"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Writer's Motivation for the Dark Days...

Guest Post by Michael Priebe

This past May I finally pulled the proverbial trigger on pursuing my writing dreams full-time. After spending most of my adult life making respectable money in education but feeling creatively unsatisfied, I’d begun looking in the mirror and noticing how time was going forward for me and not the other way around.

“Now or never,” said a voice in my head that would barely shut up long enough for me to sleep soundly. So after searching my soul, checking my gut, saving a little money, and rallying the support of my wife, I replied to that voice representing the phantom of my latent aspirations.

“Now it is,” I said last spring, and I quit my day job, downsized my living arrangement, and got behind the controls of my true dreams.

So what has happened in my life since that dramatic period? Have I secured a big-time agent? Have I inked back-to-back book contracts for both of my in-progress manuscripts? Have I enjoyed the appearance of a cult-like following for my blog? On all counts the answer is not quite yet, but I’m hopeful that a blog post from me in a year or two might boast such accomplishments.

In the meantime, I’m resigned to doing the real work of any up-and-coming writer, which is keeping my own motivation (and productivity) inflated while refusing to wither away in the valleys of the inevitable disappointments. And there have been disappointments.

Although my days as a full-time writer have barely just begun, I’ve already experienced the following heartaches:

* Short-fiction rejections from respected literary magazines

* “Not interested” responses and disappointing non-responses from literary agents

* Technical frustrations with the creation of my author website

* Technical complications with the functionality of my new blog

* Sleepless blocks of time spent wondering about the financial future of my family

Notice I referred to the above disappointments as inevitable, because I’m pretty sure that, save a few miraculous exceptions, any writer who is determined to enjoy publication and cheers from an audience will experience them.

So how can writers fight through the emotional lows of the dark days? Where should we direct our minds to stay motivated despite the lows?

What follows is a short list of things that I think about to (hopefully) ensure that my disappointments will someday become footnotes to a successful writing career. I encourage you to take what you can from my “dark day” list and to create one of your own.


1. The pain of the alternative

There were a number of years when I didn’t write all that much, and I can tell you from experience that there are few heavier burdens to carry than that of trying to deny your dreams. In my mid-twenties, I took the first of several non-writing positions I would hold at a large technical college, and for a year or so I worked on a novel after work. However, life got busy and I never saw that manuscript through to publication.

Over the next dozen years, I wrote occasional sports and political articles online, but my non-writing periods got longer as deep down I became convinced that my day job of “office worker” was the real me. Those periods of not writing were depressing, and that depression is the alternative to not pushing through any current rejections or disappointments.

Whenever I’m starting to spend too much time questioning my decision to pursue writing now—in my late thirties—I think about my last cubicle, and I think about the countless hours spent wondering if that cubicle was the end of the line for me: that’s how I get my motivation back.

When you’re feeling down, you should think about how low or confused you’ve felt if you’ve temporarily abandoned your writing efforts (or even thought about it for too long), and I bet you’ll quickly get back on track, too.

2. The creations that didn’t exist prior to their conception by me

Over the course of the past year and a half, I’ve imagined and then put together some pretty awesome stuff (note how my motivational voice added pretty awesome to that last sentence).

I’ve authored a short story about Facebook addiction, one about the emotionally unstable life of a football superfan, and one about the health hazards of cubicle life titled Sick Building Syndrome (I know, where in the world did the idea for that last one come from?). I’ve also put together a respectable website to showcase my work, I’ve started a blog that has (hopefully) inspired others to reflect on life experiences and laugh, and I’ve continued to finalize the 260 spiritual inspirations that make up my in-progress manuscript of daily motivations for stressed workers.

These works of mine are products of the creative process! Reflecting on these finished products reminds me of exactly why I love writing.

Writing is an opportunity to create, and it is an opportunity to leave the world a richer place than it was when you found it. Writing is leaving your mark on the world. If you are ever feeling too discouraged about any aspect of the writing life this year, just take a look at something you’ve already written (maybe even print it out and hold it) and think about the ideas and the energy that went into that piece. Remember, without your talent and determination, that piece would not exist! That line of thinking always proves motivational for me, and I suspect it will for you as well.

