I used to find motivation pretty easy. All it would take was an interesting story, a mystery, a book with an intriguing character, or a film that I wished I’d written. Lately, whether it’s because of lockdown blues, self-doubt finally taking hold or – dare I even think it – age, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to find that spark again.
The kind of spark that sends you characters when you’re trying to close your eyes at night and leaves your heart racing so fast you’re still awake at 3am thinking up voices, items of clothing, favourite places, and songs for a person who doesn’t even exist.
The thrill that stops you from reading in the middle of a bath because the words on the page have been pushed out by the words forming in your own mind. Where your eyes trace the paragraphs on the book held above the bubbles in front of you, but your mind sees something completely different as your brain replaces that story with your own.
The joy of taking a walk and feeling the heartbeat of a new protagonist forming with every step you take, until you can’t wait to get home and sit at your computer.
I miss that feeling.
The funny thing is, I had it until the moment I finished my last book. Since then, I’ve been in a slump. But maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me, “Don’t you dare start something new until you’ve seen this one through!” Because, now that I’ve finished it, I need convincing that it’s good. And, for someone like me, that doesn’t come from inside. The process of submitting is mentally draining and makes me clamber into my cave before it’s even really begun, which is a feeling that I know many of you share. But this is the brink. This is the truly exciting part. The moment when anything can happen.
So, perhaps the spark is changing for a reason. It’s not the after-effects of lockdown, or the self-doubt taking over. It certainly isn’t age, because…fuck that! The spark can’t be about new projects for a while. It has to be something different. Something that already exists. The sleepless nights can be from wondering whether today’s agent query will be the one that leads to success. The bath time daydreams that take over the book I’m reading can be about signings at a book fair, or the premier when it gets turned into a movie (it’s going to happen – of course it is! I’ve picked out my dress and everything…)
The spark might well be there if I just let it grow for the manuscript I already have, rather than something I’m yet to write. Losing it may be just another form of self-sabotaging procrastination, when really all I need to do is light the match under the next stage of the process. Next time I take a walk, I won’t be thinking about a new protagonist. I’ll be thinking about the ones I already have. I’ll get as excited about you meeting them as I was to get home and write about them when I first started my book all those months ago. And I’ll hurry home to sit at my computer. I’ll hit “submit query”.
And that’s when I’ll feel that spark.