Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Motivation, lack of

If you were expecting this to be a craft blog on how to keep motivated when writing after 58 books, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you because when it comes to motivation, I have, it seems, completely lost it for the 59th.

I was inclined to blame this on a lack of inspiration at first, but I think feeling unmotivated is different. I’ve got an idea, I’ve got a plot.  I’ve got characters with goals and motivations.  I’d like to write this story, I really would, but somehow I just can’t quite bring myself to do it.

Lack of motivation isn’t the same as block, which is a terrible thing.  Block is when you sit at your computer, staring at the screen, fingers frozen to the keyboard, feeling sick as a great tangle of words knots and lodges immovably in the pit of your stomach … ugh, I feel quite nauseous just thinking about it! 

Lack of motivation is less dramatic, but more insidious.  Now I can’t even get myself to sit at my computer at all, and if I do, I just spend my time checking my email, or drifting off to browse Amazon or check on the weather in countries I have no expectation of visiting in the near future.  And weirdly, I’m not even bothered by it.  

I can trot out plenty of explanations for this: I’m deadlined out; I’ve been getting over a general anaesthetic; I’ve been away, and now have visitors; my head is still in time slip mode and I’m waiting to hear what revisions are needed that; I’m not living from advance to advance the way I normally am. But these are explanations and not excuses, I know, and I am rather ashamed of myself, especially when I hear about other authors getting on with their writing under the most difficult of circumstances.

It may not be very cool to admit it, but for me the financial incentive is usually a very strong one.  Thanks to advance on the time slip, I've been in a more comfortable position this year, but I still can’t afford to give up my regular income from Harlequin.  If I don’t write a book now, it won’t have any immediate effect, but in two or three years’ time, it certainly will, and if the time slip isn’t a success, I will surely regret faffing around now.  The trouble is that I really can’t whip myself into a frenzy about something that may or may not happen in two years’ time. 

The real problem is that I don’t have a deadline. I had so many earlier this year that I agreed with my editor that I would write the book and then we’d talk about a contract.  Which is all very well, but I hadn’t realised then that my motivation would collapse like a popped balloon the moment the last deadline of the year was made.  So the obvious solution is to set myself a new deadline but you guessed it … I can’t bring myself to do that either.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll get my act together, but in the meantime, at least I’ve got most of my Christmas shopping done and it's not even December yet!


  1. I so totally empathise with this, and I don't think there's anything wrong at all in admitting that advances are a major driver. We'd be fooling ourselves if they weren't.

    It will come back, or be driven back, but in my experience (which is less than yours!) you can't force your motivation back. Avoid the guilt, and make a conscious decision NOT to sit at your computer. Everyone else has time off (unless they're Nora Roberts) so why not you, and it's better to use it constructively rather than faffing about on the internet.

    I say enjoy while you can!

  2. Thanks for being so honest!I find deadlines a real necessity to me. I would love to be one of those people who works along at a steady pace, a bit each day in a planned out way. It never works out that way. As the deadline looms, I'm suddenly inspired to get all the work done at the last minute, even throwing out old bits to replace them with new inspired and improved ones. It's a bit exhausting, but I've never been able to avoid it.

  3. Thanks, Marguerite - excellent reminder that I'm not, in fact, Nora Roberts, so it's no use trying to pretend that I am! Am going to take your advice and enjoy ... and trust that motivation will return sooner or later.

    Julia, there's something about a looming deadline that focuses the mind, isn't there? I've always effectively written a book in the last two weeks before the deadline so must be a closet adrenalin junkie like you, I think. At least we know we're not alone!

  4. Jessica,
    Thanks for being so honest about this! (And thanks to Julia and Marguerite too) I am unpubbed and dreaming about that first contract, but I cannot get writing done without bribes. Lots of lots of bribes. Chocolate, trinkets, fancy coffee, mindless television. You name it, I bribe myself with it and I usually give myself a small daily goal with a small bribe. Big goal achieved? Big treat time ;-)
    I don't see anything wrong with taking a break (you've written 58 books for goodness sakes!) but if you're still desperate after a while, bribes can't hurt, right?
    I read a noted self help blogger who noted that "treating yourself" was very damaging behavior and led to long-term self indulgence and unhappiness. I left a comment that it must be nice to have such strong will power, but literally nothing in my life (not even the laundry) would get done without "carrots" to reward myself at the end of the doing something. Even if it is sitting on the couch for 15 minutes with a book ;-)

  5. Jessica, I think you need to give yourself permission to have a break! General anaesthetics/visitors are hard on the system - this is your time to defrag! Sit back and toast those 58 books-what an achievement! margie s

  6. Defragging ... I like it, Margie! Honestly, I think you're all being a lot kinder than I deserve - I get more along the lines of JFDI from other quarters! - but I appreciate your thoughts!

    And Jill, I am so with you on the rewards thing. "Damaging behaviour and long-term self-indulgence and unhappiness"? What rubbish!

  7. How about your adoring fans who can't wait for the next JH book? Seriously, that's a major bummer and I really feel for you. I agree with everyone who's said give yourself permission to take a break. Your motivation will come swinging back through the door, arm-in-arm with your muse (probably having been down to that cool wine bar in York). All will be well.