Motivation. We writer’s need it.
But, how exactly do we go about finding it?
Do we trawl through various cafes, spying out every guy with a macbook and a caramel macchiato – hoping his productive juices (No pun intended) will rub off on us?
Do we go ahead and buy $30 ebooks, that supposedly “kills writer’s block dead”?
Or, do we roll around in bed in 5-day-old pyjamas that smells of sweat and failure, waiting for the words to our novels and blogs to just fall on us like a cliché piano, dangling out of an apartment window?
Nope. We do none of those things! Especially, buying that overpriced ebook… Eeeeh.
Instead we find a list compiled with all the motivational techniques known to man – or at least most of them. Then we read it!
Luckily for you, I’ve gone and created a 4500+ word comprehensive guide, on how writer’s can boost motivation every single time.
I know, that’s a pretty bold statement to make, but I have confidence this guide will knock your socks off!
I say ‘confidence’, but it’s more like a desperate, all-consuming hope, which will probably keep me up at night until months go by and I forget I’ve posted this thing…
Too long have writer’s stared wistfully at their computer screens! Too long, have our pens been used to scribble mildly offensive cartoons in the upper-corners of our writing journals.
For too darn long, have words alluded us and dispersed into the abyss like water vapour!
It is time, my literary friends, that we kicked writer’s block and lack of motivation, on its big ole’ saggy posterior.
1. DO NOT set yourself ‘extreme word count goals’!
Every time I see a fellow writer doing or suggesting obscene word counts to boost motivation, I want to cry.
Because, in a matter of days time and time again, new writers will lose all motivation to write, and that word count ends up looming above their heads like an angry matron – ready to pummel and bash their skulls in with a welding mallet.
As writers we shouldn’t push ourselves to write heinous word-counts like 5000 words a day. We shouldn’t even really push ourselves to write 1000 words a day!
Forcing anything will never culminate in solid results.Well, at least as far as I am concerned!
Setting a word count, inevitably takes the fun out of writing. We will feel pressured to drum out as many words as we can before the sun sets, or rises depending on your sleep schedule, and this will cause the problem of ‘quantity over quality’.
Our prose will be sloppy, our sentence structure a joke, and our paragraphs a war-zone.
I know, you’re probably thinking – but it’s just the first draft, what does it matter if my writing sucks? It matters a lot, actually.
Think about it, if you’re building a house and its foundations consist of rickety old wood that’s rotting away before your very eyes, are you going to be able to build a solid structure, and eventually home, out of that?
No. You’re not.
Although it’s ok to just focus on getting your story out onto paper when writing your first draft. What’s not ok, is to rush! Details will go missing, descriptions will be flawed, and you’ll leave yourself regrettably, with a lot more editing work.
Sure, if word counts work for you – and you like them. Go ahead. But I really don’t suggest setting unreasonable goals and requirements for yourself, especially if you’re new, have a job, and you want to maintain your enjoyment for the writing process.
Let the words flow naturally. If they want to come out they will – don’t try to turn 200 words that came out of you like warm butter, into a thousand words that you had to rip out of yourself with a titanium crowbar.
2. Routine, routine, routine – you need it.
The worst thing you can possibly do to yourself as a writer, is continuously put off writing.
You need to find time in your day to write – be it a few words, or a gargantuan stack of pages.
It doesn’t matter how much you jot down, you just need to jot something, anything, down. This is why I will always stress the importance of routine.
Organising yourself, and finding that stray run-away hour that can be utilised for writing is extremely beneficial.
Often, we assume we are all so busy, that we couldn’t ever dream of sitting down day after day and letting the words flow. But we’re wrong! If you write out a rough list of things you do in your day, with the hours tallied to the side, you will find at least 3 or so hours are unaccounted for.
These hours, are probably being used to eat junk-food and mindlessly watch the newest TV series on HBO. Unfortunately, you are going to have to cut that out of your life!
If you want to be a writer, you need to make sure you are writing. You can’t just plop down in front of your computer, and type out only a few measly words a month – that’s not productive by any means, and will cause your projects to move along at a sluggish pace.
