Writing with a Day Job: Drive

Drive. Motivation. Perseverance. That’s the topic of today’s fourth and final post in my Writing with a Day Job series. If you’ve been reading along all summer, thanks for sticking around. I hope that my fellow busy writers have gained some wisdom, encouragement, or motivation from this series. Let’s end it well.

First things first: what do I mean by “drive”? Isn’t that the same thing as productivity? I don’t think so. Productivity is how we make progress. Drive is why we make progress. It’s about motivation, perseverance, and completing what we started. It’s about mental or emotional tricks to disciplining ourselves in our writing journey. Drive helps us stay productive. Drive can come from time with our writing community. Drive can be reenergized when rest allows us to reflect on why we write. With that, I want to leave you with three encouragements in your writing journey to help you stay motivated to persevere:

1) Reject the lies about your writing: Busy-ness leads to tiredness. Tiredness makes it easier to find excuses and set aside the so-called “nonessential” things in life. When we’re balancing a fulltime job and family commitments with writing, it can be easy to lump writing into the “nonessential” bucket when we lack motivation or inspiration. It’s easy to give into laziness when we’re tired. Like I said two weeks ago: we need rest, but we also need to recognize when we’re giving into apathy with our writing. There may be seasons where writing will be nonessential, but to take it seriously, we have to keep going and push through lack of inspiration and our day-to-day tiredness.

We also need to be honest when we’re giving into fear or imposter syndrome or both. When we walk away from our stories out of fear that we’ll never be good enough or hide our writing from others because we feel like imposters, it’s easy, yet again, to make excuses for not working on it. When we start to live out of lies about our writing and its value, we lose motivation, we lose inspiration, and we lose drive. We need to be honest in recognizing these lies for what they are and calling them out. Your writing is worth it. You may not be “good enough” yet, but that’s only a sign you need to keep working and keep growing. You’ll get there! Sharing our writing with others does require vulnerability and the risk of getting our feelings hurt, but in my experience, fellow writers are always cheering each other on. I’ve received a lot of positive comments in addition to critiques, and critiques have only helped me grow in my storytelling and writing.

In short, we should approach our writing with grace, humility, and determination, rather than with apathy, fear, and shame. Recognize your posture regarding your writing, and seek to correct it if you’re living from a place of lies or excuses.

2) Expect it’ll take longer than expected: We also need to be realistic with ourselves and our writing. We cannot possibly control everything in our lives. We can’t anticipate setbacks with our work, needing to take more time with a draft or character arc, etc. Life, too, is full of the unexpected. If you have kids, there’s always unexpected moments (good and bad) to respond to. We don’t plan on bad days at work that leave us too drained to muster up the energy. Vacations or holidays can take us out of our normal rhythm and make it hard to reenter normal life. Give yourself grace with your writing and keep in mind that your timeline probably won’t progress as quickly as you’d like. Be patient, and let the finish line ahead continue to drive you forward rather than discourage you to give up partway through.

I’ve felt the sting of this recently with my Whitman Court series. I needed to make more edits than expected on The Queen of Whitman Court earlier this year. At times, I’ve felt discouraged by my lack of quick and efficient progress. I certainly thought I would be published multiple times over by this point in my life. Yet I’m learning to be patient with myself and my writing in this season.

My encouragement to you is this: don’t lose the wind in your sails because it’s taking you longer to edit or because you discover a new plot hole or because you can’t figure out how to end the book. Keep going! You’re not alone, and take advantage of the slower pace to make your book the best it can be.

3) Embrace the role of writer as often as possible: Finally, taking yourself seriously as a writer is a huge part of maintaining drive. Get in the headspace of an author. Carry a notebook with you. Dream about plots and characters and worlds when you’re out on a walk or making dinner. Listen to podcasts on writing. Talk to other writers about their work and share about yours. Think through how you would describe the sunrises you see on your drive to work. Study your favorite books to see how they pull off their themes so effectively. Do the things and think the things that make you feel like a writer. When you embrace your role as a writer, it’s easier to keep your momentum, even in the stifling moments. Don’t be shy about calling yourself a writer either. Reject those lies I mentioned earlier and keep leaning into this aspect of your identity.

I personally feel the pull to remain in the “drive zone” at all times, but I also know that there will be seasons of dryness or struggle where writing could feel unimportant. We all have them. I’ve certainly been there. Not too long ago, I came out of my own writing drought of four or so years. Life happens, and life is often unexpected. At the end of the day, the final word I want to leave you with is this: grace. Be gracious with yourself when you don’t meet goals. Be gracious with yourself when you can’t seem to put any good words on the page. Be gracious with yourself when you can’t rest wisely. When you feel lazy. When you feel alone. When you feel the imposter syndrome creeping in. Show grace to yourself. 

My hope and prayer is that this series benefitted you, even if in just one way. I’m in the trenches with you, dear readers. Let’s drive onward, writing, writing, writing, when we can, no matter the pace, and persevere until the book is done.