Maintaining your motivation can be one of the hardest things to do as a writer. I don’t know why that is, but so often I find myself staring at a white page and randomly wandering if I need to dust the tops of picture frames or write a list of people I need to buy Christmas gifts for when it’s still the month of July.
And we all know…that doesn’t exactly help you write. No matter how many uses an exhaustive list of who to get Christmas presents for can have, being a tool to stop you from writing should not be one of them.
I’ve talked about this a little bit before in my post on conquering your writing hang-ups and used the tool of self-reflection in the workbook. It’s an extremely helpful exercise and one that can indeed get you writing again.
However, there’s always more work to do amIright?
Especially when lacking motivation is a problem that shows up over and over in your writing life. There could be a deeper issue.
For many people, writing is a serious endeavor. It’s our heart, our passions, and for a few, our livelihood. Maintaining your momentum can be crucial not only to your pocketbook but to your own creativity and self-connection.
Sometimes we don’t need to ask the questions…sometimes we need to treat writing like a job.
I know, I totally just made writing sound like a bummer didn’t I?
Here’s the deal though: if you want to write and be published, or write and reach your own personal goals, you have to have discipline and a strong work ethic. Both things found in a star employee.
It’s hard to think of writers as hard workers when we face the stigma of the addicted-to-something and highly depressed creative just waiting around for inspiration to strike and then writing in a frenzy, ignoring the outside world. And while that works for some people, it doesn’t work for me.
And I doubt it works for you. If it did, you wouldn’t be here.
So how do we go about treating writing “like a job”? Treat it like an obligation or a meeting. Schedule it into your planner, go even when you don’t want to or have no inspiration, and create the space you need to write daily.
Here are my tips.
Find a reason to write every day.
But being disciplined takes practice. It’s consistently coming back day after day, even if you’re tired or grumpy or the kids wouldn’t settle or you had ramen for dinner or you got in a fight with a partner. It takes intention and forethought and creating a writing schedule that works for you.
Write even when it’s hard.
Some days, getting those words out of your head will feel like pulling teeth. You’ll be distracted by everything on the planet and writing 500 words will take you two hours rather than the half hour it normally does. Those days suck.
The more you practice writing on the days that are hard, the more you’ll appreciate the days where it comes easily and the easier those hard days will be to conquer. You’ll build a stronger and stronger work ethic and will be able to get those words out even when it feels like the hardest thing you’ll do all day.
Set goals and keep them in sight.
I absolutely swear by setting goals. I LOVE setting goals. New Year’s Resolutions are my favorite. But here’s the thing: there is a right way and a wrong way to set goals.
Give yourself a specific goal. Don’t try something general like “I’ll write every day”. Say you’ll write 500 words each day for a week. One is overwhelming and intimidating, the other is manageable and doable. Write down your ultimate, dream-big goal. Then break it down into smaller goals. Once you’ve figured out all the pieces you need to get where you’re going, write them down on 3×5 cards, one on each card. Only look at the goal you currently need/want to accomplish. As you progress through your smaller goals, you’ll get closer and closer to your main goal.
Give yourself plenty perspective.
This goes two ways: giving yourself grace and encouraging yourself to go on.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up about where you are. Don’t look back and see all the ways you could have done things differently and tell yourself you’re a failure. Instead, see where you went wrong, pinpoint the exact things (like I did in my post on writing first drafts) you could have done better, and DO them next time. Perhaps you could have done better, yes, but that’s in the past. It has no hold on who you are as a writer right now. Don’t let it dictate what sort of writer you become. Let it change you for the better.
Secondly, it’s helpful to use a habit tracker. Say you want to try writing every day for a month. That’s a great goal! When you’re on your second Tuesday though, your motivation might fizzle out. What I recommend (and what I use) is a long-term habit tracker. For example, if you were to create one for your goal of writing every day for a month, I would find some way to track it in a big picture way. For you this could mean a color coded dot on your monthly calendar. For others, if could be a series of tally marks for each week of the month. Keep it somewhere you’ll see frequently and be reminded of your goal. Not only will it motivate you to keep writing, but the act of physically marking off your achievement of the day will draw you back and help you accomplish quite a lot.
Do you use any of these ideas? What has worked for you to keep up your motivation? I’d love to hear in the comments!