Writing When You Really Don’t Want To

Writing is part inspiration, part motivation

Okay. I promised myself last week that I would get back on track here. Three posts a week. It’s not impossible. It’s not even difficult. Yes, it’s easy to not do it. But it’s not difficult to do. I just need to actually sit down and freaking do it.

Of course, Monday morning rolls around, and I’d rather do anything else than sit down and write. I could blame it on the fact that my wife and I had a nice, relaxing visit with our families this weekend. I could blame it on the excitement and comedown of Super Bowl Sunday. I could blame it on the fact that I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Connecticut right now – when I think hotel, I think “vacation.”

But then I could come back with “Okay, you were visiting family, but you didn’t have an hour or two to yourself?” I did – no excuse there. “Okay, so yesterday was the Super Bowl. But it started at 6:30. And it’s not like you were partying all day like you used to. So what happened to the rest of your day?” Again – no excuse. “So just because you’re in a hotel you’re gonna pretend it’s summer vacation?” The only reason we’re here is because my wife is currently at a job interview. Clearly, this isn’t a vacation.

For every excuse I could possibly make, the writer in me has a quick rebuttal that makes me feel like a lazy schlub for not breaking out the Chromebook and at least getting something out.

So here we are.

I’ll admit, writing about not wanting to write is a bit of a copout. But, if it’ll get my fingers moving on the keyboard, so be it.

But I want to go a little deeper than just lamenting about not wanting to do any work. I mean, most – if not all – of us, at one time or another, simply don’t feel like working. It’s not that out of the ordinary.

But:

Our reasons for not wanting to work can be as complicated as we are as human beings. Sure, laziness may be one factor. But To chalk up a lack of drive to simple laziness is…well…lazy.

I figured to get back into the swing of things, I’ll take a look at the many reasons I (and many of you, most likely) have fallen short of my writing goals in the past:

  • A lack of inspiration
  • A lack of motivation
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Outside factors

Lack of Inspiration

Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”

It’s the metaphorical lightbulb that goes on over your head right before you start out on some creative venture.

When you’re inspired to do something, nothing will get in your way while you work. Hunger, fatigue, sickness…when inspiration hits you, none of these detrimental factors come into play. You simply don’t make excuses.

On the other hand, when you’re not inspired, it can be hard to get moving.

Sometimes those “aha” moments come to you and make it easy to get down to business. But other times, you have to do some prerequisite work before you get started.

If you’re not feeling inspired, there are a few ways you can get there:

Be a Consumer

It can be difficult to produce anything of value if you haven’t recently consumed anything to inspire you.

I’ve mentioned the importance of being an avid reader if you want to create a consistent and successful blog.

Think about it: Shakespeare wasn’t born with all those plays and sonnets hidden somewhere in his mind. Many of his plays are based on stories that had been written hundreds of years beforehand. And, while he may have written some of the most incredible sonnets known to man, he certainly didn’t create the poetic form himself.

To paraphrase Sir Isaac Asimov: you’ll be able to see much further by standing on the shoulders of giants.

In other words, if you’re having trouble creating a new post or article, look to the greats in your field. Read some of their newest posts, or listen to their latest podcasts. You’ll almost certainly find something to write about once these outside sources get you in the right frame of mind.

Dig Deep

Of course, you don’t want to simply piggyback off of a blog or podcast you just came across. It wouldn’t make much sense to simply rewrite something that’s already been done, would it?

Instead, dig a little deeper.

Read the post with the explicit purpose of finding a springboard for an article of your own.

Make a list of questions you have while listening to a podcast, and research the answers.

Check the comments section – both of your own blog and others in your blogging community.

Find out what people are talking about and run with it.

Look on Twitter to see what hashtags are trending. There’s bound to be something that both interests you and is worth studying a bit more about.

In short: be an active consumer. Don’t just passively read as if you were watching a rerun of a sitcom you’ve seen a dozen times. Don’t just throw on a podcast and let your mind wander to all the chores you have to do later on.

If the goal is to gain fuel with which to produce content yourself, make sure you’re actively taking in all the information you possibly can.

Lack of Motivation

While inspiration and motivation are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a clear difference between the two.

Inspiration, as mentioned, is the catalyst that gets you moving.

Motivation is defined as “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.”

In other words, motivation is the knowledge that without action, you’ll never reach your goal.

However, this is not to say the two aren’t deeply intertwined. It’s almost certain that, while I discuss motivation in the next section, I’ll bring up the word “inspiration” at least a couple times. Hopefully I don’t confuse myself!

Anyway, motivation can come from two different sources: from the outside, and from within. Let’s examine how we can fix a lack of both.

Extrinsic Motivation

I like to pretend I’m not a huge fan of extrinsic motivation. I guess it’s because I know that, somewhere in the spacetime continuum, the teenage me is calling the 30-year-old me a sellout. I can just hear him now: “You don’t need to get paid to enjoy your work, man!”

 

Since when are intrinsic rewards bad?
Now I have to wear this, according to a contract I made up when I was 15.

But, let’s be serious: in the real world, getting paid to do work is definitely a motivating factor.

That’s not to say I’m getting paid for this post (I’m not). But I do know that every post I write on here is one more article to add to my portfolio, which, in turn, may lead to more prospects in the future. So, even though I’m not getting paid per se for this post, it may lead to money in the long run.

In fact, I’ll do a little bit of full disclosure: That last paragraph was the entire reason I sat down to write this post. I could have just spent two hours watching SportsCenter while I waited for my wife to wrap up her interview.

But the thought crossed my mind: If you don’t do anything for the next two hours, you’re setting your future self back two whole hours – time you’ll never get back. Stop waiting. Get moving, or you’re costing your future self money.

I didn’t start writing this post because I had to, or even because I wanted to. I did it because of this extrinsic rewards I’ll eventually reap, and I’ll know that this post was, even in the slightest bit, a contributing factor to earning those rewards.

If you’re having trouble getting started, think of the rewards you’ll receive, either in the short- or long-term, for a job well done. It should be enough to get you moving in the right direction.

Intrinsic Motivation

Okay, I just got done saying I didn’t actively want to write this when I started out.

But guess what? Now that I’m almost done (I’ll wait while you breathe a sigh of relief), I’m incredibly glad I got down to work.

What value would have been added to my life if I wasted the last two hours watching SportsCenter? I watched the Super Bowl last night. I don’t need to hear anymore about how Cam Newton stormed out of his press conference, or how Peyton Manning said “Budweiser” 75 times in his post-game interview.

However, working on this post has, even in the slightest way, made me a better writer. I’m not sure how – and I’m not sure I’m supposed to know how – but I’m sure my skills have improved ever so slightly in the past two hours.

And, once I committed to writing this article, I decided to not be content with a half-assed post that didn’t say anything of value.

With the exception of the span of time in which I wrote that last section, I wasn’t thinking of any outside reward at all while writing this. I’ve focused on one thing: creating a solid piece of writing.

It took a little inspiration to get started, and I had to convince myself that lounging around watching ESPN wasn’t a good way to start my week off, but once I got moving, there was no stopping me. And, by the time I wrap this up, it’ll be just about time to check out and go pick up my wife.

I might not have started out writing because of intrinsic factors, but looking back, I feel much better about myself than I would have if I just went back to bed for the morning.

Sometimes intrinsic motivation works backwards, I guess.


Okay, there are two other factors I mentioned as to why I – and others – fall short of our writing goals. But I’ll let you off the hook for now, and get back to you later on this week. See how I’m tricking myself into writing more? Hey, whatever works, right?

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