Alright, I’ll be the first to admit it, motivation is likely the single most damning problem in my life. I love to write, I love to read, but I also love to procrastinate. I know I’m not alone, and neither are you. Over the years that I’ve been writing, motivation has been the single most common experience I’ve shared with other authors. While our lack of motivation often manifests itself in different ways, the keys to overcoming those motivation problems are often all the same. I’d like to share with you some of the most practiced techniques for keeping your ass on track (and even some of the more obscure), in hopes that we can get you moving in a more productive and satisfying direction.
For part 1 of this series, I’m going to start you off at the beginning. Many of you may have already adopted some of these techniques, but a quick refresher will do you good. For the rest of you, these are a few of the most basic and painless steps towards motivating the writer in you and staying that way.
KEEP a writing schedule:
Out of all the motivational tips in the world, this is one that has proven itself effective time and time again. This applies to all aspects of life, not just writing, and is particularly effective for those of us that never seem to find the time to do anything but what we have to. Here’s what I want you to do. Make writing one of those things you HAVE to do.
- Pull out a calendar…I don’t care if it’s on your phone, lying across your desk, or if you start one in a notebook. Now, don’t go crazy with it, just focus on one particular week at first.
- Write down all your major obligations, work, class, appointments etc; all the things that you just can’t avoid doing. Don’t forget to include a loose understanding of when you’ll sleep as well. Sleep is another incredibly important motivator, but I’ll cover that one at a later time. Look really hard at it, chances are it has a lot more holes in it than you thought. You’re really not as busy as you would have yourself believe.
- Pen yourself in. Maybe you’ll notice that I said pen and not pencil. Penciling yourself in implies that you might be able to make a change to that later. We’re trying to making writing a priority, erasures are out of the question. Once you’ve developed a good writing habit, then you can think about making changes, until then, it’s imperative that you keep this appointment. Maybe you want to start small (I recommend this). Find a half hour each day, preferably the same time, and put it in your calendar, marked as Writing.
- Bold it, color code it, whatever you have to do, but make sure it’s in there and on the same level of importance as work etc.
- Start with today!
- When the time on your calendar says Writing, stop what you’re doing and write. If you have to, shut off your phone, turn off your internet and plan to have something to show for it when you’re done. If you don’t have a goal for topic or page numbers that’s fine, just keep writing. The focus with this exercise is getting yourself trained the same way you are with the other important aspects of your life. You want to FEEL that writing is as important as work.
- Eventually, after a few days/weeks of keeping to a schedule, your subconscious will begin to treat it as a priority and you’ll start worrying and making sure that you are ready to write when the time starts to approach, just as you would about getting ready to go to work.
- Eventually you can start to lengthen the time that you give yourself on the calendar, adding a half hour here and there or extending it to an hour or more. Just don’t go too wild. Alloting yourself more time than you’re ready to handle can lead you astray.
Many of you have always wanted to write a novel but aren’t sure where to start. Perhaps you have an amazing idea for a short story or a series of shorts but the whole process just feels a little too overwhelming. While often times the sheer magnitude of a project is scary, setting clear and achievable goals can help propel you into getting started and provide you with small satisfactions that will help to motivate you to continue.
Sure, it’s easy for me to tell you to set goals, but what kind of goals should you set? The sexiest aspect of the goal setting process is that there is only one right answer; set goals that you know you can achieve! The main objective in the goal setting process is to allow yourself some small successes along the way, not to make yourself feel like a failure. Keeping this in mind, make your goals realistic. Start with the overall long-term goal. If you want to write a novel, give yourself a year. Mark a deadline on your new calendar. One year from now, I will have written X amount of pages. Don’t stop here, this is still overwhelming in itself without the smaller goals that move you along your path to completion. Maybe you need time to flesh out your story ideas a little more. Set a research goal; by next Monday at 10:00 pm I will have researched thoroughly all the aspects of ___. Then you’ll want to set your writing goals. Again, keep them attainable. Word and time limits are your best friend when it comes to a writing goal. Don’t stop until you’ve reached those limits, and if you’re still feeling good, keep on going. There’s certainly nothing wrong with keeping that creativity flowing if you feel it. For a novel, set daily goals, weekly goals, chapter goals and a finishing goal. Give yourself a month for a chapter if that’s what you feel you need. Once you start reaching your goals, you can turn that overwhelming feeling around into a sense of accomplishment and excitement. You’ve moved a step closer to the finished product!
Use Social Networking to Your Advantage:
This one is a favorite of mine. I’ve used it on quite a few occasions to pull myself out of the dank recesses of writers block, crippling boredom and everyone’s favorite archenemy, procrastination. The hardest part of this motivation technique is evading the instinct to read through all your friends posts and kitten pictures, but if you’ve taken my advice from above and set goals and marked them on your calendar, there will be time for those things later. Jump on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, wherever and share your enthusiasm for writing!
- The first step to the social networking method of motivation is to make sure everyone you know is AWARE that you write. Maybe you’ve posted on Facebook that you are working on a story, you might have even had a few comments back from people that are interested in checking out your work. For many of you, this may already be the case, but reaffirm it, tell them again.
- Play the Hype game. Get people interested in your work (even when it doesn’t exist yet), their positive words and vibes will help propel you into production. Who knows, you may even come across someone else with a motivation problem, someone you can mutually lean on for support and to share your experiences and motivational techniques with.
- Once everyone knows that your passionate about a project, post your new writing goals and deadlines for them to see. I recommend doing this in short bursts throughout the week. If you have to, appeal to their bossy side and ask them straight out to help you keep on track. I know from experience that there will be a few out there who can’t wait to boss you around a little. Don’t get mad, let them force you to keep moving.
- Make sure to tell everyone that you’ve reached your goal. You might be surprised at just how motivating the positive feedback of your peers can be. Even if it’s just a few likes and “congrats” comments on your post, remind yourself that someone besides yourself is excited/happy for you and use that energy to keep moving forward.
- (Optional) Share what you’ve done so far. Maybe you don’t want to let them read the full chapter you’ve just finished, but give them something. Give them an excerpt that you feel particularly proud of. While I say this is optional, I think that for your ego, this is mandatory. It will help keep them excited for your work, and it will give you that one more bit of positive feedback you need to keep yourself excited as well.
- After you’ve filled your ego with their positive vibes and congratulations, share with them what your new goal is. Be excited! Continue to hype yourself up and let them know that the finished product is going to be something they love and will want to share.
- Don’t post your next goal until you’ve reached the last. This is especially important. Once you start posting the goals you aren’t even ready to work towards, you change the expectations that your friends have, and set yourself up for failure.
- (Somewhat Optional) Share the finished product. Remember, the whole goal of writing is to share, and since you’ve been hyping them up, they are going to demand to read what you’ve done. If you don’t plan to publish, this should be simple. Find a place to post your work, even if it’s on Google Drive, and get it to them. Get on your Twitter account, Facebook page and the like and promote the crap out of your work! If you’re planning to publish, make sure they know that you’ve planned that goal, and keep them informed of the process. Through sharing yourself every step of the way, you have already created a group of people that will serve as your first fan base! How exciting!
Stay tuned for more tips in the following weeks! Write on Writers!
Have any tips of your own? Share them here and I may feature them in a future posting in the series! (Fully attributed, of course!)