Mining for Motivation


Writing block is a common complaint for non-professional writers. Inspiration for many doesn’t come easily. Even when it does strike, finding the words to sustain a narrative proves difficult for individuals who are still discovering the optimal method to craft fiction. Over the years, I developed several habits that helped mitigate writer’s block to maximize publishing potential.


First, one must learn to mine the world around them for inspiration. If a writer only waits until an idea strikes them to write, they will inevitably produce very little material unless they are a lightning rod for inspiration. In my experience, most people don’t claim to be struck by inspiration often. Instead, months will pass before they have a clear vision of what they want to write. The result of this is the production of very few short stories a year, and very few, if any, novels in a lifetime.


One must learn to mine for inspiration. In mining for inspiration, you deconstruct the events of your daily life in search for characters, plots, dialog, description, and dramatic tensions. Every moment becomes fodder for a fiction narrative. A drive to the store to buy groceries becomes a quest to faraway lands in search of treasure. Traffic becomes a hostile landscape full of pitfalls. Dangerous drivers become the adversaries hiding in the shadows. Rain becomes a torrent washing away the path.


The second method to overcome writer’s block is vital in today’s society. Writers must learn to horde their written words so that they can use them for the sole purpose of crafting prose. They must avoid wasting their inner monologues. They should stay off chat forums and comment threads, and they should resist status updates on social media platforms. If you have something you wish to share with the world, some revelation or witticism that you want the public to know, hold it in reserve for your fiction.


It has not been unusual for me to observe over the years potential writers complaining online that they don’t have time to write. Yet they’ll often have the time, hourly, to update the online world about the many events of their day. Every year, people write thousands of words online discussing the pop cultural moments that have briefly caught their attention. But those thousands of words could be focused into world-building a narrative that may become the short story or novel that finally publishes.


The last way to mine for inspiration is to set an allotted time aside every day to write. The time doesn’t have to be long. It simply needs to be long enough to produce a couple hundred words, or one original page, of prose. The first draft of this blog, for instance, took me five songs to write. With each song being an average of 4 minutes, that amounts to 20 minutes to write an estimated 500 words.


No matter how busy an individual claims to be, they should have at least 20 minutes a day to devote to 200 to 500 words of focused writing. If this habit is sustained over 7 days, that’s 1400 to 3500 completed words, the average length of a flash fiction or a short story that online journals are actively searching for to publish. In a month’s time, you’ll have four brand new fiction pieces, and if in 6 months you sell just one of the 24 new stories you’ve created, you’re on your way to becoming a professional author.