Six Ways to Get Motivated to Write
For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve struggled to sit down and get motivated to write. It’s an irony widespread amongst writers that we will find any way possible to avoid doing the one thing we most want to do. As soon as I think about writing, I realize that I need to fold the laundry before it wrinkles, or return an overdue library book. When I finally sit down at the computer and open my work in progress, the blinking cursor taunts me. My brain can’t quite figure out how to get started.
I’ve learned that I can’t just wait for motivation to kick in: I have to create it. Here are some motivational tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:
Stick to a routine
Lots of writers recommend routines, but that’s because it works. Getting motivated to write doesn’t just happen – we must train it by giving it the space it needs. Author Nicola Yoon wrote her debut novel from 4-6 am every day for more than two years. That doesn’t mean you have to get up and write at 4 am. Writing in the morning is a common routine of many writers. It’s less likely that life will interrupt you early in the day. Writing at night works better for others as it’s the only time available after putting the kids to bed or finishing work. Whatever the routine, it’s important to have defined time to write. That way your mind and body get in the habit of showing up ready to work.
I have the unfortunate habit of setting huge goals. When I fail to get up early and write the 2,000 words I’d planned before breakfast, my day crumbles. Forgive yourself if you don’t hit your goal for the day, or the week. Don’t beat yourself up about it – we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to make progress.
Set reasonable goals
Ambition is wonderful, but if we set the goalposts too far away, it’s easy for everything to feel like failure. Pay attention to what works for you, not for all the other writers you admire. If you write 500 words, that’s 500 words that didn’t exist yesterday – setting goals that you can attain will get you motivated to write.
Don’t compare yourself to someone who can bang out 5,000 words in a day. If you work better by not setting a word count goal at all, but instead giving yourself one hour to accomplish whatever happens, do that instead. Set a goal that works with you and your life. It’s supposed to motivate you, not make you feel bad that you didn’t accomplish what you planned. Whether you set those goals with Novlr or elsewhere, so long as you log them and keep yourself accountable, you’ll be sure to stay motivated.
If you’re writing early in the morning, set things up the night before so that you’re spending less time getting from your bed to your writing spot. At night, I clear off my desk and make sure my computer is charging, get my coffee maker ready, and even set out my clothes for the next day. The quicker I get to writing, the less chance for distraction.
What’s your carrot?
Figure out what drives you. Are you deadline-driven? Reward driven? Lean into it. If you’re deadline-driven, set a date to share your work in progress with a friend, or find a literary magazine with a deadline for submissions. If you’re reward-driven, set small rewards for making progress. It can be anything from a walk around the neighborhood to a new pair of boots, whatever fits your interests, budget, and diet. I’m very deadline-driven, so I use the meetings of my writing group to push me toward completing a new story or a couple new chapters. When I have a short story in mind, I’ll research anthologies or literary magazines accepting submissions, so I know I’ll have to finish and revise it before their submissions close.
Who gets you motivated to write?
Who are your literary heroes? Do you follow people on social media that make you think “if they can do this, so can I?” While I greatly admire writers like Neil Gaiman and Roxane Gay, I have a hard time imagining myself at their level when they seem so accomplished and prolific. Following emerging writers on social media motivates me to keep going, because it’s easier for me to imagine that I could eventually follow a similar path. When I see Leah Johnson, Elly Bangs, or Jeneva Rose posting about their latest successes, struggles, or thoughts on writing, it adds to my motivation to keep writing. I screenshot posts I find inspiring and useful and keep them in an album on my phone to flip through when I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated. Just don’t get sucked into social media during your writing time.
What motivates you to get going and keep going with your writing? Tell us in the comments below!