Motivation and our writing lives: What keeps you going?

What's your motivation? Photo by Flickr user designsbykari.

What’s your motivation? Photo by Flickr user designsbykari.

It’s November, which means it’s once again time for the biannual Poem A Day Challenge via the Writer’s Digest.

The guidelines indicate that the goal is to produce a chapbook-length collection of poems by writing one poem every day throughout November.

I’ve tackled this challenge before, and believe me, it’s not easy. Writing a poem every single day, even with writing prompts, is a commitment. Missing a day here and there and then playing the catch-up game is a serious hit on my motivation.

That said, I started thinking about the solitude of writing, and wondering what keeps other writers motivated when there are no prompts or daily challenges issued. (Note: Lots of sites offer prompts with some frequency. If prompts are your thing, read this.)

I know what keeps me motivated: 

  • A healthy reading habit. Consistently engaging with poetry keeps me inspired. I feel like I’m running alongside other writers when I read their work, then putting their books down to follow my buzzing mind wherever it takes me. 
  • Writing with a project or manuscript in mind. I’ll often start writing a series of poems organized around a certain theme, like animal poems or a crown of sonnets. The end goal doesn’t always have to be a finished manuscript. I’m happy to get a few successful poems from this practice.
  • Impressing my writing pals is great motivation! I’m not suggesting you write for an audience or your own ego. But if you have a writing group, or even one writing friend, who you respect and with whom you share your work, you might be more apt to push a particular poem through a few more drafts before sharing it. And if you engage your readers, they are more likely to offer you beneficial feedback that can help you polish your work even more.
  • Can I impress myself? It’s often said we are our own worst critics. I try to write from a place of believing that I can push myself beyond what I wrote yesterday. I can use five great words instead of six good ones; I can write a rondeau; I can write a poem about a common topic, but with a new perspective or handling of language.

So what motivates you in your writing life? Please share your personal stories and tips as comments on this post.

About Stacia M. Fleegal

York Daily Record multiplatform journalist. Degrees in creative writing from Lycoming College and Spalding University, and a coupla books with my name on them. Central PA native who came home after floating around for a while, but always grounded by words and the places and people I remember.
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4 Responses to Motivation and our writing lives: What keeps you going?

  1. Mary Dockery says:

    All of these things I use to help keep me motivated, too. Personally, I think the idea of writing a poem a day is often motivation enough, too. I’m a goal person – if I don’t have at least the 30 poems required for that month, I totally feel like a failure.

    In 2012, I wrote a poem a day for four months straight. It ended up getting really hard simply because life started to get in the way. But I started to notice something after April was over and I didn’t write a poem every day, and my mood went from excited and motivated to almost depressed. It’s as if the writing itself is what motivated me to keep writing. I know this is the case with students – the more they write, the more they begin to enjoy writing. For me, it’s probably the same. If I write every day, even if it’s just a crappy poem or journal entry, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something. When I’m not writing, I feel like I’ve forgotten who I am.

    I especially, though, think that having a poetry soul-mate or two is the best motivation. Reading my poetry soul-mates poems always inspires me and influences me in surprising ways. It’s exciting when we influence each other and what we have in the end is kind of this strange collaboration of writing, and each poem kind of speaks to the next. Really cool. Very inspiring. These soul-mates keep my writing alive.

  2. “It’s as if the writing itself is what motivated me to keep writing.” Here’s to everyone experiencing that feeling more often. Thanks for sharing and reading, Mary!

  3. Helen Russle says:

    I was given this poem after I lost my job. It totally rebuilt my spirit and got me back on track. It’s out side the box but very powerful Motivational words.

    It’s called a Magic Poem because of the way the words affect people, I just think it’s Super Inspiring.

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