3. The external bits of encouragement, no matter how tiny

A compliment from a friend, a social media like or a retweet from a stranger, or a nice online comment from anyone at the end of blog post: these things really do matter. These things really can keep a writer going. This year, meditate on any bits of encouragement you’ve received regarding your writing instead of dwelling on any negativity. I think you’ll find that those pieces of encouragement can be potent fuel for your creativity.


Upon packing up my desk and exiting the office of my day job last May, I was faced with intoxicating liberation: my life was finally a blank page! I was also faced with trepidation—my life was now a blank page. The writing life can be a touch unstable (for example, opening a rejection e-mail first thing in the morning can suddenly invite discouragement to settle over the entire day), but thankfully, the stability can be regained for us when we fill our heads with the right thoughts and fill our blank pages with great writing.
Here’s to living our writing dreams in 2016. Keep positive and keep working!

What thoughts and reflections get you through the valleys of your writer’s life? What does your motivational list look like?

Author Bio: Michael Priebe is an American writer who is currently working on manuscripts of short fiction and spiritual inspirations for workdays. His fiction has recently been shortlisted at MASH Stories, and you can find his blog, Awkward Observations, and more of his writing at www.michaelpriebewriter.com



  1. Wow, Michael. I've experienced so much of what you've written here. I'm about 16 years into my writing career and I know what you're facing. However, you seem to have a strong sense of self, a can-do attitude and a sense of
    humor. All of these, well applied, will get you far. Oddly enough, for my own part, what gets me through is the realization that no one really cares if I write another word. The earth will spin on its axis without me. Can't let that happen, can I? =0) All the luck in the world to you!Excellent post.

    1. Thanks, Susan. The ups and downs of writing force a person to cling to a sense of self (and a sense of humor). And yes, it would be a shame to let the earth spin without leaving your mark on it(#2 on my list). Cheers to a great year of writing!

  2. Hi, Michael thanks for your post,

    I like the idea of looking at my own creations for my motivations. For example I enjoy the creative graphic designs we recently created, for Christmas & New Year. (and the ones I very recently already made for Valentines Day) You can also discover several other design types.

    While it feels great when - I - enjoy them, it feels even better when there are other people that also enjoy them enough to actually buy them. To achieve this I am going to focus on things like Fashion, (Every day) Greeting Cards & Writing Stationary since those are things you actually frequently need, and want to re-buy.

    When people actually buy something that can be a great external encouragement.

    1. I agree, HP. While it's true that people who write and create art ultimately need to do it for themselves (can't let critics influence or discourage), I don't think there is anyone who creates something and doesn't wish for it to be enjoyed by others. Having your creation become a part of larger society is something we all want, no doubt.

  3. "Without your talent and determination, that piece would not exist" is the greatest motivational quote I have read lately. It is heart warming to know your words impact others. Even if it's a rejection, somebody read some part of your submission. Thanks Jen for hosting Michael, whose attitude will take him far.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Linda. We all have to remember to take a few moments to marvel at our own creations. Those moments are useful for catching one's breath and getting a second creative wind. Happy 2016!

  4. You're very welcome, Lin. Always love to hear from you. :-)

  5. Michael, it's great to meet you! I think you've summed up a large portion of the writing life here. It is good to know we aren't alone in the journey. Appreciate your candor and insight. Wishing you all the best.

    Jen, thanks for the intro and for hosting today. Good stuff. :)

  6. Thanks, Karen. When it comes to surviving the struggles of the writing life (or any challenge in life), it's always comforting and empowering to find a community of fellow sufferers. Hopefully the painful parts become footnotes and light anecdotes as we find increasing success.

  7. I enjoyed your second point here a lot. In the light of the various creative minds we've lost in the past week, I found it really helpful to approach the loss in the opposite manner. Yes, Bowie, Rickman, Frey, all made huge contributions to my life with their creations and entertainment, but instead of being sad that we've lost them, I like to remember how much more drab my life would be if they had never dared to create in the first place.

  8. I think that's a great way to look at things, Joseph. What if everyone was too intimidated or focused on bottom lines and day jobs to create? Where would we be left? What would we have to truly enjoy and share? Books, songs, short stories, paintings, art: these things make our lives special.