Tag Archives: writing motivation

Writers and Weltschmerz

On one of the on-line writers groups I frequent, someone opened a forum topic that ran something like this…Is Anyone Getting Any Writing Done? The question was an interesting one for me, because all writers have to, at times, write on…despite personal setbacks.

Now let me be clear…there are situations in which the writing CANNOT go on. There are times too bleak: sicknesses and household emergencies and financial struggles. There are times when we sit down and simply stare at the screen, unable to do anything. That’s inevitable. Real life tends to trump our writing at times. But this isn’t that. It’s not an inability to write brought on by health issues or finances or priorities.

This is Weltschmerz–the feeling of anxiety caused by the ills of the world. (Definition via Wikipedia)

Many of the writers I know have been suffering weltschmerz since the second week of November. It’s a frightening time for a lot of people, and with holidays on top of that, there’s simply so many stressors that it’s taking a toll on our creativity, grinding it down into the dust. We’re staring at our screens, wondering how we can go on writing our small bits of fiction when there’s so much out there in the world that’s slipping awry. How can we be creative when others are suffering? When they’re afraid? When we’re afraid?

For me, it was a matter of having commitments to fulfill. I’m posting a novel serially, which forces me to edit a bit each week. I have a monthly commitment to my Patreon Patrons on another serial. And I promised that I would have the first book of The Horn out in December.

(Gratuitous bit of book promotion…Oathbreaker is now available in ebook format!)

Those commitments kept me in my chair on days when I would rather have been endlessly refreshing Twitter. I had to get the work done. And when we’re dealing with contracts with publishers, that gives an outside push.

Even without that impetus, I know all my writer friends will eventually sit back down and start writing again.

Why? This is what we do. We write.

Writing is how we deal with the injustices in the world. It’s how we let others know about them. We have voices and we apply our words to let others know what’s happening.

We may be writing blog posts, tweets, letters to the editors, to our congressmen, to those men and women who control various aspects of those things that terrify us. We may drop a line to a serviceman or woman. We might write stories for a benefit anthology for survivors from Aleppo. We might write a wild story to brighten the evening of someone else who has weltschmerz and is seeking pure escape. It might be small. It might be big.

In time we’ll step back into the fray with the weapons we use best…our words. Because this is what we are. We’re writers.

A Few of my Favorite Things: 5 Ways for Writers to Spend Those Gift Cards

’tis the season for spending all of those holiday gift cards you’ve received from well-meaning folks who just didn’t know quite what to give their favorite writing-relative.  If you’re in a quandary about how to apply $25 to best support your writing career, here are some ideas.  And yes, I have made the guess that most of those gift cards are from book sellers. . .

A few of my favorite titles for writers.

A few of my favorite titles for writers.

Pick up a Best-seller

There’s probably a book in your genre that everyone’s been talking about, and which sounds like the kind of thing that would appeal to your readership–or vice versa–but which you’ve been avoiding, or haven’t made the time to read.  Reading the current hits in your genre, with an analytical eye, can help you to think about why that work appeals to readers, what that author is doing right, and what you can learn from their success.  Audio books are great for analyzing overall plot, pacing and development, while print books can help you examine style and look at how the writer builds scene and character on a word and sentence level.

Grab Some Cool Non-fiction

Find a title that sounds really interesting, that hits your sweet-spot.  Maybe this is a book you’ve been avoiding because it seems indulgent–right now, you are focusing on a novel about space-faring squid, and this book about rainforest insects is just a distraction.  But the rainforest bugs might be what you need to know about next, or give you some ah-ha moment that inspires your squid.  The most promising ideas often come from the conjunction of unexpected things.  Reward yourself with something fun and exciting to learn, and you will likely reap the benefit in new ideas.

Study up on a Craft Area

Okay, I am a writing how-to junkie, I admit it.  Reading how-to books helps me to keep in mind the stuff I already know about my craft, and remember to apply it to whatever I am writing.  For the intersection of character and plot, check out Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) by Debra Dixon.  For plot and structure, look at Save The Cat, by Blake Snyder.  For  some exercises at a more advanced level from most writing books, try Between the Lines:  master the subtle elements of fiction writing, by Jessica Page Morrell.   And lastly, if you want to have fun with it, try How Not to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman, which features “excerpts” from some truly terrible work–sure to make you feel better about your own!

Or Delve into the Business

When I was a different kind of entrepreneur, one of my business coaches made the distinction between working *in* your business (ie, in this case, actually writing a book or story) and working *on* your business:  developing the skills that will make you successful beyond simply producing the product.  Invest your holiday stash on learning more about how to manage the business of being a writer, whether that is maintaining your own website, indie publishing, or marketing your books.   This type of book becomes obsolete pretty quickly, so I’m not going to give you titles, but I suggest starting with the work of some great writing business bloggers, like Kristine Katherine Rusch, or Chuck Wendig.  If you want to amp up your productivity as a writer, then go for Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K for some great tips on how to make the most of your writing time.

And if That All Sounds like Work

Try a memoir of the writing life.  Many, many authors have written them, in any genre imaginable.  Sometimes, it helps to know that other writers, even those we now revere, have struggled, too.  Steven King’s On Writing is perhaps the most famous contemporary genre example, but Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, and Elizabeth George have all written books about the writing life which contain some fun, and some insight.

And above all else, have a creative and productive New Year!


6 Ways to Stay Motivated to Write

Whew–that was a great NANOWRIMO, wasn’t it?  And now you’re all done writing for a while–time to relax and get caught up on Game of Thrones. . .well, not if you plan to make writing more than a once-a-year binge.  As with diet and exercise, and pretty much all things you want to stick with and get better at, regular practice with writing will make you a better writer. It will give you more material to offer to a wider variety of readers (whether through traditional publishing, indie publishing, or your personal site).  I’ve found that, the more I stay in the zone, the more I want to be there, and the faster I can get back when I have to leave to say. . . go to the day job, feed the pets, or make another PB&J for my next session.

  1.  The easiest thing to do is to maintain a habit. If you’ve been doing NANO, even if you didn’t complete the full 50K, you have established a habit of writing on a regular basis.  Keep doing it!!
  2.  Pick a chunk of time that works for you.  If you’re not already in the habit, find a space to make it easy.  perhaps this is first thing in the morning, when you are fresh.  Get up early and give yourself that half hour to write.  Commit to it!
  3.  Or. . .pick a word count you know you can meet.  250 words a day. That’s only a page–you can do that, easy!  And if you do it every day, you’ll have a book by the end of the year.  But some days, you’ll write more.  Don’t let yourself slack off.
  4.   Find a partner and agree to keep each other focused. Report in on a regular basis via whatever means works best for you. Also check out the #1K1H challenges on Twitter, where writers around the world look for some online buddies to write a thousand words in an hour.  #1K1H at the top of the hour–go!
  5.  Focus on the fun parts.  Sometimes you get to a part of the book that frustrates or disappoints you. Instead of letting that be an excuse to go play video games, think about the next part that will excite you.  Let that cool scene or thrilling twist be the carrot you’re working toward as you write through the tough sections.
  6.  Stuff happens.  You get sick, you lose power, you miss a few days of writing for one reason or another.  Don’t let a day or two, or even a week or a month signal the end of your commitment.  Even if you feel bad about the time you were *not* writing, the only way to get back to it is to sit down with the empty page.  Avoidance doesn’t make it any better.  Take a deep breath and get moving.  Half an hour.  250 words.  You can do this. You know you want to.