Writing is hard. What is it that brings you back to the page to keep working on your projects?
For me, it’s publishing my work as a serial. Knowing that there are readers waiting for that weekly chapter keeps me coming back consistently and really helps me be more productive.
What helps you be productive?
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Nothing more complicated than a love of words, the way they hang together, the way they sound, the ebbs and flows, the rhythm and blues of it all. Words, bloody love them!
Primarily the love of writing and the love of my novel, knowing specific plot points and character beats I'm going to hit makes me excited. Imagining the finished project is like an anchor that pulls me forward. And yes, I look forward to comments and feedback!
Hm, force of habit? I've been writing my whole life, I get withdrawal symptoms (grumpy, short-tempered, less reflected & self-aware) when I take breaks. That's mostly for plotting & drafting though, the parts I enjoy the most.
For revision & editing, I'm motivated by the feeling of satisfaction I know I'll get when the story has visibly improved as well as the hope it might reach & help others, like books & stories have helped me throughout my life.
Great topic Simon. I'll divide my comment in 2 topics, because they both contribute to my motivation:
1. What inspires me?
2. What makes me write?
Answering the firs topic, I am inspired by 2 kinds of things. People and nature observation.
What makes me write? I write since I was a child, and I don't need any particular reason for writing. Let's say is at the same time an hobby and kind of a therapy that makes me feel good.
The consistency I get it from my specific goal. Write everyday, no matter what.
As we say in Portugal, writing is "inside me"
I like making plans for myself with dates and goals like word count. My writing group has also kept me very accountable over the years!
A high-school teacher told me once, half as a mentor, half as bully (joking!), that those who can carry a mountain, should carry a mountain, and those who should carry a grain of sand, should carry a grain of sand. Implying that I belonged in the first category, but obviously I wasn't pulling my weight (he believed). This credo has been haunting me all my life. I've always had some writing talent, I knew, and I played with it, or even started novels, but never had the mental space to do just that. Now, my life has fallen into place, and I have that mental space. And I feel, now the time has come to commit myself to it, because I CAN. I do it 80% out of a fascination with the story I've drafted, and the remaining 20% by virtue of a daily writing routine I've established. I've always been a task-, rather than people-oriented person at work; I don't think about publishing success so much, but I'm fully engulfed in the writing and the polishing-off process.
I’m motivated by all the connections that wouldn’t manifest unless I start writing. It’s like, I know wonderful things are waiting but their only chance at existence is if I get the words down.
For me, it’s a commitment to my characters, connecting and co-creating with them, wanting to share their story. They inspire me!
I started on Substack in the spring and writing here has made me build consistency. I’m hoping to mobilize the same momentum to serialize my first novel. Writing regularly and getting feedback on it is very motivating.
I write to see my physical book in someone’s hands who can’t wait to open it and start reading.
(in no particular order)
1. The hope that some day somebody might enjoy it
2. My own pleasure in doing it
4. Creative outlet
5. Nothing else I appear to be any good at
My writing buddies! Close writing pals who challenge me and cheer me on and i get to do the same for them :)
Having a serial definitely keeps me actually writing instead of just daydreaming about the story. My mind generally can't stop thinking about my stories, so that keeps me going. Writing is simply one of the main things I like to do.
I do my best to write at least an hour every single day, rain or shine, no matter what. To me it's almost like exercise. If you start to get a little lazy about it, it builds on itself. And the next thing you know, you've gone a week without exercising.
A good question. I'm not sure I know the answer, and I think the answer exists on many levels for me. Probably. At the deepest level, I think it's to seek the connection with story and character in a sort of meditative way. That sounds wanky, I guess, but there's a certain calm where I can blot out all worries/stress/work-muddle-mind etc and go someplace else, to try and connect in the closest way I can with whichever character so demands the page.
At other levels, to try and be better, to improve, to edit and think and write, over and over. Sometimes it's hard to get there, though.
I think it's the idea that a person I've never met before with no interest in the writing side of things could potentially be reading a chapter from one of my stories on the way to their mind-numbing, soul-draining cubicle existence and somehow it helps them get through the day.