A pace, that you’ll more than likely grow frustrated with.
I make sure to write at least once a day. Whether it’s an article, or a story, it doesn’t particularly matter to me. As long as I know I am honing my craft and doing the best that I can possibly achieve with my study load, I am happy.
Your writing routine doesn’t have to be ‘at so-and-so on blah-bleeh-blah’. No, you can wing it if you want! As long as you make sure you’ve written here or there, that’s all that matters. But, that’s not to say a bit of structure and rigidity in life isn’t a good thing!
Keep in mind, you don’t have to write every single day if you don’t want to. But, if you really want to supercharge your craft and motivation, writing more tends to help you, well… Write more!
The more I write, oddly enough, the more I find I want to write – it’s almost like an addiction! A pleasurable one for that matter, that keeps me out of the nearest rehab due to the sweet allure of mary-jane or the joviality of foul-mouthed gin.
3. Writing exercises, they actually work!
In one of my subjects at college for my course in professional writing and editing, writing exercises are used each and every time during classes.
We never go a class without them.
And you know what? They’re actually fun and they boost motivation like crazy.
There’s nothing better than a writing challenge that promotes you to try new things, and step out of your comfort zone.
If you want to try writing exercises I have to warn you – you might be sitting at your desk for a good few minutes scratching your head, trying to figure out how you want to attack the prompt or exercise. But once you start writing? You’ll be on a roll!
Writing exercises are honestly such a great tool to integrate into your writing routine. Not only are you actually doing some writing, but you are playing with new topics, characters, and ideas – ones you probably never thought to write before.
A few great exercises I’d personally recommend are:
- Construct three characters – Personalities, needs, wants, and fears included! Oh, and make sure they’re COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from each other. Once that’s done. Put them all in the same situation, one by one, and write down how you think they’d react to their environment and their current circumstances. The situations you can throw them in can be anything – but, I suggest making it dramatic and unexpected! Robberies, fires, and crashes tend to be a great place to start.
- World building! This exercise involves picturing a world different to our own, and making it come to life on paper or on the computer screen. Try doing at least two worlds, and describe each world’s environment, governance, culture, and societal rules. You can totally go crazy with this one and make anything from a desert-wasteland, to a mechanised dystopia, or even a realm full of magic and fire sprites. It’s all in your very capable hands.
- Write back-stories. You can use the three characters you made in the above exercise to do this one, or you can make up completely different characters. What you want to do, is draw up an idea of a character and get a good understanding of who they are. Then, you are going to want to find out why they are who they are! Write out a back-story that makes sense, and that comes from the character more than yourself. For instance, if your character is aggressive and spiteful, what made them that way? What hurt them so bad, that they can’t show kindness to others anymore?
One of the extra bonuses of trying out writing exercises is that the ideas, the stories, and the plot-points you come up with, can always be used later as inspiration for a novel or short-story!
4. Turn that bloody phone off!
Don’t waste your time, by putting a lot of effort into setting time aside to write, to only go and sabotage yourself. Leaving phones on, or any form of electronics for that matter on, is an absolute death sentence for writing.
Make sure you eliminate all gadgets that a) distract you, and b) notify you via boisterous pings.
Yes I know, sometimes notifications are dreadfully important and could entail the likes of a job opportunity or a familial update. But, sometimes you’ve gotta’ cut the fat and grit your teeth and bear it.
There’s a time and place for everything, and electronics are certainly not welcome when you want to stay motivated, and write!
5. Write badly once in a while
Sometimes what a writer needs, is to ignore those extravagant projects causing unnecessary stress and sapping motivation, and type out a few meaningless words once in a while.
It’s always good to start up notepad or Microsoft word on the computer, and begin tapping those keys on your keyboard. It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write something.
One of the biggest issues for writers when it comes to maintaining and regulating motivation, is the fact we can’t seem to kick-start our writing and dive head first into it. That’s why it’s always good to write about absolutely nothing in particular.
Once you get the words flowing, eventually, after a few hundred words, you’ll be ready to continue your project or write that article for your client.
It’s not important whether you have a topic or a motive for what you’re writing with this one, it can really be about anything! The key to this motivational trick, is to simply embrace it and jump into it with no restraint or fear.
