How to Motivate Yourself to Write
From the Midnight Writers’ Podcast, Episode 1
Adapted by Brittany Thurman
Many writers struggle with motivating themselves to write. Some projects can be harder to write than others. There are many ways to motivate yourself, and utilizing some or all of these ideas can help authors overcome this issue and be closer to publishing their works.
Get into the mindset of the story. If you know that you’re going to be writing at a certain time, before that point, try to start thinking about what you will write. Think about what’s going to happen in the story, in that particular scene. Plan it out, asking and answering as many questions as you can about where you will take the story. If you carry a notepad and pen with you, you can write it down and not worry about forgetting it later. Or, if you carry a smart phone, you can use the notes tool, or even email yourself. If you have a great idea, write it down, because the odds are good that you won’t remember it when you are actually ready to talk about your story.
Talk to People About Your Story
Getting your story ideas out of your head and discussing them with someone else can add to your motivation to write. When someone tells you they like your idea, it can encourage you to put it down onto paper. It can also help you get unstuck, if you aren’t sure where to go next. Bouncing ideas off other people and feeding off their suggestions can trigger the perfect idea for your story. If you discuss a concept for your story with someone, and they give you a great idea, don’t be afraid to take it and make it your own. As long as you make it your own creation, take inspiration where you can (and is legally permissible). Talking with other people also adds some accountability—if you tell people you are writing a novel, then they will ask you about it when they see you. Most people don’t know an author, so you are unique and memorable. When you start discussing your story with someone, you feel a certain responsibility to write it so they can finish it.
Find a Group
Discuss your story with enough people, and you might soon find yourself talking with other writers and making conscious decisions to hold each other accountable. Forming or joining a group of writers that meet to work on their projects has many benefits:
- It gives you a reason to write, and helps make sure you actually do it.
- You are more apt to stay on track when writing, because you do not want to distract anyone else.
- If you are stuck, you can turn to the other members of the group for help. Different perspectives can allow you to pull ideas from various backgrounds.
- If you write something you are proud of, you have a captive audience there to share it with.
However, be careful not turn these meetings into social time, or the benefits of the group could quickly disintegrate. Using this time to write can help you get more written than you would on your own.
Word wars can be an effective motivational tool for a solo writer, or as a competition between people. The concept is simple: Set a short time goal, and try to write as many words as possible within that timeframe.
A solo writer can set a fifteen-minute timer and try to beat their own best word count in that time period. This can be a great way to get momentum going and jump right into the story, rather than taking time and slowly getting into it. Once the fifteen minutes is up, you do not have to stop—keep going as long as you have something left to write.
A word war between several people gives the more challenging goal of beating someone else’s word count in a set time. Spontaneously starting word wars with other writers can push you (and them) to write more often, and at unplanned times. Peer pressure works!
Find a quiet place to write. If this isn’t possible, or if the silence itself is a noise that needs to be drowned out, create a playlist that will help you concentrate. Songs with no lyrics, such as soundtracks or classical music, or with lyrics in language you don’t know, are great choices.
If starting with a full-length novel is too daunting, consider starting with short stories. Writing short stories is a good way to learn and practice story structure – beginnings, middles, and ends can be more complex than they sound. Learning how to add context to your story can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to start small to really get the hang of it. It’s also always possible that, if you write multiple short stories with a common character or theme, you might be able to tie them together into an entire novel, after you have mastered some of the basics of characterization and development.
Deadlines and Goals
Setting a concrete word count goal to reach in a specific amount of time can help push you to write. Deadlines encourage you to at least get the words on the page, which you can then work with, editing and polishing them into the story you envisioned. Setting an obtainable, but challenging, goal can help your motivation to write. Breaking a larger goal into daily word goals are especially helpful. By the time you get those words on the paper, especially if you’ve hit a really good part in your story, you might just have the motivation and the impetus to keep writing. Suddenly, you find you’ve written all you needed to for today, but you realize that there’s no reason to stop! One annual event that helps writers set and meet deadlines is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, let’s talk a little more about that.
NaNoWriMo, which takes place annually in the month of November, gives writers who participate a goal of writing the first draft of a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days. Those in the NaNoWriMo community often write together, participating in word wars and other events. This mutual encouragement can be vital to completing the seemingly overwhelming goal. Although the goal may seem daunting at first, breaking the word count goal down into small, conquerable pieces will help you meet your goal. Fifty thousand words, divided by thirty days, comes to roughly 1,666 words per day. And you just sit down, every single day, for thirty days, and work toward your goal. It’s not an easy goal, but it’s obtainable. Challenging, but not impossible. An hour or two every single day is really all it takes to crank out the first draft of a novel by the end of November. Consider participating in NaNoWriMo, especially if you are serious about getting motivated to write.
What gets you motivated to write? How do you overcome all of the distractions that always pop up right when you were sitting down to write?
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