Other than that, on my end of things, once I've started to flesh out the stories and characters and the worlds they inhabit, I feel an intense sense of duty to "raise and feed them" as if they are my children or, at the very least, care for these ideas as you would plants in your garden.
On a separate, but I think relevant note, I just opened an unsubscribe email that specifically complained about "the flood of messages in their inbox every day" and because of this they have unsubscribed from multiple accounts followed by the suggestion that we "find a different business model."
To be fair, I feel the same way about the deluge of email notifications. So I can understand that part. The model itself is a good one and has relatively quickly established itself as a standard across all internet-based media and quite effectively selects for those who will support your work for as long as they are able to in a more direct manner than previous methods that were too hit and miss.
Anyway, this is fresh in my mind because I looked at "How to fix Substack's fiction experience" again and wondered if fiction will ever be fixed on Substack. The technical issues... sure, no problem. I think those will be resolved. What we cannot resolve is the "deluge of emails" in Substack users' inboxes that the recommendation system inevitably leads to until users feel the need to purge their inbox. This is something that happens to all of us I'm sure. And it leads to me not being able to consume or even look at half the messages that I receive. There aren't enough hours in the day. And my fiction reading suffers because of this too.
Platforms such as YouTube cater for all types of content, so I don't think creating a specialized platform is required, and the ones that do are not as competent as Substack anyway, so I think the solution will be filtering and better search and recommendations based on user choices. And possibly a wider range of monetization options. Not everyone can afford to sub $5 to multiple accounts every month (there are podcasting and video platforms too) and there is a such a glut of free content now that I can understand why people drop their paid subs unless they specifically want to support newcomers, "the underdog," or an old favorite.
For now, my response is to focus more on the fiction emails I receive and to develop that side of this conversation. Most of the articles I get on certain topics just repeat themselves or are simply too random to be useful. I start to feel like I'm wasting time instead of focusing on my fiction projects.
So that's probably the biggest motivation right now. To put fiction front and center where it belongs!
Excellent question! I am replying as much to share as to remind myself to come back and see what others say. I am trying to harness the sense of obligation to my readers to get a weekly Santa article/chapter published. The Gori side of GoriSan (Gorilla/Santa), writing about mental health, comes from my journaling and shower thoughts. Anything that the hamster wheel spits out and gets stuck in the gears needs to be typed up and explored. Now, with Substack, I have a place to share them. ;^)
For me it’s knowing that I want my children to have something of mine to remember me by. O and reading for enjoyment. The more I read for enjoyment, the more I need to write!
Great question and a even better reminder to keep reassuring you're headed towards a goal or purpose (if that's what you have, I do)
1. The curiosity towards what awaits at the end (see the progress)
2. My dream of releasing my first book.
3. Get an income from my writing
4. The love of discipline and grit behind the creative work
5. The language and writing development available.
6. To observe all the small projects tied to something bigger one day
To be honest I have no idea what motivates me or to be productive. Some days I'm very low on creativity. Others its everwhere!
But my life is a roller-Coaster, so might be why 😊
For me, it's two things:
#1: The joy of it. I started writing stories as soon as I learned to write. There's nothing in the world I love as much as I love writing, and I still dream of making a living out of it. I don't know if it'll happen but I have to try.
#2: Being on Substack has made me realise that there are, in fact, people reading my stuff. Even if it's just a dozen people right now. Even if they don't read me every single week. They matter. So I show up every day because I know a handful of people care enough about the work I do that they gave me permission to email them with new stories.
Well. Money helps sometimes but, honestly, it's a love of the creative process. I have a lot of work I've done that no one else ever saw, and no one else has to.
For me, producing weekly content on substack with an editorial calendar is helpful for continuous production. On the tent pole novels, it’s maintaining a production schedule, detailing weekly and quarterly milestones. And all of it is in service of the creative that lies outside the work of the real job.
