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Writing.

There comes a time in my daily routine. I get a striking idea. A topic to write in my blog. A pondering about a specific event that happened hours ago. As a working professional (not as a writer) I didn't get time to reflect on these thoughts on a daily basis. I do keep a journal of such events.

When the day ends, the momentum of writing on those ideas fades out. I'm wondering, what keeps you motivated to keep up with writing (if you're not a professional writer)?

How to build that momentum to keep writing.

closed as primarily opinion-based by linksassin, Chenmunka, JP Chapleau, weakdna, Kirk Apr 9 at 19:12

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  • The line is blurry these times between an amateur (in the sense of doing it for love) writer and a going pro (making a living out of it) one. All that stands between them is a page to collect donations (patreon, paypal, etc). – Mindwin Apr 9 at 17:57
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    @Mindwin I don't think the line is blurry; if I cannot live on my writing income, then it isn't my profession, and I am not a "professional" writer. People that collect donations on a webpage, or self-publish a book that sells some copies, or get paid for writing an article or three, are not professionals unless they can live on just the money they earn from writing. I have published and earned money from my writing on a handful of occasions, but I am a full time research scientist and that is what keeps the lights on. – Amadeus Apr 9 at 18:13
  • @Amadeus the bar for "living standards" is itself subjective. Worldwide, it has even more variation. That is my point. Unless we settle for a standard, the line is blurry. – Mindwin Apr 10 at 15:42
  • @Mindwin I disagree, IMO the variation in living expenses/standards doesn't matter. I have my own assessment of what living standard I find acceptable. It costs some minimum amount of money, X, each year. If I do not reliably earn X from writing every year, then I am not a professional writer; even if I make money writing. My actual profession is thinking and inventing new and useful stuff for a university. Writing has paid me, but less than I get for a month at the university. Like any other job, it is all about what one feels they must do for a living, not a set income amount. – Amadeus Apr 10 at 16:32
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What keeps me motivated is I like writing for its own sake, it is my hobby, it can make me laugh, it makes me feel good to have figured things out, and for crafting a piece of art. Like other people's non-passive hobbies (painting, woodworking, car restoration, writing music) it is an outlet for my imagination. It gives me something to think about that isn't my daily work. I read books on writing when traveling, and articles on writing a few times a week.

And I devote a few hours to writing every day, at the same time, when I get up and can write my best, a few hours before I have to go to work.

Stephen King, in a live interview I watched, was asked by the interviewer what advice he had for people that wanted to write. His answer: "Write!"

He went on to say (I paraphrase, this was at least twenty years ago) that most people that claim they want to write, only want to have written. They want the money, they want the fame, they want to do talk shows and be interviewed on TV. But they don't love to write, or they would just write. He said, he loves writing, and he writes every single day, for the sake of writing. He did that for years before he sold even a short story.

Many people read as a hobby, or watch fiction on TV. They aren't trying to monetize this hobby and turn it into a job (critic, agent, publisher, producer); they don't hope to become famous by reading or watching TV.

I would say the motivation is to treat writing as a hobby and something you have fun doing, and look forward to doing. Like other hobbies, it shouldn't matter to you if you ever make a dime out of it. The possibility is there, but if you focus on the money you will quickly give up, because the "hourly rates" for the vast majority of first published novels is pennies per hour. Like, $3000 for over a year's worth work, if you get it published. A super-majority of self-published books earn less than $100; which is probably family and friend purchases anyway.

If you don't actually enjoy writing and crafting pieces, then I'd say find another hobby. Don't be fooled into thinking you will get rich if you just keep slogging away at it, I truly do not think it is possible for somebody that doesn't enjoy writing to get rich writing. If you DO enjoy writing, then set aside time for it and do it as a hobby. I am not saying rule out publishing, but leave it for when you know you have finished something you really love and think people will like, then teach yourself to query and get an agent while you continue your hobby of writing every day.

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What motivates me to keep writing? I have something to say that other people aren't saying.

Amadeus admirably covered being motivated by the writing itself, and the love of the craft. He also mentioned setting aside time each day. (I cannot overemphasize the importance of blocking off regular time specifically to write.) That may adequately cover the entire motivation of some people.

