What They Don’t Tell You About Writing


Who are they?  

They can be anyone – commencement speakers, mentors, authors at writing conferences, motivational coaches, life experts.  They help inspire us.  They tell us what we can do with our lives, with our writing.  Their words are sweet and move us to action.  They tell us that anybody can be a writer, that anybody can learn, that everybody has a story to tell.  They tell us that the craft can be learned and that if we try, really try, put in the effort day in and day out and struggle through, then we, too, can be great storytellers, bestselling novelists, award-winning authors. 

But they don’t always tell us that for as many ups as we have, we’ll have ten times as many downs.  And if they do mention it, we don’t listen.  We don’t always understand that we’ll struggle, that we’ll fail, that we’ll come to a point where we’ll think (where we’ll know) that we’re never going to make it.  That the inspiration we loved before isn’t so inspiring anymore.  That the speech they’re giving is going to fade from our minds and when we listen to it again it won’t have changed, that the person who made it won’t always be there to give another one.  We don’t always realize that the drive has to come from inside of us so that, when the excitement of beginning fades, we can grit our teeth and push through it.  That we have to find the inspiration inside ourselves so that we can continue on until we reach that next realization, speech, moment, that will carry us forward.  It is only then, after we’ve driven ourselves 99% percent of the way, and had others help push us the last 1%, after we’ve been through one hundred ups and one hundred thousand downs, that we’ll be able to look back on that speech by the speaker, mentor, author, coach, expert, and say, ‘That was when it all began,’ and know that we’ve made it.

What I’m trying to say is that nobody in the world can motivate you through writing an entire book.  What they can do is motivate you to start one, and help you realize that you have your own reasons to keep going.  Finding these reasons for yourself is one of the most important things that you can do as a writer.  I have several, but one of the main ones is that I’m obsessed with a good story.  Not only in books but in movies, TV shows, and even plays.  There’s something about a fictional story that can capture truth even better than real life can – stories can make you realize things about yourself and ask the tough questions.  They can be a study on bigger things like right and wrong, the nature of evil, society, memories, forgiveness.  I guess that it’s the chance to write a compelling story, and capture something more than the thrill of the ride in it, that keeps me fascinated and keeps me going.

What have others said that inspires you?  What videos, speeches, or music makes you want to get up and do something?  What drives you?  What goals do you have that make you push yourself forward, even without anyone else’s help?


22 comments on “What They Don’t Tell You About Writing”

      1. As soon as I read it, I thought, ‘that’s exactly what i’ve been trying to put into words, but haven’t quite been able to’. Thank you for sharing!

  1. I think that even though I have down days, I keep writing because I don’t have a choice anymore. The depression in stopping would outweigh those depressing days when I want to give up.

    1. If writing picks you up, that’s as good a reason as any to keep going. You can write to stay happy, and the next thing you know you might have ten books and a career out of it.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly about your sentiments, man. Nobody can drive us, we’re in our own vehicles for these projects. But it is a nice thing to think that in a “community” of writers, every one knows each other’s sorrows and pains: because we all experience the same things. The rejection, dejection, revulsion, opposition, happiness, downtimes, uptimes, and all times in between.

    Keep up the inspiration, you might never know when you inspire someone else along the same lines, man.

  3. This was wonderfully written and very inspirational. I must say, as someone who is starting out sharing my writing with other people, it has made me more excited to write more. Thank you for that.

  4. What they don’t tell you about writing, is that writing is an art, not a craft. The purpose of art is to communicate, which is intangible, and the appreciation of which is subjective. The purpose of a craft is to produce a tangible object that serves a specific purpose, and that can be evaluated objectively on its potential and actual function.

    The techniques for making a craft can be learned by anyone with an intact nervous system, the necessary limbs and digits, sufficient dexterity, and the right tools and materials. The craft worker can then set up a stall in the market and be reasonably sure to find buyers for everything the worker has made. There will always be someone out there who needs a new cap, cup or coffin, and who will pay to own it.

    The production and selling of art is different. Everyone with an intact nervous system, the necessary organs, and the means to communicate can learn to do so; nevertheless, not every artist who writes, paints, sculpts, acts, sings or plays a musical instrument can be sure that the message in the writing, picture, statue, performance or music will find a receptive patron who will pay for it. The artist may be very effective at communicating “red,” but if the current style is “blue,” or the market is located in a community of persons who have red-green color blindness, no one will pay to own the artist’s work.

