When I’m at work on a book-length project—when I’m really in it—I’m good. I can stay in a flow. But in between projects? That’s when, left unchecked, I can bask in a motivational slump and justify nearly anything as “writing.” Thirteen binged seasons of a not particularly good crime procedural on Netflix? Writing. Purging my closet yet again? Same. Watch me alphabetize my spices.
When I find myself in those less-than-productive stretches, getting back on task—aiming my heart and energy at a project—requires two things: First, I examine what’s standing in my way, and it’s almost always fear of some sort. I believe curiosity is the opposite of fear, so if unmotivated, I work at fostering (often reigniting) my curiosity about the story I want to tell. My curiosity must outweigh whatever lingering reservations I have, so I might dive into research or ask a series of questions about my own assumptions.
Afterwards, I call a good writer friend and talk it out. One such friend loves swimming while I prefer hiking, so we chat about our projects while moving our bodies. I have never gotten off one of those calls unprepared to work. I understand that my body is fatigued from the hike, but it tricks my brain into feeling as though the story rushes through my muscles. Curiosity + hike & talk = down to business.
—Lisa Nikolidakis, author of No One Crosses the Wolf: A Memoir (Little A, 2022)