If you find it tough to get psyched up to write, this post is for you. I recently received a letter from a new writer hoping I could help her find more writing motivation:
I’m Sherin from Indonesia, it’s such a pleasure to find you as someone I can look up to. I’ve been saying to myself that, I really want to be a writer. And I’m very passionate about being a freelance writer, especially in content writing and maybe in proofreading. I know I need to plan how am I going to do that, but I feel lack of confidence and I don’t really know where to start.
I think this will be a good opportunity to make my own income too. I’m still a student supported by my parents. But I just love the image of standing independently. Anyway, I am so sorry to bother you. I know that I need to have some good skill to become a freelance writer, and to become skilled, I need to learn and practice. And I don’t know how to do that.
Can you give me some tips or maybe some writing motivation?
Letters like this make me want to cry. Because I’m dedicated to helping freelance writers earn more!
I want to have tips and useful info for you. (And ESL writer or not, writers write in every language and there are clients all over the world, so any grammar errors you spot above are not important here.)
What’s the trouble then? When you ask me to give you some motivation, I’ve got nothing.
The 2 kinds of writing motivation
There are really only two ways that writers are motivated:
Some people get into freelance writing out of a desperate need to pay bills. You’ve just gotten fired. Maybe you can’t leave the house due to multiple preschoolers or a disability or agoraphobia. You need an Internet-based way to earn.
You’re broke! Your children are starving! And the terror of imagining your family homeless gets your butt in the chair, cranking out whatever writing assignments you can grab. That’s one kind of writing motivation.
You find writing fairly easy and do it at least competently well…and you’re able to discipline yourself to do it. Because you’re hungry.
Maybe it’s not your huge passion, but it’s a living. And you’re willing to stick with it for that paycheck motivation.
On the other hand, there’s the born-writer who’s following their creative muse. This is the other kind of writing motivation. You simply have to write, nearly every day, or you don’t feel whole. You feel stifled and sad.
Becoming a freelance writer allows you to indulge your writing habit more hours of the day — win!
If you can really take or leave writing, and you could quilt or go for long walks or play pickleball or do something else with most of your available time, freelance writing probably isn’t for you.
Why? Because writing is hard. And if you don’t love it, it’s highly likely you’re going to get frustrated and give up, long before you’ve put in enough hours to get really good at it.
When you ask others…
Here’s the big problem with asking other people to give you motivation: It’s not going to work.
I could cook up some inspiring words for you about how great it is to be a freelance writer. I mean, I’m sitting here typing this on the deck of our home overlooking a gorgeous, blue lake, on a beautiful, sunny day.
I woke up at 5 a.m., all fired up to write. I worked until I got tired, then took a nap, around 1:30 pm. Because I felt like it.
You want this life, yes? And yet…you sit. Not taking action. Motivation implies movement, and you ain’t got it.
You’re hoping someone else will come and say the magic words to you that will move you forward. That will flood you with the confidence that yes, you could be a writer. You’ll stop saying, “I just don’t have any article ideas,” and suddenly, you’ll be out there pitching up a storm.
But the drive to write for a living can only come from one place: Inside you.
At base, you’re either a writer, or you aren’t.
If that spark doesn’t live in your gut that says, “I’m a writer, and this is the my life’s purpose,” no amount of outside encouragement, writing exercises, or client praise, is going to keep you fired up enough to do this, over the long haul.
Those insecurities will keep gnawing at you and prevent you from making this your career.
The freelance writing life — besides being a delightfully flexible lifestyle — is also a hustle. Often, it’s a grind. It’s challenging and tough. It’s competitive.
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
So if you’re not burning up to do it, at some point, you move on to something else.
The other problem? Asking someone else to give you the motivation you need gives away your power.
No other person should ever be allowed to hold your career in their hands. Your destiny, and how you will spend the thousands of work hours ahead of you, is up to you.
Tips from a motivated writer
How do you know professional writing is for you?
Freelance writing, or being a novelist, isn’t a career you choose out of a catalog at an employment office, or browsing job categories online. It’s not like deciding to become a plumber or an engineer.
It’s the other way around. Writing chooses you.
So whenever someone writes me to say, “I’ve decided just this month to become a writer,” I’m thinking…no. You’ve decided writing sounds fun and glamorous, but you’re not really going to do it.
To have a shot at making a living as a writer, you have to be someone who loves writing and feels absolutely compelled to do it.
You’d rather move paragraphs around or rewrite sentences until they shine than just about anything else. You lie awake at night, your mind buzzing with creative writing ideas.
Actually, you can’t stop writing. You never stop, as The War of the Roses author Warren Adler discusses in this great video about his writing life today, at age 90:
When you watched that video, you either vigorously nodded your head all through, thinking, “Yes! That’s me, too!” or you were baffled as to how this man kept on, despite so many rejections, and still feels compelled to write every day. Because you can’t relate.
If you’re in the second category, and you’re looking to experienced coaches like me for a source of motivation…sadly, I can’t help.
I can teach you how to pitch clients and get gigs, or how to write a well-constructed case study or e-book, or how to write a stronger opening paragraph for your article.
But writing motivation? That’s your department.
Struggling with writing motivation? Let’s discuss on my Facebook.