Inspiration Versus Motivation

Writing is hard. Sometimes you need a little help. Each Sunday, Foil & Phaser will present inspirational and motivational posts to help you break through your writer’s block and get you working again.

Since ancient times, people have looked to the muses to breathe life into their stories, or so the romantic version of history would have you believe. We here at Foil & Phaser are all writers, so we know the value of inspiration and how ephemeral it can be. What I’d like to talk about is motivation, and that is an entirely different animal.

Many new, struggling writers will tell you that they need to be inspired before they can sit down at the computer and tap out that masterpiece. The truth is that a major difference between an aspiring writer and a published one is the ability to write when you don’t feel inspired. For professional writers, their motivation is clear: if they don’t write then they don’t get paid. If you have a family, a mortgage, or just like to eat occasionally, you quickly learn how to produce even when it’s the last thing you want to do. It’s your job.

But what if you’re not a professional? Can’t the amateur or hobbyist author afford to wait for lightning to strike?

No. Inspiration is a rare thing. It’s great when you have those days when the words flow out of you and you can do no wrong, but they never happen with enough frequency to be reliable. Concentration and discipline are important skills for any writer, as much as learning good grammar and plot structure. If you wait until you’re in the mood, you won’t write often enough to improve as a writer. There will be days when you feel inspired, but there will be other days, perhaps a good deal more, when you feel sick or tired, or you just have too much going on in your life to think straight.

Make writing a habit. Do it everyday, if possible. Invest in a comfortable chair and desk, then set them up in a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. Set a word count, but don’t be a slave to it. There’s no need to berate yourself if you don’t meet your quota, or to quit for the day if you do. Gradually increase your quota until you reach a level that is challenging but achievable. Inspiration is fine, and when it comes embrace it, but you can’t rely on it to fuel your passion. Like any other pursuit, it will take time and effort until you reach a level where you are confident in your own ability to produce content.

If you’re stuck in a rut, change your routine. Write on a tablet or with pen and paper instead of a laptop. Go out and sit in the park. Explore a different genre. If you write short stories, try starting a novel, or vice versa. Everyone is different, so experiment until you find what works for you. Just keep writing.

Most importantly, write because you love it. Long hours sitting in front of a blank screen trying to fill it with the creations of your imagination is the fun part. Don’t wait to be inspired. Strive to be inspiring.


Crazed recluse and sociophobe who has taken up writing after failing at everything else. Send pizza.

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Posted in Motivational, Non-Fiction, Writing Advice
3 comments on “Inspiration Versus Motivation
  1. […] Inspiration Versus Motivation. […]

  2. eranamage says:

    Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    I agree, sometimes the spark isn’t there and it is easy to sit back and let the fire die, poke it, pile stuff on it and eventually it will blaze again, all nice and warm.

  3. eranamage says:

    Thanks, reblogged. Sometimes it is hard to find the motivation and life tends to get in the way. I find it hard to write every day but even poking about looking at articles, reading what others are doing or curling up with a good book is enough to get me back into the flow.

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July 2013
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