6. Stay loyal to your writing
You can’t call yourself a writer, and then ignore writing as if it’s that boring uncle that always regales you with tales of his ‘shoe-tree collection’. Stay loyal to your writing!
Writing is your friend, it’s your brother or sister, it can even be your partner from time to time! Either way, writing is always going to be there for you whenever you need it. But, are you going to be there for writing?
That’s entirely up to you.
But don’t expect to stay motivated 99% of the time, when you don’t respect writing as an art-form, and you refuse to accept it as a crucial part of your life.
If you can live without writing another word in your novel or on your blog, maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be writing at all.
7. Try out motivational tools
Never be afraid to delve into writing tools that challenge you, and motivate you.
There’s a huge difference between personally setting word counts for yourself, and an app or friend setting them!
The difference is, when doing it on your own, you are personally forcing yourself to adhere to requirements – this leaves you open to the possibility of disappointing yourself, and perhaps you might even lose your passion for the craft altogether.
It’s much more fun and exciting to have friends or even a computer spur you on with challenges!
You won’t feel too bad if you don’t meet the expectations set, since the challenge was just spontaneously thrown at you, and it wasn’t some sort of rigid compulsory task that makes you want to pull your hair out.
And let’s be honest, if a friend bets you that you can’t write 1000 words in an hour about tic-tac-toe, you’re going to prove that friend wrong!
Now, motivational tools are not just about trying to drum out a certain amount of words in an hour or two. There’s plenty of apps that help you to visualise and bring projects to life as well, and there are also apps designed solely for cutting distractions. Here are some of them, listed below.
A few great motivational tools for writing are:
- The Brainstormer – Lacking inspiration, or an idea for a story? Check out Brainstormer. It’s a nifty little tool that picks a random plot with a mixture of themes and ideas thrown in, for you to write about. The best part is, whatever Brainstormer throws at you, you can choose how you want to elaborate on it. Whether it’s a flash fiction piece, a short story, a novella, or a 100,000 word book, who cares! Because, you’ve found yourself something you can work on and use to hone your writing skills, and get that motivation a’ flowing.
- FocusWriter – Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, FocusWriter servers to scrap clutter on your computer screen, and promote writing motivation and further its users’ productivity. It has plenty of awesome features the likes of: daily goals, timers and alarms, customisable themes, typewriter sound effects ~squeals~, and even live statistics! The list goes on. Either way, it’s clear FocusWriter is a great application that you can utilise for various projects and goals.
- The Most Dangerous Writing App – It’s not called the most dangerous writing app for nothing ok folks! You’ve been warned. If you stop writing for three seconds, expect all of your writing to be lost, and also expect to bang your head against your keyboard. If you really want to challenge yourself and get those writing juices pumping, this application is certainly for you.
8. Let people know when you’re going to write
If you live in a large household, or even a small one with only two to three other house-mates – let them know you are planning on having a writing-sesh.
The worst thing you can do to yourself, is follow a few of the tips and tricks in this article, only to have your motivation-fueled writing squandered on a freak appearance involving your Mum or roomy, or your boyfriend or girlfriend.
No one likes being interrupted when writing because of a stupid question, or an attention-starved sibling!
So, make sure EVERYONE knows you don’t want to be disturbed.
You don’t even have to mention you are writing! You can just say you’re busy, and have things you need to do alone.
It’s as simple as that.
9. Turn on some music that motivates you to write
For some of us writers, music is a definite no-go, since we can’t help but sing along or immerse ourselves in the beat and the lyrics. But, I am certain there’s a few of us that actually enjoy it, and consider it to boost our productivity.
If you think, or know, you’re one of the people that music can help – try finding a playlist on Spotify, or an album in your iTunes, that’ll keep you in the groove of drumming out those oh-so lucrative words.
I suggest however, not putting on a long-winding rock ballad, or Freddie Mercury’s top ten hits – you will definitely want to belt out a few lines in tandem with the songs, and you’ll probably want to perform a mini drum solo.
Such things, are definitely not helpful in terms of motivating you to write!
