It takes a long time to write a novel. It takes self-discipline, passion, courage and lots and lots of coffee. Some days you’re on fire, exceeding your daily word count painlessly, hours disappear as you wander the woods of your imagined world and the prose flows through your fingertips effortlessly. Plus, you’re having fun. Other days aren’t quite like that and when those days start stacking up, motivation can be hard to find. So, how do you brave the blank page if the only motivation you can muster is for a Netflix binge?
Friend, I got you.
Here’s my top five tips for resurrecting your writerly motivation.
(If you prefer to consume video content, then head on over to my YouTube channel and watch this weeks video).
Tip # 1: Why do you write?
The best motivation for writing is to remember why you wanted to write a novel. Now, stop right there. I know what you’re going to say. “I wanted to write a novel because I’m an avid reader.” Woah, calm down cowboy. We just met, no need to bowl me over with your deep analysis of self! Why don’t you just bring your diary along on our first date, that way we don’t have to think of anything to talk about.Yeah, I get it. You’re an avid reader. We are ALL avid reader. That’s why we’re here dude!If you’re going to do this exercise, do it right. You got to dig a little deeper into the tar pit of your psyche. And wouldn’t you know it, I wrote a whole blog on this very topic, and look! Oh, wow! I’ve even provided the link. 😉
If you really can’t figure out why you want to write, try answering some of these questions:
When the writing is going well, how do you feel? Do you feel excited, mentally stimulated, alive? Maybe you lose yourself totally because you’re so focussed on the work, the characters and the setting?
What parts of writing do you find easy/hard? Do you enjoy the challenge of problem solving? Do you live for that moment when two elements suddenly thread together?
How did your favourite book make you feel when you were reading it? Inspired or like the author articulated an experienced you’ve had, but could never put into words?
Once you figured out why you want to write, jot it down on a post-it and keep it near your computer. This will bring you extra motivation whenever you’re feeling discouraged.
Tip # 2: Setting deadlines
The best way to stay motivated is to set small goals and regular deadlines. Personally, I flip between a set daily word counts or hours spent writing per day. An example of a small, regular deadline would be: “This week I’m going to write 2000 words every day” or “I’ll dedicate three hours every day to the editing of my manuscript.” I love daily deadline. I love the daily gratification of knowing progress is being made.
Maybe daily deadlines are too short for you. Maybe you don’t like the idea of word counts or hours spent. That’s cool, develop your own style. Maybe you could shoot for weekly, monthly or three monthly deadlines. Your set goals could be the completion of a scene, chapters, short story or a submission to a competition. Whatever! Once you’ve figured out your goals and deadlines, mark it on your calendar. Next, you’re going to schedule out your writing time for the next week/month/three monthly period. But, before you crack open your lappy, let me walk you through step three….
Tip # 3: Small rewards
Small rewards are a ridiculously good motivator. I know you think you’re above a rewards system because you’re a “mature adult,” but you’re wrong. Rewards are awesome. A way to super-charge this system is to pick rewards that support your writing habit. For example, if I write 2000 words today, then I can watch a YouTube video about writing/self-publishing/getting an agent. If I finish that scene, then I can go for a walk and listen to one of my favourite writing podcasts. The great thing about small rewards is that you can use them every day and they’re often free. I love free stuff. By using a mini reward system, you can trick yourself into developing a strong, regular writing habit. Plus, these rewards can help you grow and learn as an artist.
Tip # 4: Listening to music or re-reading a favourite book
I know this seems obvious, but we don’t always follow through with obvious solutions, do we? Nothing can change your mood, lift your spirits or energise you as quickly as music can. Have you guys noticed that trend amongst indie authors to release playlists that complement their books? Why go to the trouble? Simple. Music creates mood. If you’re feeling out of sync with a manuscript, putting on some songs that evoke the mood your aiming to create can help reposition you back in the story. If you got a spare twenty minutes, I highly recommend creating a playlist of songs that either a) complement the mood of your book or b) get you lusty for life!Another great option is to re-reading one of your favourite book. Be warned though, this can lead to hours spent reading instead of writing. So, if you’re going to take this tactic, put a timer on it. Set a limit of thirty minutes (or less). That’s enough time to get some good go-go juice and get on with your own project.
Tip # 5: Inspiration and motivation are overrated
Putting the above fantastic tips aside, the truth is: inspiration and motivation are overrated. You can read all the inspirational and motivational tips your crafty little heart desires, but nine out of ten times, you just have to sit down and write. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you’re not in the mood.When I was doing my undergrad degree, one of my lectures gave me the best advice I ever heard in regards to procrastination. She said to set a timer for ten minutes, sit down and start your work. If the timer goes off and you’re still struggling to “get into” the project, then switch off your computer and go do something else. The great thing about this advice is that your resistance towards the work usually evaporates within that ten minutes. If it doesn’t, maybe you really aren’t in the headspace to do something creative — it happens! — in which case, you may be better off attending to other areas of your life like catching up with friend, family or doing your laundry.
So, there you have it. My top five times for staying motivated as a writer. If you’ve discovered any nifty writerly tricks, be sure to leave a comment below.
Image: Saturday Morning by Fatma. M