A lot can happen in 1,000 words. And an hour isn’t an unreasonable amount of time. So I tried it, and I did it. I wrote 1,000 words in an hour. I kept doing it for several days. 1,000 words per day adds up. That’s 5,000 words in a week (if you take off weekends) or 20,000 words in a month. 20,000 words, now we’re talking. That’s A LOT of words.
Most importantly, it was way more words than I would write in a year or more if I just wrote when I felt inspired and motivated to write.
But the most amazing thing I discovered is that I was getting motivated and inspired to write.
After writing a hundred words or a few hundred words, I really enjoyed the writing. Once I was into the flow and story, the writing came much, much easier. Writing inspired me to write.
After a while of this 1,000-words-in-an-hour-per-day, writing became less grueling. Possibly because I was consistently writing, so I had to put less effort into reorienting myself in my story. Possibly because I knew that I would enjoy the writing if I only gave it a few hundred words of chance.
To every skeptic who subscribes to the idea of only writing when you’re inspired, I understand how hard it is to write. But just give the words and yourself a chance. If it doesn’t work, you only wasted an hour. If it does, you’re up 1,000 words.