The Parable of the Poor Farmer is the perfect storm of writing motivation for writers who are struggling to write a book, chapter, page, or even a sentence. My tips on how to stay motivated to write are inspired by this parable – and by Natalie Goldberg.
The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language is one of Goldberg’s most recent books of inspiration and information for writers. Her book will help you with writing – and your life. Struggling writers, if you haven’t found a source of writing motivation, then you haven’t read one of Natalie Goldberg’s books.
Staying motivated to write requires you to find your internal reason for writing. If you’re one of the masses of struggling writers, perhaps it’s because you haven’t found your own personal source of inspiration for writing. Why do you want to be a writer? What purpose does your writing fulfill? Answering those questions may be the writing motivation for struggling writers. Here’s a parable that may help you see your writing in a new light…
The Parable of the Poor Farmer
Once upon a time, there once was a poor old man who owned a beautiful white horse. Whenever noblemen passed through the village, they always noticed the horse and offered handsome sums of money for the stallion. The old man always declined their offers, saying, “This horse is my friend. How can I sell my friend?”
One morning the old man awoke to find the horse was gone. The village people gathered and said, “Old man, you were a fool not to sell the horse. You could have been wealthy! Now it has been stolen, and you have nothing. It is a great misfortune!”
But the old man replied, “I wouldn’t say that. Whether the horse was stolen or not, or whether it is a misfortune or a blessing, is unknown. All we know is that the horse is not in the stable.”
Some days later the horse returned, bringing with it several beautiful wild mares. Again the village people gathered. They said, “Old man you were right! The horse was not stolen, and it was not a misfortune. It was a blessing, and now you have many fine horses!”
But the old man replied, “Again you go too far. We don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. All we know is the horse is back. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”
Some days later the old man’s only son began to train the wild mares, but he was thrown and trampled, and one of his legs was badly broken. The village people were saddened. “Oh old man, you were right! It was not a blessing but a great misfortune, and now your only son is lame!
But the old man replied, “Don’t say it’s a good thing, don’t say it’s a bad thing, just say my son has broken his leg. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”
A few weeks later the country went to war, and all the able bodied young men were forcibly taken for the military. Only the old man’s son was passed over, because his leg was broken. The whole village was crying and weeping, for they believed their sons would be killed. In their grief they came to the old man and said, “You were right old man, your son’s injury has proven to be a blessing. Your son may be crippled, but he is with you, while our sons are gone forever!
The old man simply shook his head and said, “We don’t know if it’s good or bad that my son is here, and your sons have been forced into the military. We have to wait and see. ”
Writing Motivation for Struggling Writers
What does The Parable of the Poor Farmer say to you about staying motivated to write? Feel free to share your thoughts below. This is what stands out to me…
Don’t use external measures to judge yourself as a writer
Being rejected by agents and publishers means you’re trying to be a writer – it means you haven’t given up. Not having a thousand blog followers means you’re blogging, you’re sharing your writing with the world. Feeling like you’re not a good writer means you actually know what being a good writer means, and that you’re growing into a different writing style. Feeling guilty for not writing means you want to write, you yearn to write, you wish you wrote more. All these things can increase your writing motivation, can transform you from a struggling writer to a successful writer.
Find motivation to write in other writers
The Parable of the Poor Farmer shows me the importance of community. We see the farmer not doing life alone – he was surrounded by people who cared about what happened to him, his horses, and his son. Perhaps the Poor Farmer was unshakeable because he saw everyone else going into a tailspin. Sometimes we need other people to ground us, to show us how not to live life.
In an interview with Psychology Today, Natalie Goldberg said she needs to write with others. “I can definitely write on my own, but sometimes I need a kick,” she told Mark Matousek in The True Secret of Writing: A Talk With Natalie Goldberg. “I’m lazy or I’m not becoming alive enough. I have a friend who I write with every Thursday evening for about an hour and a half. And then when I teach I always write with my students. I tell them I use them.”
Join an online group of other “struggling writers”
In Write more, faster, Shelley Lieber describes how she began working with a writing group in a Google Hangout. “We sprint for 25 minutes at a time, break for 5–10 minutes, then go again,” she says. “At first, I resisted. I didn’t think that was long enough to get anything done. Indeed, the first few sessions, I felt like I had just gotten going when the timer buzzed. Then I realized I was producing more words per minute than ever before. I had my first 5K words in a day, a goal I’d been working toward for years.”
Wait and see how your writing unfolds
Back to the Parable of the Poor Farmer: if you can’t seem to find the right source of writing motivation – if you can’t see yourself as more than a struggling writer – think about how the farmer saw everything that happened in his life. Nothing was good or bad…it just was. Maybe you’re in a dry writing season right now. Maybe you won’t find writing motivation because your fields are fallow. Or, maybe you need to water your fields, plow them, plant them. Only you know why you’re calling yourself a struggling writer right now…and only you can find the key that unlocks your potential.
If you’d like to join an in-person writing group but there isn’t one in your area, read 7 Tips for Starting a Writers’ Group – Writing Alone, Together.
What do you think about The Parable of the Poor Farmer? Do you have writing motivation to share – or are you one of the struggling writers who just can’t get going? I welcome your thoughts below!