I have a production schedule that I more or less follow to get my books out. Doing serialization for a while helped me get out several books that otherwise would have just been sitting on my hard drive. Alas, Kindle Vella is trailing off. I'm assessing my current Substack serialization but will finish the current book, then decide whether the remaining books in the series will go through Substack or if I'll let that particular one fade out. Serialization has helped me figure out how to work on two projects simultaneously and I'm setting up structures to help me continue with it.
Fiction brings me to the table daily because once I start my characters talk to me and tell me what they want to do. Memoir I write because I firmly believe personal narrative may be the truest history of our time. Poetry once something stimulates the thought just rattles around in my head until I write it down. Great question, Simon, and an interesting diversity of answers.
I started writing outside of assignment when I was ten years old. It’s just something I do and cannot imagine not doing. I do try from time to time, to imagine not writing. It’s a bit like imagining my own death, which sounds dramatic. I don't mean it carries the same weight or emotion as that. I mean it's akin to pondering a vacuum or nonconceptuality.
So, to answer your question, I would say I am impelled to write, such as I am to eat, sleep, excrete, and have sex. It’s a bodily motivation. Like my head 'gets full,' and I am driven to empty it out.
I must - it's a character flaw. And it depends on how you define productivity - am I able to get at what I want?
The wonder of exploration and fun always brings me back to storytelling! The “what if?” always inspires me.
The routine of writing, I think, and the fact that if I start something, a serial or a novel or whatever, I really want to finish the story and see how it plays out. Especially on Substack, once I got a good routine going of when I wanted to post and what, that really helps. Force of habit and all.
Desperation, imposter syndrome and existential dread?
Sorry, too honest. Uh...
I think what brings me back is my own ignorance. Every time I dive i9nto writing about something, I learn a few things about it, but also learn that there are far *more* things that I only have a dim grasp of - or I'm basically clueless about them. Happens every time. The sum total of this is that with every season of my newsletter, the vast landscape of things I'm aware I don't know much about...well, it gets bigger. The horizon creeps further away. I'm even more aware of how little I know.
I should add: I love this feeling. It's the same jolt of excitement as walking into a library, knowing that I will never ever have the time to read all the books and publications in it, but *isn't it so cool they're there*? It's a feeling that gets me up a little faster in the morning...
There's just so much to learn - and there's *always* something more to learn about everything, even the boring things (which is why I try to hold my opinions lightly).
My productivity, specifically with my fiction writing, comes from the story itself. Just yesterday I had multiple story ideas come to me, one after the other. The kinds of story ideas that make me smile and think of myself as some brilliant literary giant. My mission? To tell these stories as quickly as possible so that others may bask in my genius.
I don't think I'd be as quick to write or share my stories if I didn't think they were the next best thing to sliced bread. It's that feeling of excitement and joy that the story provides me and I hope will provide one other person (at least), that keeps me going.
I realize that might seem like "bravado?" But that is the point, isn't it? The brilliance of my story must start with me, otherwise it would be fairly easy for me to second guess my work and take rejection to heart, thereby ceasing my writing altogether. How dreadful would that be? To leave the world without the benefit of my amazing storytelling. I wouldn't want to be so cruel.
Great top, Simon. Why we write...
-Writing's always been a necessity more than a pastime or optional form of entertainment, It is how I can reflect on and make some sort of sense of the phenomenal world and record my interaction with it for posterity.
I can understand people who write with the goal of publication, but I could not operate in the same way because most of what I write has never been published. I am either still revising, or too far or behind my time for it to resonate with anyone :D
-And that is the thing, audiences. I have never much cared for them, or being in a 'scene,' The next 20 years will see, I believe, some fundamental transformations in the relations between authors and audiences. In light of that, I feel good in saying that I am happiest in writing primarily for my own enjoyment, as it is far beyond my control whether anyone reads me or not. I guess this is an inevitable outcome of writing a thesis on Stoicism, but it's also a healthy rationale for what can be a hard business. Not like mining-for-coal hard, but hard. That's why it's so great that in writing we can at least get lost in the sounds of syllables and labrynths of plot and so on. Happy writing everyone!
I think too much and if I don’t get those ideas out there I start going crazy.