Motivating yourself to keep writing



I think it is true to say that at certain points within the research writing cycle, you might feel like giving up completely. In this type of situation, the things you say to yourself can include variations of the following:

“I don’t think what I have to say is worth saying ….”

“Other researchers could do a lot better than I can …”

“No one will take this research seriously …”

“What I am trying to say no longer makes sense to me …”

Motivation is a fragile creature. You may or may not have found it difficult to start writing. But you will certainly experience moments where you feel that your efforts are all in vain. What can cause such moments? Usually it is a case of feeling that you have reached a dead end. The page or blank screen beckons, but you feel incapable of writing anything. You are experiencing the dreaded writer’s block. So how serious is this?

Some writers such as Victoria Nelson (‘On Writer’s Block‘, 1993 p.1) argue that the experience can contain a strong positive element:

Writers tend to think of themselves in a number of ways, all bad. They are, so they think, lazy undisciplined shirkers, failures, cowardly frauds, good-for-nothings. The list of negatives stretches into cold infinity….. Being temporarily unable to write, however, or for that matter to perform any creative endeavour, is not a bad thing in itself. Properly interpreted a block is the best thing that can happen to a writer. Resistance is a vital regulator of the creative process because it obliges us to suspend our plans and reconsider the nature of our relation to the creative forces …

Such advice can be reassuring if the cause of the block is (a) identifiable and (b) not particularly serious. Of course it is good if we pause to reflect, assuming that the problem can be overcome once it has been rationalized. But how to cope with those situations where nothing appears to make any sense?

If we wish to sustain our motivation for writing, we will need to think carefully about the situations in which writers feel blocked. If this has happened or is happening to you, take some time to work through this list of possibilities. Which do you recognize from your own experience? Which are likely to be more serious?

  1. I don’t know how or where to begin
  2. I thought I knew what I wanted to write but suddenly I realize that I’m not so sure
  3. I lose the plot and can’t remember what I want to say next
  4. I lose any sense of direction and don’t know where my writing is leading me
  5. I feel that what I am writing is trivial and of no real interest to the reader
  6. I get distracted by other ideas which are on my mind
  7. I have so many ideas at once that I cannot get any of them down on paper
  8. I keep writing the same section/paragraph and cannot seem to go beyond it
  9. I lose interest in what I am writing
  10. What I am writing has stopped making sense to me
  11. Ideas start jumping around all over the place

(To be continued)