How I Re-Discovered My Motivation to Write After College
by Katheryn Rivas
I majored in creative writing in college, and spent pretty much every day of my college career working on some writing project for one of my classes. When I graduated, I thought this trend would continue. I imagined myself completing a book of poems and a novel the year after I graduated, while I idly passed the time at some office job and applied to MFA schools. Then life happened. The economy was a wreck. I had to move back in with my parents. I spent most of my free time writing cover letters, not poetry. By the time I finally found a low-level editing job, I hadn't written anything creative in almost six months.
My editing job was mentally taxing, and I rarely felt like writing when I got home. I rarely felt like reading either. A year passed, and I still hadn't prepared the portfolio I planned to use to apply to MFA schools. I started to wonder whether I even wanted to go to graduate school for creative writing. Was I even good enough to make it as a writer? Without the validation I received from my peers in college, I started to seriously doubt my writing abilities, and I nearly lost all the motivation I had to be a writer.
I've heard this happens to a lot of writers. It's even happened to many of the people I know who've completed MFA programs. Some writers don't know what to do with the lack of structure in the real world. Unless they're forced to write for their jobs, they find it difficult to produce any written work.
Fortunately, over the past year, I've started writing again. I write a poem or work on a short story almost every day now, and I'm getting close to completing my novel. One night, in the middle of a deep phone conversation with a friend from college, I realized that life had become dull and lifeless because I didn't write anymore. And I thought of the Rilke quote from Letters to a Young Poet:
"Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?"
I asked myself Rilke's question over and over again for the next few days after my realization. My life had lost meaning because I wasn't writing anymore, but was I not writing because I intrinsically didn't need to? My feelings about this matter confused me. I knew it was time to stop thinking and start writing.
Writing had always helped me sort out my feelings. So, I sat down at my computer, started typing, and all of my pent up creative energy just seemed to pour out. What started out as a simple electronic journal entry turned into me writing a short story about a girl who struggles to define herself after she graduates from college. It was similar to The Graduate in many ways (minus Mrs. Robinson), and it wasn't very good. But it was something, and writing it made me feel amazing. So, I kept on writing. Sometimes I didn't feel like it, but I didn't stop.
Now, I keep myself motivated by reminding myself that, for many reasons, I must write. My life loses meaning if I don't. I've joined a local writing workshop group to help keep me focused on completing projects in a timely fashion. I set aside at least thirty minutes every evening for writing, no matter how tired or busy I am. I keep myself healthy by eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising. This gives me more energy to write and helps keep my brain as sharp as I need it to be to produce quality work.
Writercize: Make a list of what prevents you from writing. Then make a list of what motivates you to write. Think about how you can eliminate some of the factors in your life that stifle your motivation.
Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and blogger who contributes to a variety of sites about her experiences as a writer and human. When she's not working on professional writing projects for www.onlineuniversities.com, she's working on her novel and staying up late writing poetry.