Sometimes, you just need a voice in your head telling you to get your shit together and get creative!
When I feel like my creative juice is just not flowing, I will go and look for something to motivate me. It can be a youtube video playing in the background while I hack out some words. It can be a short essay that I can read while I imagine someone reading to me, standing at my back, whip in hand, ready to force me to work if the words don’t sink in.
To be clear, these are essays/videos that I look to when I need creative motivation. Research, exercise, cleaning the apartment – these are activities that require a different flavour to get motivated to.
Here are some of my go-tos. I like them because they spark a certain element of work ethic, competition, and interest that helps me get into the creative zone.
Graduation Address; Bennington College’s Class of 2012 by Peter Dinklage
Dinklage is very funny. He spends most of this lecture talking about how he pushed through the growing pains of choosing (and sometimes forcing) a career in the entertainment industry. This video is calming, entertaining, and deeply personal, and it inspires a recognition that creativity is work. It is motivating in its understanding that creative work is sometimes difficult, but ultimately rewarding.
King’s thoughts on writing have always been an important jumping-off point for me. It was actually his book On Writing, which I bought when I was 17, that made me seriously grapple with the work that it would take to become a professional creative writer. This essay sums up most of the points King made in the book – so if you don’t have time or you don’t have the means, reading this essay will give you the main ideas.
The Myth of Creative Inspiration by James Clear
The one thing missing from the King essay is his emphasis on putting in the work. Of showing up every day, scheduling time to write, and not pussy-footing around waiting for the muse to come. That’s what you’ll get in this^^ essay. A reminder that writing only happens when words go on the page – time spent elsewhere (in research, in waiting for motivation, in planning and preparation) may enhance the writing experience for you, but in the end readers still need something to read. So put some words on the page.
Graduation Address; University of Pennsylvania Class of 2016 by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Miranda is just so much fun! He takes such delight in his work. Even though the man is non-stop, even though he writes like he’s running out of time, like he needs it to survive, every second he’s alive – he’s clearly enjoying himself. This is a reminder that creative work is a grind, but if I’m not having fun then I’m probably doing something wrong. It also reminds me that what I’m trying to do is tell stories. That this is the ultimate importance of my craft, and that they’re so, so important.
Thoughts on Writing by Elizabeth Gilbert
I particularly like this essay because of this quote she included from German filmmaker Werner Herzog, in a personal communication to one of her friends: “Quit your complaining,” he wrote. “It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.”