All right, this is either going to be a fairly popular blog post or it’s going to get me some hate mail, but I have to say this for a lot of reasons. The biggest might surprise you. I wish someone had said this to me a long time ago. Maybe I had to figure it out for myself, because it’s possible I might not have listened if they had said this. Still, I wish I’d figured this out ten years ago, so I’m going to say it for all the people I think need to hear this.
Writing is one of those things where you are, largely your own boss. I suspect that’s part of the attraction for some, the idea of not having someone tell them when to work and what to do. As with all good things in life though, there is a downside to this situation. If you’re your own boss, you have to be good at getting your ass working. You have to be self-motivating. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s been difficult for me, historically.
That may sound strange to a lot of you, those who’ve only met me in the last, say, year and a half, but it’s true. Most of my life, I’ve been terrible at making myself do anything that was difficult or that I could avoid in favor of reading or gaming, my two favorite pastimes. I’d talk about wanting to do something, especially writing, and then I’d go play whatever my latest favorite video game was for hours on end. Given the limited number of hours in every single day, you can imagine how much writing I was getting done.
These days, things are largely the reverse. I write ALL THE TIME. This includes revisions and all the prep work I do before I write a draft, because that’s part of the process. But the point is, I do sit down and write. Why? Because it’s what I want to do. There is literally nothing I want to do in this world more than writing. That includes sleeping and eating, in case you were wondering. Yes, I know they’re necessary, so I do them, but I often write or think about writing at the same time. I cheat. 😉
That’s the basic secret of how I get so much done though. Not the hours I spend, though that helps. That I want to write more than anything else. I’ll go out on a limb and say that’s the most basic thing successful writers have in common. They want to write. That’s important to understand.
I’ve seen a number of people over the years who are at that same stage I once was. They say they want to write, but then they don’t do it. They talk about wanting to finish that novel, but then they do everything but. On some occasions, I’ve seen people actually say “Somebody make me write.” Seriously, I saw that once in my timeline on Twitter. I’d have laughed if it hadn’t been a little sad.
The truth is that no one will want you to write more than you do. If reading that hurts, I’m not even sorry, because it’s the truth. No one will ever be more invested in your writing than you are, so if you don’t want it enough to put in the time, then why should anyone else want it for you enough to force you?
As I said, it’s not about the number of hours you spend. I have a lot of free time since I got divorced and I choose to spend almost all of it writing. No one else has to make that same choice. Maybe you have a family to raise, maybe your day job involves working more hours than mine does. You might be doing other things with your time. I get that and applaud you if those things are important to you.
But if you want to be a writer, you also have to make writing important enough to you that you do sit down and write. I have friends who are presently raising small children. This, I’ve noticed, is a very time-consuming task. Yet they write. They sit down and make some time for it, even when it’s not as much as they’d like. It’s that important to them. I seriously want to give these brave souls and standing ovation.
If you don’t want it enough to make writing part of your life, then maybe you need to examine if you really want to be a writer. There’s no shame in saying that you don’t. It isn’t for everyone. But if you can honestly say to yourself that you do want to write, then why aren’t you at your keyboard doing it on your own? That’s part of your job as a writer, being the person who sits down and does that job.
Showing up is part of doing any job, including writing. You have to be the one to decide to show up. You have to be the one who sets your fingers to the keyboard because it’s what you want. No one can make you do it any more than we can do the writing for you.
I didn’t write this post to be discouraging. If anything, I’m hoping for the opposite. I hope the people who are having trouble with this whole self-motivation thing take a long hard look and decide they do want to write. I hope they start sitting themselves down and writing because it’s important to them. But I can’t do anything more than this to help them. They have to do it themselves the same way I did, and the first step is deciding you want to write.