    A manual worker who masters a tangible craft will enjoy success. A writer who masters an intangible art may never enjoy success as a great storyteller, bestselling novelist or award-winning author. Writers, their inspiration and motivation suffer, because Art and Craft have been confounded.

  5. I absolutely agree! Writing has to come within–and it has to be you that wants to write. You can’t force anything, it has to be something that needs to be written. Something you can’t not write. And I love what you said about realizing things about ourselves, because I think writing has a way of doing that, no matter what we write about. Good luck with your writing 🙂

  6. Excellent post! I think finding, losing and then recapturing that inspiration and motivation is a cycle that many of us go through our whole lives. One encouraging thing I have learned over time is that those times when I am not motivated to write are often periods in my life where I am experiencing something that will make me a stronger, better writer when I do grab on to my inspiration and get back in the game!

  7. For me, writing is quite a lot like reading, only more fun – I don’t know ahead of time everything that will happen, characters frequently surprise me and take the plot in directions I hadn’t thought of, and opportunities for twists and turns pop up all over the place. So writing becomes an adventure, all the more fun for being able to choose which path to take. So it’s in my blood now.

    I’ve learned not to mind blocks because they will go away. I don’t mind people and their comments either (although I always enjoy encouraging comments – who doesn’t?). Emotions motivate me. I want to catch the spark of something and share it, and share the adventure I’m having, too. 🙂

  8. Great post! I recently read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and when I finished, I felt so pumped up and ready to write. A few days later, that high had burned away, and all that was left was my own desire to write, driving me on as usual. Inspirational talks in general are like this. You have to work hard to keep the message beating inside you once the thrill of the speech fades.

  9. I do agree with your words, and I can say we need to fall those many times in order to enjoy the few we are up and we may learn more from falling that we may expect. The most important lesson we can get from falling is how to stand up again.

  10. Wow, I have to say this is a very accurate post. Especially the 2nd part of this is exactly expressing mostly how I feel. And up to a certain part, I totally agree, except for one thing (although that’s probably only me): motivation comes from inside, yes, but for me, personally, that motivation isn’t there – most of the time – if I don’t get the least bit appreciation for the things I write – which I don’t, to be honest. I am mostly writing for myself, published 3 short stories on here already simply because I had these ideas and I wanted to bring them down “on paper”, and in the end, I absolutely loved how they turned out, but to be fair, I think everyone needs that one inspiration and motivation that comes from outside, when people – friends and/or total strangers – tell you that you have done well, that the stuff you published was good and you should keep going. That doesn’t happen often to me, barely never. At least that’s what would keep me going through the most of my time when I doubt if I should even keep writing, if no one really cares. And still, I DO keep writing. And speeches like yours are truly an inspiration, and you’ve said what I kind of always wanted to say myself, but would’ve never been able to express like you did. So thank you for that, really, and well done!

    1. Thanks for the response! And yes I agree. While you need the motivation from inside to keep on going, it’s really discouraging when people don’t give you the appreciation you think you deserve. Finding friends and family who will give you positive (though sometimes constructively negative) feedback is really helpful, too. But you never know when and where appreciation is going to come from, so it’s important to always keep going. I hope you keep writing!

  11. “There’s something about a fictional story that can capture truth even better than real life can – stories can make you realize things about yourself and ask the tough questions.” This is so true! What a great post! 🙂

    1. Thank you. And I’m glad you agree! I think it’s really amazing how some stories can do that. How to do it in our own writing is the challenge.

  12. Sometimes I have to force myself to write. Sometimes the inspiration comes and sometimes it doesn’t, especially when writing a novel. Short stories are a bit different because if you don’t feel inspired there is no reason to write it. But with novels the inspiration comes and goes, and you can’t force inspiration. I guess I keep going even when I’m not inspired at all because I just enjoy writing. Sometimes listening to music helps. I mean I was training to be a professional ballerina when I was a kid, and if I only danced when inspiration hit then I wouldn’t be very good. Sometimes you don’t even want to do it. But you keep going because in the big scheme of things you love it. Well that’s my opinion. I’m a slow writer too, so that makes it easier to lose inspiration when writing a novel. Reading well done fiction also inspires me.

  13. Definitely true! Writing us much more complicated than must people want to admit. But do what you love and hopefully someday it’ll go somewhere!

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