Although, I suppose you could say they’re a great motivation to join a band, and start selling CDs out of the boot of your beat-up tobacco-scented ’78 Camaro.
10. Draft up a list of the reasons why writing is important to you
Sure I guess you could see this as a form of procrastination. But seeing as your reading an article on how to motivate yourself to write, I’m certain you’ve already started to get the impulse to do just that!
If you list out all the reasons you love writing, and why it’s important to you, you’ll be gagging to write something – definitely anything that isn’t a list, for sure!
Try to think long and hard though, about what makes writing more than just a passion for you. Really delve deep into your conscience and your emotions, and pull up the good stuff. Like, those golden nuggets of your identity that makes you you, and that classify you as a dedicated writer.
11. Reward yourself
I have to make it clear that this tip comes directly from the one and only James Chartrand from Men with Pens, via her guest post at WritetoDone.com. She’s a fantastic writer – and definitely propels a writer such as myself to jealousy! If you have the time, check out her writing course Damn Fine Words; the testimonials from her students are the best I’ve ever read!
Anyways, thanks to James, my writing is now in a sense ‘incentivised’. And yes, I just made up a word – it’s a good one, alright!
She explained rather concisely, that people commonly stick to bad habits more so than good ones, because of the reward the bad habits entail.
For instance, do you want to wake up at 6am every morning and knock chores out of the way before 9? Chances are, you probably don’t. and if you attempted it… after a few days you would most likely conk out and throw in the towel, and let your laundry basket pile over just like last week.
But, what if you swapped that example for a drink at the pub after a stressful day at work?
I’m sure you’d find that you would stick to that ritual like glue.
Reason being, the reward is quicker – and you are stimulating your body with something pleasurable and familiar.
You are not going to want to do the things that in the long-run help you out, because in the short-term they offer no accessible or tangible reward.
This is where James’ brilliant suggestion to combat this dilemma, comes in handy!
If you are finding it hard to stay motivated and keep writing. Why don’t you throw in a little reward every time you finish a project or hit a certain word count?
Now, this reward can’t just be something you can have any day of the week. Make it something you really like or enjoy, and that is a ‘treat’ of sorts.
Your reward can be anything from a much-loved glass of Cabernet (My personal favourite), a binge-watch of a TV show you enjoy, or perhaps if you’ve got a sweet tooth – an ice cream cone.
As long as it’s something you really want, and it works? You’re good to go.
12. Read books about writing
I’ve found that there’s nothing more in the world that motivates me to write, than books. And that is amplified a trillion times when I’m reading a book specifically about the craft!
What I’ve noticed, and this tends to cover all writers, is that when we read we are immediately inspired and filled up with motivation.
We can’t wait to finish a few more pages of the book we’re reading, so that we can quickly snatch up our writing journal or jump on the computer, and fill up some of our own pages with writing.
Not only is reading a book on the craft going to motivate you to write more and do better, it’s also going to strengthen your knowledge on story structure and all other necessary facets that make up quality writing.
13. Just read books in general!
I know, it’s basically the same tip as the one you literally just read. But I needed to make sure everyone knows all books no matter the topic, are an awesome motivation booster!
And not only that… They’re a great stress reducer!
As the 2009 study at the University of Sussex shows – stress was reduced by a WHOPPING 68% simply by reading regularly.
Not only that, book reading also stimulates your imagination and drives you to fill in the gaps in imagery and description – this is key to improving good writing.
As your mind gets to work painting the picture the author has weaved in the book you’re reading, the more it adapts to connecting words and sentences with producing imaginative effects. This will in a positive consequence, seep into your writing and produce a higher quality of work.
If you read, you’ll become a literary genius in no time!
And let’s not forget, as your mind is ticking away, digesting all of those delicious paragraphs and entrancing prose, you are going to want to get to doing some of your own writing at one point or another.
14. Make up imaginary deadlines
This motivational writing tip, was inspired by Ali Luke’s take on how writers can stay motivated, at her blog Aliventures. I suggest checking out some of her articles – they’re all well-written, and perfect for writers wanting to improve and move up the writing ranks.
