I have always been a stickler for deadlines. Give me an assignment, any assignment, and I can guarantee that it will be completed days before the due date. I was always the kid in school who was able to breeze through finals week with polished assignments while everyone else struggled to finish in time. Deadlines are my forte, my bread and butter. I am good at deadlines…when they are set by somebody else.
Creativity is a tricky beast. It requires three basic tools:
- Inspiration: An awakening of the mind and heart to a new idea that must be shared with the world.
- Motivation: The drive to bring that new idea to life.
- Discipline: The dedication to push through hindering events and factors in order to achieve your personal goals.
“I am good at deadlines…when they are set by somebody else.”
While these three tools are necessary, the main problem lies in their (far too often) mutually exclusive behavior:
- Inspiration is Inconvenient: I can’t tell you how many times I have been trying to fall asleep, only to be jarred to consciousness by a new story idea that just had to be written down!
- Motivation is Dependent: You’d be surprised by the amount of factors that can play into one’s motivation. Things like stress, diet, sleep, and even the weather can affect one’s desire to get things done (why, I’m pretty sure part of my motivation for writing this post today comes from the simple fact that it’s nearly 80 degrees and sunny out).
- Discipline is Personal: When you are in school, you have teachers that tell you when assignments are due. When you are at work, you have a boss that tells you when your work should be completed. And if you don’t accomplish these tasks, you receive punishments like failing grades and unemployment. However, when you are creating something on your own, you are totally reliant on self-responsibility. You create your own deadlines and your own punishments (which isn’t always the best idea).
Being almost a year out of college, I have realized that most of my inspiration, motivation, and discipline to write has been externally-charged. When I know that others are dependent on my writing and are willing to compensate me for my time, I am definitely more apt to put my fingers to work. However, when left to my own devices, everyday becomes a new chance to say “maybe tomorrow.” Personal deadlines are pushed further and further until they are practically off the calendar’s boundaries and punishments become a slap on the wrist and a meager “don’t let it happen again” (which it always does).
“…I have realized that most of my inspiration, motivation, and discipline to write has been externally-charged.”
Even events like NaNoWriMo become running jokes: “Yeah, I’m totally going to do it this time!” Pages remain blank, characters remain nameless, and stories remain untold, all because of my own developed habits and attitudes.
I have become the writer who doesn’t write.
And I know that I am not alone in this. I have seen articles, posts, and comments from friends and peers that speak to this same sentiment. It seems that in a world of instant gratification, it has become so easy to become distracted from true passions and long-term commitments.
“I have become the writer who doesn’t write.”
However, not all is lost. Just in writing this post alone, I can feel the inspiration racing through me. That has to count for something, right? If I can just silence those distractions, stresses, and other monsters that seek to keep me from writing and harness my inspiration into real discipline and motivation, I know that I can achieve something big.
So, this is my call-to-action for all fellow writers and creators who suffer from the “writer who doesn’t write” syndrome:
Spend some time away from your comfort zone. Put down the phone and close the laptop. Get out into the world. Channel your stress into words. Set a daily writing schedule and stick to it (even set an alarm if you have to). Find your inner disciplinarian. And finally, if you see another creator struggling to stay on track, help them out. Encourage, sympathize, and show them what it means to be part of a community.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. It’s never too late to become the writer who does write.