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Q&A - What motivates you to keep writing?

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

By Sophene Avedissian and Daniel Boyko


Sophene Avedissian:

No matter how long I wait for the words to spill out of me, my fingers stay frozen over the keyboard. I write a few awkwardly phrased sentences but quickly delete them. Discouraged, I turn away from the computer screen and sit helplessly in my chair, staring blankly at the ceiling. I rub my eyes with my hands and massage my head, hoping to push the stuck words out.

Of course, it doesn’t work. I close my computer, walking away feeling disappointed and frustrated.

If you clicked on this post hoping to learn about some secret trick that will always make you want to write, I’m sorry to let you down, but you’re not going to find one. It’s completely normal to not have the motivation or drive to write. If you can’t bring yourself to sit down and finish writing a poem, that’s alright. If you can’t think of a short story idea, that’s alright. You’re not a machine. There's nothing wrong with taking breaks from writing, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it.

I was in this exact position a few months ago. Negative thoughts flooded my mind every time I sat down to write a piece I was working on. Is this too predictable? Should I add more plot points? Am I developing my characters well? They made me dread working on this story, and soon, I stopped trying altogether.

After not writing for a few days, I finally got back the motivation to continue making progress on the story. Then, when I sat at my desk, my fingers moved across the keyboard as if I was playing the piano. In just half an hour, I was done.

Don’t expect yourself to constantly have the urge to sit down and write. The motivation to write comes from inspiration, and inspiration is not something you can magically get; it's something you can’t force. Ideas will pop into your head at random times. Ambition to work on your writing will come out of nowhere.

Remember, it's all part of the process: there are ups and downs.

Daniel Boyko:

I completely agree with Sophene’s points—as unfortunate as it may seem, there is no magic potion or ancient recipe or superpower (believe me, I’ve tried…) that will ensure you always want to write, that will make that beautiful well of what we call inspiration constantly overflowing, brimming with words that force you, compel you, to put them on the page. It just doesn’t work that way.

Something that I try, however, is taking a break, knowing when to step back from the page and give myself space and time to think about what I want to say. Sometimes I walk my dog and just think about whatever I’m working on without actually staring at the screen or writing anything down, and I’ll often find that helps me solve a plot point or a line that I just can’t seem to get right. Other times, especially for longer projects, I’ll take an even bigger break—maybe even a week or a month—and not return to the piece until it invades my thoughts and I have an overwhelming urge to just write, write, write.

Another trick I sometimes use is rereading some of my all-time favorite pieces- the pieces responsible for making me want to write in the first place. (One of my go-to’s is Richard Siken’s “Straw House, Straw Dog”—it’s just… wow.) They don’t always encourage me to start writing again instantaneously, but seeing what these great writers have accomplished encourages me to keep working on my craft. It reminds me of the kind of writing that I hope to create one day: writing which will one day inspire others like me.

In the end, I know I’ll eventually return to the page, just as motivated as ever.


Sophene Avedissian is an Editor-in-Chief at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.

Daniel Boyko is an Editor-in-Chief at Polyphony Lit and a Blog Contributor Liaison at Voices.

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