Hola! Cómo estás? As you may have guessed, I am currently learning to speak Spanish. If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you know that it is a difficult task. It takes a lot of time and a lot of motivation. I love the language, and I am committed to reaching at least moderate fluency, so I try to study and practice daily. Most days I look forward to it, but some days, I just don’t have the enthusiasm. I am sure you have experienced something similar with your writing. Some days you can’t wait to sit down and start typing and other days you have to force yourself to face the blank page. I’ve found some ways to get my daily Spanish time in on those days when my motivation is flagging, and I thought they may apply to a lack of writing motivation as well. Here’s what I do when studying Spanish doesn’t sound like fun. I've included ideas for applying the same tactics to your writing:
1) Listen to music with lyrics in Spanish: One of the most important parts of learning a foreign language is training your ear to understand it when it’s spoken. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll listen to podcasts or news stations in Spanish, but when that feels like too much work, I just turn on the Latin Pop station on XM Radio or I pop in a Ricky Martin CD (yes, I admit it, I’m a Ricky Martin fan). I’m still getting exposure to the Spanish language, but it’s fun and doesn’t require a lot of effort. Most of the time, I get excited when I understand a line in a song that I’ve never understood before, and it pumps me up to decipher more of the lyric. But even if I just listen, I am still surrounded by Spanish. If you don’t feel like writing, try doing some reading instead. You could read a writing-craft book if you’re feeling up to it, but you could just read a well-written book and “surround” yourself in good writing, too.
2) Read blog posts from successful language learners: If I’m feeling discouraged by my progress, it can sometimes help to read what other language learners are doing in their quest to master a new language. I can usually get some new ideas for practicing the language or find resources that I didn’t know about. It can also help to read posts by people who are struggling, so I know it’s not just me. There are lots of blogs out there written by successful authors that you can read to learn about the craft or how to break through writer’s block or how to market your book. You may not be meeting your word count goal for the day, but you are still doing something to improve yourself as a writer, and that’s worthwhile.
3) Practice what I already know: Sometimes, my brain just feels full, and I don’t think I can cram one more new vocabulary word in there. On those days, instead of trying to learn something new, I just practice what I know. I might walk around narrating my day in Spanish using vocab I’ve already picked up, or review flashcards of words that I am fairly confident of. You could read what you’ve already written and take notes on ways to improve it in your next draft, or you could write something else that comes easily to you: a poem, a song lyric, a journal entry. Reviewing your draft still moves you forward in improving the work, and writing something that you don’t feel any pressure about just might reignite your creativity.
4) Give myself a day off: Some days, I’m too unmotivated to do any of that, and I just give myself the day off. If I force myself to study every single day, even when I’m really not feeling it, I run the risk of turning language learning into a job rather than a joy. As long as I don’t let it become a habit, a day off usually lets me return to my studies the next day with renewed excitement. The same is true of writing. While it’s important to be committed to the process and to understand that sometimes writing will be hard and you have to push through, it’s also important to cut yourself some slack now and then. If you just can’t face the keyboard, take a break, give your brain a rest, and be ready to get back at it tomorrow.
Learning a new language and writing a book are both time consuming, sometimes difficult endeavors. They require dedication and commitment. But you want to come to both activities with excitement and enjoyment, and sometimes that means taking your foot off the throttle for a day. Hopefully, these ideas will help you find ways to stay connected to your writing while giving yourself a breather. I’d love to hear your ideas for handling a lack of motivation. Feel free to comment below!