May 2021 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Consider Your Future Audience When Writing Gets Tough

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Have you ever come across a piece of writing, whether it was a novel or poem or even an academic paper, that impacted you in a memorable way? Maybe the author described something with words so beautiful it brought a literal smile to your face, or maybe they expressed an idea in a way that never occurred to you before and it changed the way you think about life. 
character reading with light coming from book
I have. It’s part of why I love reading all kinds of literature, and it’s part of why I love writing. It’s also part of why I love teaching writing. The written word can change people’s lives; it can even change the world.

At the same time, writing is hard. Really hard. It’s especially difficult when you’re working within a variety of constraints like keeping up a scholarly tone, sticking to the conventions of Standardized Academic English, needing to include a certain number of sources, and following APA style. Shouldering all of those expectations on top of the already exhausting tasks of coming up with ideas and thinking about how to best communicate them, it’s easy to lose sight of the potential that your writing has to make an impact.  
crumpled writing paper
Yet it’s that very potential that can serve as a motivation to push through that difficult writing process. It’s that very potential that can get you through the outlining, and the drafting, and getting feedback, and then making even more changes based on that feedback. Remembering that your writing matters is a great tool for manifesting motivation. 

Whenever I’m at an impasse with an essay or article that I’m working on, whether it’s because I have writer’s block or I’ve just spent so much time with the piece that I’m sick of it and want to give up, I  think about who is going to read it. I call to mind what I want them to feel as they make their way through my words and ideas. Sometimes I even picture an actual person in my mind’s eye: I imagine their head nodding along in agreement, or their eyes widening with inspiration, or a smile growing on their face as they enjoy what I’ve put so much effort into creating.
woman reading by water

It might feel silly or awkward at first, to dream of your writing having such an impact. Maybe it even feels a little arrogant to think that something you created could mean that much to someone else. And it’s certainly true that not every piece of writing we produce is going to be our best work. Nevertheless, I encourage you to give it a try next time you find yourself searching for the inspiration to keep going with a draft: Imagine your classmates seeing a topic from a new perspective because of what you brought to the table in a discussion post. Imagine your professor delighted by how clearly and logically you articulated your point. Imagine your written work actually changing the world. 
man reading in a field
There are a lot of methods out there for drumming up the motivation needed to get through a writing project, and each person has their own set of tools that works for them. For me, the prospect of simply being done with a piece, of being able to check it off a list, is not always enough to get me across the finish line. I believe that there can be a greater significance to my work than that, and I’ve found that I can use that belief to re-energize myself when I’m struggling. 

I hope this strategy resonates with some of you out there, too. I’m excited to hear what other tools you’ve found helpful in your quest for motivation, and I look forward to continuing to bear witness to your world-changing work! 

Grete Howland is a writing instructor who's been with the Walden Writing Center since 2019. Before joining the Writing Center, Grete taught English and creative writing to middle and high school students. When she's not working with words, Grete loves paddle boarding, running, wine tasting, and hanging out at home with her husband and dog.

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