MF 361 : Why "inspiration" alone is a bad motivation for writing
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
Today, I share one of my big reasons for doing this podcast and how it relates to my writing. Moreover, why you should avoid "inspiration" as your sole reason for content creation. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
And it wouldn't be enough for me to write this week's blog
Around this time of year, my hibernation instincts kick in. The cool fall temperatures, allergy-inducing pollen in the air, and shorter daylight hours all contribute to a late-year lethargy. This combined with a recent lifestyle change to a much earlier wake-up time have made this year a little tougher than most. So, take it from me. Inspiration was not enough for me to write this week's blog. Just like I have to fight against the urge to go back to bed when I wake up at 4 am, I have to work at being consistent with my writing.
Social media is replete with positive bytes. Memes, tweets, IG and FB posts are filled with colorful, witty sayings, encouraging you to find the burst of energy to start or to keep going. While these have their place, especially when you're starting out, they mostly fall short of their energy drink-like properties to keep you going when you hit lulls.
Truth be told, writing this week was hard. I'm tired, mentally and physically. Each keystroke feels mushy and I'm not sure where I'm going with this. There's a part of me that wants to shut down my computer and scroll through Twitter or hop onto YouTube and watch a Squid Game reaction video instead.
But I also know that by the time this airs tomorrow, I'll have pushed through and written another blog. Sometimes people ask "how do you write so much?" The truth is that it's not inspiration nor high-level motivation but something far less sexy that keeps me going. I simply have a commitment to consistent content.
Inspiration is great, don't get me wrong. I love reading an inspiring quote or hearing anecdotes of ordinary mortals and their great accomplishments. I have friends who are doing amazing things and it's all very encouraging. When I started Moving Forward in 2015, I had an incredible burst of energy at the starting line. I felt inspired and excited about the possibilities. Although I didn't know what I was doing, I made a commitment to create something I could be proud of and to share valuable information and experiences; first from extraordinary guests and later from my own life. The podcast gave me a platform to speak with others and today, as a solo podcaster, to speak directly to you. Unknowingly, it also provided an important catalyst for my writing.
I've loved writing since I was a kid but I always approached it from a "when the right moment hits me" standpoint. I would procrastinate on research papers for school until the "right moment" hit, often as I was nearing the due date. The tactic worked for the most part for one-off assignments. But over the long haul, it wasn't a good methodology for improving as a writer. Today, I have a much different outlook. I still look at writing as a labor of love. But instead of waiting for that elusive "right moment," I treat it more like a commitment, similar to my daily morning workouts. I write every week, whether I feel like it or not. Some days, it's a breeze. Others, like today, feel like the breeze is pushing against me. But I know that pushing through will improve me as a writer, that those sore muscles are continually building and strengthening.
I was lucky. The podcast has been my anchor for a weekly blog for several years. I've known many talented writers who get stuck trying to create the perfect piece of content or are constantly looking for the "right moment" to write. From my own experience, this approach doesn't work for the long term. The writing becomes sporadic, the output inconsistent, and the tendency to give up is high.
Instead, I see writing as part joy and part work. "Work" is not a dirty word. Just like exercise isn't always fun, doing so on a consistent basis is better for you in the long term than if only do it when you feel like it. This is why I don't write when I'm inspired. I write regardless, and if inspiration hits me, that's icing on the cake. I've also discovered that the more I write, the more inspiration I discover along the way.
So how do you commit to consistent content?
My formula is simple and doesn't rely on inspiration to keep the wheels turning.
Find an anchor. An anchor is something concrete that ensures you will make writing a habit. It's a catalyst, a bedrock for you to write even when you don't feel like it. Below are some anchor ideas. You can use any one of these individually or mix and match.
Podcast: this has been my anchor since 2015. Releasing a new episode every week ensures that I also write every week, regardless of how I'm feeling. To learn more about podcasting, check out the podcast launch kit. You can also use a vlog or blog as an anchor.
Calendar: schedule a consistent time to write every week and put it on the your calendar. This time block can be as long as or as short you like. Even a 15 minute weekly block is better than nothing. Your writing can be a journal, a short story, or a continuing work-in-progress such as a book or novel.
Journal: journaling is a great way to stay consistent as it ties directly into your thoughts, feelings, and what's happening in your life; making it easier to commit to.
Goals and accountability: if you want to make writing a regular part of your life, make it part of a larger goal. You can goal set by end product (eg write a book by the end of the year), by output (eg write 2000 words each week), or by some other measure. Write down this goal and track it like any other. If you have a coach or mentor or accountability buddy, share it with them and check in with that person to make sure you're sticking with it.
Commit to the anchor. Once you have an anchor, make sure you take the steps to stick with it. This is the foundation for other habits you want build such as writing. I have found the easiest way to do this is with a consistent schedule (see calendar above). As my anchor is this podcast, I commit to releasing new episodes every Thursday. Thus, I have a commitment to consistent content based on an anchor that’s set to a firm schedule.
Write based off the anchor. Once your anchor is firmly set, it becomes that much easier to commit to writing on a regular basis. You no longer have to rely on inspiration alone.
Writing is like any other positive habit. It's part joy, part inspiration, and a lot of work. If you want to improve as a writer, write. Reading is also important. Although I love reading, I have an anchor that reinforces it as a habit. I use Goodreads to find great books, see what my friends are reading, and to set annual reading goals. I also make sure to share what I'm reading on this blog. Thus, my writing becomes an anchor for my reading, which in turn helps my writing.
As Stephen King once said:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”
There's nothing in there about waiting to be inspired or the right moment. Becoming a better writer is a matter of doing, working, building, and improving.
Check out the Moving Forward mini-series collection
Get your news with Morning Brew (free)
Morning Brew (affiliate link): a fantastic free newsletter that's a quick read and a great way to get your morning briefing on what's happening in the market, the economy, and the larger world.
What I’m reading / read
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (****)
Books by John
Check out my Amazon author profile.
Audiobook narrated by John
Get a free trial to Audible and I Am a Professional Metalhead (Audible affiliate).
Support the Podcast
The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect office warming, white elephant gift.
Try Audible for free (Amazon affiliate).
Try Amazon Prime for free (Amazon affiliate).