Editor’s note: Looking at famous authors when you are a struggling writer can sometimes decrease, not increase, motivation. Today’s powerful post shows how to draw inspiration to keep writing from 3 of the most famous writers of recent times…
Being a writer isn’t easy.
After all, art isn’t science. It’s not like we can follow a consistent formula to get a predictable result, each and every time.
Our creativity ebbs and flows, as does our motivation.
Sometimes, it can feel as if no-one else understands what we’re going through. This is especially true if our offline interactions are devoid of fellow writers.
Thankfully, there is nothing new under the sun. Almost any struggle you’re experiencing as a writer has been experienced before.
We can look to those who have walked the difficult path ahead of us for inspiration of how to proceed.
Today, I’d like to share the inspirational stories of three writers who experienced serious success in spite of their struggled.
Four beacons of inspirational light to illuminate any darkness you are going through.
Let’s get to it.
In the modern context, it’s hard to think of a better rags to riches story within the world of writing than that of JK Rowling.
JK Rowling was a foreign language teacher before she experienced success as an author.
She went through real poverty as well as struggling to make ends meet as a single mother.
In fact, much of the earliest work she did on the Harry Potter series was carried out in a cafe she wrote in to stay warm, making a cup of tea last as long as possible. She scribbled out her ideas on cafe napkins. These days she’s very open about her struggles on her author social media, and even supports fans going through similar woes.
Perhaps you or someone you know is experiencing financial troubles as a parent, just like JK Rowling did.
If so, consider the following ideas to get through your struggle:
- Draw inspiration from your situation. This may sound like an idealized or romanticized notion. However, the difficulties we go through can often provide the richest sources of inspiration. This works for both the emotional truth of your situation as well as the practical realities of it.
- Frame the reality of your finances in an inspirational light. When we are comfortable, it’s very easy to get complacent. When you realize that you have nothing to lose, and that you can improve your situation, you can use this as motivational fuel. You will also be tougher than those who have never had to struggle.
- Being a single parent can seem like a burden without positives. However, having someone else to care for can be a real motivator. At our lowest points as humans, we can struggle to care about ourselves, but it is a lot harder to stop caring about an innocent life we are responsible for.
JK Rowling is proof that success can come from the toughest of situations. No matter how hard things may seem, do not give up hope. Do not put a limit on the level of success you dream of achieving.
There is so much mythology surrounding writing and substance abuse.
From the infamous advice of Hemingway to “write drunk, edit sober” to the frankly incredulous debauchery of Hunter S Thompson, famous authors are often linked to indulgence in various intoxicants.
Stephen King certainly was.
If you’ve ever read his fantastic guide to the craft, ‘On Writing’, you will know that Steve was an alcoholic and cocaine abuser for the earliest part of his career.
He admits that while using those substances may have fuelled some of his ideas, they weren’t all good. He freely admits some of his best and worst concepts came out of substance abuse. So it wasn’t even helpful overall to his work.
However, it took a devastating toll on his health, his marriage, and his life in general. He eventually stopped drinking and using and has still remained one of the best and most prolific storytellers of our time.
If you’re experiencing struggles with drinking and substance abuse, what can you do to find some inspiration?
- First, realize that you are not a bad person. The shame of substance abuse often overrides the desire to seek help. Realize you are someone who is coping with pain and trauma in the most effective way you know. As long as you are seeking to change, there is no need to feel shame.
- Second, decouple your substance abuse from your creative work. Just because you have produced work intoxicated, it doesn’t mean you will be unable to when sober. Stephen King is absolute proof of this concept.
- Finally, seek outside help. There are tons of great resources out there, such as 12 step groups, or groups which do not rely on the concept of a higher power if that is more to your preference. Try different options until you find a good fit. There is no need to go through this alone.
Your work as a writer shouldn’t be the primary motivator for stopping substance abuse. However, realize that you won’t be a worse writer as a result of getting sober. The adjustment may be difficult but you’ll get there.
Orwell (war and extra jobs)
Few writers have had more of an impact on the world at large than George Orwell.
The phrase Big Brother derives directly from his novel, 1984, and has permeated every aspect of society as well as casual conversation.
When people picture the legendary, classic writers such as George Orwell, they may imagine they’ve had a charmed, easy existence. Perhaps some fancy British upbringing followed by an easy life of writing and classy English tea parties with other intellectuals.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
George Orwell experienced the horrors of war and poverty.
If you’re having to work extra jobs to support your writing career, almost a given in the self-publishing era for most, draw comfort from the fact you are in excellent company.
So what are some of the ideas we can draw from the struggles of George Orwell?
- Understand that the struggles you are going through will make your characters relatable. Chances are, the majority of your readers are regular folk going about their lives. If you write about a character working a regular job, but in a way which shows you have no idea whatsoever what that job entails, you instantly lose all credibility. Both the practical and emotional details of any extra job you are working will lend credence to your future work.
- There is something to be said for not relying upon your writing to make a living. On the one hand, having to work other jobs will reduce the time you have to write. On the other, the pressure of needing to write for a living can stifle your work and make it impossible to write with any feeling of freedom whatsoever.
- Even war is no excuse to hold you back from your dream of succeeding as an author. If George Orwell was able to produce the work he did living under the shadow of warfare and poverty, you can overcome your own situation. This isn’t to belittle anything you’re going through. Only to show it is possible to succeed.
Having to take on additional work outside of writing can seem like a burden with no upsides. However, the example of George Orwell shows it can be a blessing as well as a curse.
Triumphing Over Adversity As An Author – Final Thoughts
No matter what struggles you are experiencing as an author, please draw comfort from the fact you are not alone.
If others are capable of turning their adversity into success, you most certainly are too.
You’ve got this!
Please feel free to share other famous authors who inspire you in the comments. I’m sure there are countless examples out there that our fellow authors could draw comfort and inspiration from.