For myself, though, I have unusual thoughts - a perspective on the world which I think is not sufficiently represented. Whether or not anyone is listening, whether I can find an audience or a market, is a matter partly outside of my control. But hashing out and getting down those thoughts and narrative twists is something I can do.

To illustrate, I long contemplated writing a story about how people getting what they yearned for could be horrible. Not like Monkey's Paw, where what the wishers got clearly wasn't what they actually wanted. Rather, an exploration of how a magical fulfillment of our real appetites can be dangerous and destructive. When I read C.J. Cherryh's Rusalka, I breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh good, somebody else wrote that story. Now I don't have to."

Back when I dreamed that publishing was easy, I liked the idea of money and fame - but more than that, I wanted to participate in the great dialogue which was and is storytelling, as well as the philosophical history of the human race. It is, in part, that desire to participate - to say something back in reply to the things I've read and watched and heard... To join the conversation, to bring a meaningful contribution to it; that desire still motivates me.

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    I agree, something similar is a motivation for me; devising alternative societies and acceptable moralities, in the past or in the future. I mentioned "figuring things out", that is part of what I need and like to figure out, the ramifications of such changes and how far they can be carried. – Amadeus Apr 9 at 13:48
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We all have our own reasons, unique to each. The magic of the written word is that it remains. The desire to write something worthy of lasting, whether it is read or not seems to be mine. I need to tell a story.

The passion for the well-crafted phrase, the pursuit of that beautiful passage, but mostly, my characters. I write for them, to bring them to life if only for a moment.

If I do not write, characters I am very fond of will never exist - not even on the page.

It can be cathartic. I have gone through some trials recently and writing allows me to release stress in a productive way.

Writing is a vocation, a calling. I started writing when I was a kid. I stopped occasionally but I have three novels that will never even be shared with a friend as they do not meet my standards. They were good training.

When people talk about professions and what it takes to succeed or even take part in them, writer is rarely mentioned. People talk about the seven years of med school, residency and internship for doctors, the pre-law and law, articling for lawyers. No one says to be a good author it will take decades of study of the craft and devotion. The overnight successes are as rare and only apparently so as they are in acting - another profession that requires passion to maintain.

Like others, I steal moments and write. I do this because I have always done so. When I was a landlord, I wrote. When I was a student, I wrote (sometimes could not turn it off - silly me). I will write as long as characters I imagine do things.

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I'm unlike Amadeus in that I don't actually enjoy the act of writing. But I do enjoy having written - the feeling of achievement, of hours, days, and years spent in hard work, and the ability to finally share it with friends.

I write to make that moment happen. But I am all too familiar with the burst of disappointment when I realize that my earlier feelings of energy and passion have completely faded by the time I actually have space to write.

I write anyway. So I guess it's about trust? Trusting that the sparks in my brain left some lasting light I can gather and form. Trusting that the excitement might return if I give it a chance. Trusting that I began writing for a valid reason which is still as true as it was before. And trusting that consistent days of laborious writing will turn into inertia eventually.

Forming a habit is key. Momentum will come with repetition. I've found that the first day of the week in which I write is hard, but by the second I've already got ideas of things I can tweak from the day before, and then it all takes off from there.

Finally, know why you write. Is it for self-expression? Catharsis? To fill a story-void in the world? To challenge yourself? To join the ranks of those who came before? Make a list. And when you're feeling winded and too tired to hack away at it, read through your list and summon whatever resolve you can to spend just a little more time at this hobby that some part of you - however small - believes is worth your blood, sweat, and tears.

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Having a profession of any sort is only ever to influence and fund my writing. The motivation to write is always in the act, nothing else comes close to the joy, and the pursuit of happiness is the only worthwhile goal for me.

I have a very strict quota to fill everyday, but it is a modest quota. Regardless of what else I've written, or done throughout the day, I must write two pages of A4 longhand (between 400 - 500 words) for my novel - no more and no less. It doesn't take very long. Sometimes if I am very tired and don't get it done until the very end of the day, I am a zombie writing those two pages. And maybe they are 99% rubbish, but I always know that the story has progressed. The best motivation for writing is habit and constant, even if gradual, progression.

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