Today, a friend of mine asked for tips on maintaining motivation during rewrites. She explained that she knew exactly what she needed to work on, but that she needed help staying motivated. When I started to try to formulate an answer, I realized this is something I have struggled with before, and I was sure there were a ton of other writers who felt the same way. So I decided to write a blog post about it.
In many ways, this is similar to my Busting Through Writer’s Block post, but in other ways, it’s different. This is more so about staying motivated and excited as opposed to coming up with new ideas. Often, we get to the revision stage, and it’s simply not as exciting as the first draft stage when we are creating the story from scratch. Here are some tips:
1. Don’t Force It.
Sometimes the best way to get motivated is to take a break and come back to your piece later. I know sometimes when I am revising, if I take a short break to go for a walk, eat some fruit, pet my cats, do some laundry, run some errands, etc., often when I sit back down at my computer, I am able to come to my revisions with fresh eyes, and I feel more motivated. Sometimes I need to just put it away for the night and come back to it in the morning. And that’s fine. The point is to think about something else for a short period of time. I know as soon as I lift the “pressure,” I often feel more motivated to get it done.
2. Get Excited.
Often, we put off revising the parts of the story that we’re just not that excited about. First of all, if you’re not that excited about a particular character or scene, ask yourself why. Maybe you need to rethink said character or scene and add an element that makes you more excited. Maybe you need to get to know the character a little better. For example, when I had just finished the first draft of The Muses, I knew I needed to go back and flesh out Travis a little more because I wasn’t feeling as connected to him as some of the other characters. I decided to make a playlist of songs that he would like or songs that reminded me of him. When I listened to it, I felt I understood him a lot more and was more interested in revising his scenes and writing about him. I think I even gave him some extra scenes that weren’t in the first draft, and I found that they really served the story.
Maybe you just need to re-connect with the character, theme, or aspect of the story that needs work. Listen to some music that reminds you of that character. Watch a movie that reminds you of the story you want to tell. Look to other artists for inspiration. This is not only a great way to find ideas, but often it can re-connect us with the inspiration that made us start writing the story in the first place, which can then jazz us up for rewrites.
3. Celebrate Your Accomplishments.
My writer friend said that she bought a bottle of wine that was specifically set aside as celebration wine for when she finished the rewrite, but maybe it would be a better idea to have mini-celebrations when she finished each of the three major sections of her rewrite. I think this is a good idea. Telling yourself you get a cookie if you finish rewriting five chapters or you can watch that new episode of the Vampire Diaries after you finish revising the first act of your play or whatever it may be can often be effective. Instead of focusing on how much more you have to go, make sure you take a look at how much you have already done and appreciate where you are. This way, looking at how much farther you have to go will seem less daunting.
Sometimes simply sitting down, focusing on your breathing, and clearing your head can really help. There are many different meditation techniques that work for different people. Some people like to use music. Some people like to use guided meditations. Find the technique that works for you and see if this helps.
5. Re-read What You’ve Already Written.
Sometimes if you go back to everything you like about your piece, it can get you inspired to revise the rest of it so that you can make the parts that need improvement as good as the parts that are the strongest.
6. Try Something New.
The most important point about this whole post is that if you feel stuck, do something new. Find new ways to re-visit your story. Re-invent your writing. Look at the piece with fresh eyes. Typically, this will help you to get through the hardest parts of the revision process. Good luck!