Learning to Just Do It

Let’s face it. Keeping up momentum and motivation in my writing life is a hard job. No one is waiting breathlessly for my next novel to be published (well, maybe three or four people would really like to see it happen). No publisher is behind me, poking me with their index finger and pointing at a deadline writ large on their calendar. It’s easy for me to slip into a funk and lose the plot – quite literally.

Especially during the two full years of Covid lockdowns and restrictions, I found myself depressed about writing at all, with my thoughts incessantly hovering over the latest incidence stats and how many people of how many different households were allowed to gather this week. Not to mention how many souls had succumbed. Somehow, while that was our reality, I did manage a few flash fiction pieces and poems about the situation. However, with few exceptions, rather than being a producer of story, I became a happy consumer, anxious to get lost in a good novel or stream a movie or series.  

In this 2022 summer, we are still not free from the plague that has beset the globe. But we are learning to live with it. Unfortunately, other terrible issues are distracting me now. Such as Russian aggression (yes, WAR!) in Ukraine and the obvious effects of global climate change. These, too, are huge problems, not to be sneezed at, not matters I can simply bury my head in the sand to avoid and simply pretend that what the world really needs now is another magical love story or spy thriller.

The reality is I’m going to have to pull myself up by my own bootstraps if I want to call myself a writer. But where do I look for inspiration, motivation, and momentum? If I’m honest, it’s all around me. I can read how famous authors found it. Enough has been written by and/or about my heroes, giving me insight into their writing routines and approaches to various elements of the craft. Writing courses – also online ones – can be a great way of breaking through to the next level.

Or, much closer to home, I can look to the example of my writing friends right here on Pens Around the World who are more disciplined than I. Their support is a real boost, and their honest critique of my work provides me with ways to improve it. So, thanks, fellow members. It is truly a help to have friends who also happen to be writers. (BTW, we are open to consider new members.)

Still, rejected submissions always hurt. Like a South African Ridgeback with a juicy bone, that old enemy, self-doubt, gnaws on the substance of my fragile ego. But I have found a thought that gives me courage from a favorite author of mine. Margaret Atwood has written: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

Thus, I must persist. Place behind on office chair. Boot laptop. Get words into a doc. Revise. Submit. Fail. Revise again. Submit again. Fail better. The practice might eventually improve my writing. It’s worth a try. I have taken a first step today by starting a writing To-Do List. There are plenty of texts already on my laptop (not to mention that stalled novel) for me to revise and polish. Then to submit. I might even be blessed with a few new ideas along the way. Stranger things have been known to happen.

9 Comments

  1. Debbie, this blog could just as easily have my name at the top instead of yours.

    I found Covid an almost surreal experience, probably because nothing like it had ever happened in my lifetime.

    We live in the country, although our French neighbours are mere yards away and kept in touch by phone end email. Our lockdowns were all pretty strict and you could only venture out for specified reasons like shopping or visiting the doctor. This entailed downloading a government form called an attestation, on which you ticked the box for your reason, then inserted time of departure. If going out for two reasons in one trip, this required two forms, one for each task (this IS France!).

    As I’m a diabetic, we ventured out as little as possible and as time went by, gradually became more and more agoraphobic. While we’re very good with just one another’s company, ’twas a hermit-like existence.

    Just how much the isolation had affected us was brought home when during a gap in lockdowns, a team of us moved all the English library books to a new location. Suddenly, we were with friends once more, catching up and enjoying normal social interaction. It was a real shock, like driving on a deserted country lane then taking a motorway.

    With no outside stimulus, my writing dwindled to almost nothing, I couldn’t think of anything to write and I hadn’t the enthusiasm anyway. Thousands obviously felt likewise and Writing magazine carried a raft of articles on how to recapture your mojo.

    Pens was a lifeline after the sad demise of Writers Abroad and continues to be so.

    I do have quite a few people who are itching (they say) for the sequel to my first novel, so it’s opportune to put my bum on a seat and crank my pages to life once more.

    • Anna-Rose Phipps

      I could so relate to this, Debbie, that it’s almost comforting. Uncannily like my own experience of the Covid years, and now the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and a tsunami of real life events. Why would anyone want to read anything to do with fiction when reality is so full of drama? And then I realise, fiction has the capacity to focus on reality that is more truthful than reality. When the writer has the ability to make it so, that is. So, to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and return to the business of writing – that is the wish

  2. Am glad my post spoke to you, Nigel! The lockdowns did take their toll on our motivation to do anything as well as on our social lives. I, too, remember feeling almost guilty when we were finally allowed to visit friends and family without restrictions, as if I was missing something and it couldn’t really be what the government meant. The same with not wearing masks. That was easy to get used to NOT doing! All the measures were necessary before the vaccine was available though. In Germany, though, we never had to fill out forms to leave home.

    Yes, the PENS writers community has really become a place for us far-flung writers to gather and I am also very grateful for it. But NOW it’s time to get writing, Nigel! Will expect you at our next Text Sharing meeting!

  3. Miriam Landor

    I enjoyed reading this – thanks! A query: ‘text sharing meeting’? I’m a new member and don’t know about this feature of Pens…

    • Hello Miriam! Thank you for your comment and question. I have just sent you an e-mail in reply.

  4. Thank you for so many responses – even if it means you are suffering from an ailment to mine. 🙂
    Anna-Rose, it is an amazing conundrum that fiction is where we find truth (another item I’ve been known to write about!).
    Miriam, welcome to the club! Look forward to meeting you.
    Gail, Bruce, Jeremy – looks like inspiration is something we can never have too much of.

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