There’s always something exciting about writing under a deadline, don’t you think?
I like the professionalism of it all. I like to feel like I need to accomplish something important, and fast! No procrastination allowed.
This, is probably because I am extremely lazy, so any form of ‘butt-kicking’ spurs me into action with a child-like joy that is dreadfully embarrassing.
Perhaps however, writing while under deadlines can help you as well, and produce the same results?
Try setting imaginary deadlines for yourself – you can even make up fake scenarios like, “My client needs this article before sundown, or else I’m going to be kicked off the writing team!”, “There’s a huge volcanic eruption happening in Finland, I need to be the first one to report on it, and write an article about it!”, “My kids, are going to be back from school any minute… I have to finish this political essay ASAP”.
Remember, this game is all in good fun – don’t get super carried away, and forget that you don’t actually have kids in need of picking up from school, and that there’s not a volcanic eruption threatening Finnish lives!
15. Go to writing workshops, online or otherwise
It’s always a great idea to invest a little time and effort into your writing.
Take a moment during the weekend, to check out a few writing workshops! Nothing motivates a writer more than criticism or praise.
Unless, of course, you absolutely hate criticism… Then, I hate to break the bad news to you but, being a writer is made up of 98% rejection and a sliver of success. You have to really love the craft if you want to endure to the end in this industry!
If you do decide to check out a writing workshop, local or via the interwebs’, keep in mind that you need to provide and contribute to the group – expect to read a lot of stories, and dish out a tonne of solid advice.
Not only is workshopping great for the obvious – improving your writing.
It is also a brilliant way to make connections and network with other like-minded people in the writing biz!
So that you don’t have to go through an innumerable amount of websites searching for online workshops, here are some easy to click links:
- Online Writing Workshop – This site focuses primarily on Science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They have a 1 month free period, so give ’em a try!
- Critique Circle – With an impressive 3000+ members, 123,414 processed stories, and 596,074 critiques, Critique Circle is an awesome site to check out and get your stories workshopped.
- Scribophile – Scribophile is a respectful online writing workshop and writers community, as tauted on their homepage, that embraces all writers no matter their skill level. This is a great site to have a look at and perhaps join – you’ll make some great connections, and receive detailed feedback on your work.
16. Create a writing oasis
Do you have a room, or a little nook in your house, just for writing?
If not, make one!
When you have a special place to write, over time your brain will register that when you are hanging out there, it’s time to buck down and get productive.
What your writing place should consist of is, a clean well-lit space, where everything is tidy and seamless.
Including plants and art in your writing area is also a great stimulant for writing, and will improve the ambiance and feel of your space.
Without a chilled out area that’s all your own, where you can just kick back and plow through a good novel or write an awesome crime thriller – you’re going to struggle big time to stay motivated.
17. Write about what gets you passionate!
If you’re writing about boring stuff like “What’s the best way to do data entry”, or “How to file effectively at a speedy rate”, there’s a large chance that your brain will end up turning into sludge and dripping out of your ears.
I know it’s really hard as a freelance or professional writer, to constantly find work that enables you to write about the stuff you care about. But, if you are starting to find it hard to get up for work in the morning, and producing content you’re proud of is far and few between, maybe it’s time you sought clients that want material on issues you love?
Don’t waste away precious hours repetitively dishing out articles, or even stories, about things you have zero passion for. It’ll be near impossible to write great copy, and extremely unlikely for you to be able to concoct fanciful tales that’ll draw in readers.
If you continue to write mindless crap that you can’t muster the strength to enjoy. You will, over and over, find yourself stuck in a ‘bored shitless’ state where motivation has left you quicker than a postman can leg it from an over-excited rottweiler.
You write because you love it. Don’t drift so far away from that love, so as to jeopardise it!
Ok, so that’s it. I think I’ve touched on just about everything!
I hope, after reading this guide you’ve officially reclaimed your motivation to write, and you have some awesome tricks in the bank to keep it that way.
Remember, as long as you develop your love and adoration for words, you will consistently be capable of writing long passages and winding narratives.
Nurture your love for the craft, and ultimately, the craft will return the favour!