Empty Pages – Ways to Stay Motivated (Episode 19)
In this episode, I talk about ways to stay motivated when writing.
Welcome to Empty Pages, which chronicles my journey from first draft to published manuscript and beyond. I’m your host, Ian MacTire.
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In this episode, we will talk about ways to stay motivated when writing. As writers, it’s is inevitable that we will run into a time where we simply lack the motivation to write. There are many reasons that can cause this. We might be tired, we might lack an idea that excites us, maybe the current work in progress is stuck and you’re unable to move it forward. It happens to the best of us. As always, these are not one size fits all. What may work for some of you, won’t work for the rest. Hopefully though, you will find at least one thing that will help you stay motivated.
In no particular order, here are some ways to stay motivated:
Write every day. I personally cannot stress how important this is. When you write every day, you are training your brain to be creative. I’ve mentioned this in a previous episode as a way to prevent writer’s block, however, if your brain has been trained that every day, at a certain time, it will be time to write, you will find that your brain will be helpful and creative. You will also find that as you near the time to write, you will start feeling motivated to do so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started the day just not motivated to write at all. I worry that I won’t have the energy by the time the evening rolls around, which is when I write. But almost every day, without fail, when it comes time to write, the motivation kicks in and I’m raring to go.
Set writing goals. It can be anything from setting a deadline to setting a certain amount of words or pages you will write each session. Having goals gives you something to strive for. My personal daily goal when writing is 2500 words, or roughly six pages. You don’t have to use this number, you can go higher or lower. But I find that by having a daily goal that I’m shooting for, it helps to keep me going because I have to “beat my score”. Most days I reach that goal easily. However, there are days where I surpass it, or barely meet it. But because I have that goal, I show up to write. Even if it’s only 100 words, I showed up and wrote.
Don’t edit as you write. Your brain engages differently when writing than when you’re editing. Switching back and forth could cause you to lose steam. It could also cause frustration. I had a bad habit of this for a really long time. As a result, I never got any story fully written, and I would often abandon them. I never thought they were any good, but looking back, how could I know that if they were never finished? Once I stopped doing this, choosing to focus on writing to get the first draft done, and then switch to editing mode after it was done, I started seeing much greater success. Stories were getting completed, I was able to be more creative, and words flowed much easier. When I’m writing my first draft, focusing solely on this task keeps me excited about what I’m working on.
Join a writing group. There’s something about being part of a group that has certain expectations. Writing groups are usually filled with writers who are looking to get and give feedback on their writing projects. Knowing that you can’t show up empty handed is a great motivator for writing something. A quick note here, some of you may have already tried this and found that it didn’t work. Not all writing groups are created equal, so if you find one that didn’t work for you, try finding another if possible. Or start one yourself! Stay away from any writing group who wants to sit around and talk about all the reasons they didn’t get any writing done. Those will only sap your motivation.
Take a break. You need time to let your mind rest. You can choose to alternate days between writing and resting, or you can designate a day of the week to relax. When you relax, don’t even think about writing. Your goal here is to give your mind a break. When I decided to become serious about writing, I found myself writing every damn day. I eventually got to the point where my writing was starting to suffer. It just wasn’t up to par for my abilities. I soon realized that I was starting to get burned out. So I set aside Sunday as a day of rest. Not for any religious reasons, I just have that day off and resting on that day makes it easier for starting my work week on Monday. On this day, I don’t do anything writing related. I’m not thinking about writing, I’m not thinking about my current work in progress, I’m not watching or listening to writing related videos or podcast episodes. Trust me when I say that this has made a world of difference.
Switch gears. If you’re always writing in one style, try writing in a different style. If you’re writing a book, try writing short stories or even poetry. Sometimes changing things up keeps things fresh, thereby keeping you interested and motivated. If you’re writing something and finding that you have lost interest in it, don’t be afraid to set it aside and start something new that you find more interesting. Just don’t get in the habit of always stopping midway and constantly starting new projects, or you’ll find that you’re never completing anything. I find in my own writing that this is something that is already built in naturally. I never approach a story idea going “this one is a short story, that one is a novel”. I just sit down and write the story and let it tell me what it wants to be. As a result, I never know what a work in progress will be. I know this won’t work for everyone, so you’ll need to figure out what will work for you.
Reward yourself. This pairs well with setting goals. You can choose to reward yourself with treats, or special drinks, or whatever. I know one person who uses stickers. When they do a sticker worthy thing, they’ll award themselves a sticker. They have it broken down by how many stickers are needed to achieve some reward. I don’t know exactly how it breaks down, but it’s something like five stickers and they can have Starbucks, ten a new pen, or whatever. There’s also some kind of larger award at the end of it all. Personally, I’m a fan of mead, so I usually keep a bottle in the fridge chilling. I’ve taken to allowing myself to drink it only when I hit major milestones. I find that I don’t really need to reward myself for the smaller things, like hitting my daily word count. However, if that’s something that could work for you, go for it.
Remind yourself why you are writing. This is about reminding yourself of the value that writing gives you, not anyone else. Chances are, the reason you’ve decided to write is because you have something to say, and you genuinely love to write. For me, it’s reminding myself that I have stories I want to tell, and writing is genuinely one of my happy places.
Let yourself write horribly. First drafts are always going to be messy. Accept that and just let your self write. This goes hand in hand with not editing as you write. Once you are done, you can go back and fix it to your heart’s content. Whether you’re a plotter that has an outline, a panster that just sits down and write, or a some combination of the two, your first draft is always going to be messy and need fixing. But that’s why they call it a first draft. Even writers like Stephen King have to edit their first draft.
And finally, talk to other writers. You are most certainly not alone in this. When you are talking to other people who are actually writing and going through similar things as you, it helps to know you’re not alone. You can share things that help you with others, and they’ll do the same for you. In addition, talking about your works in progress is a good way to receive feedback and encouragement, and keeps you excited for your story.
So there you have it, some ways to stay motivated with your writing. I hope you find at least one of these to be helpful. If you have a way you stay motivated that’s not on this list, reach out on Twitter or Instagram and let me know. If I get enough of them, I’ll make another episode covering those. In the meantime…
Stay classy, and keep writing those stories!
This has been another episode of Empty Pages. If you enjoyed what you heard and want more of it, you can follow me at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Please leave me a review, as that really helps me out, and if you do, you might find your review featured in a future episode. You can find me at ianmactire.com, as well as on Twitter and Instagram as @ianmactire. Until next time, I’m Ian and this is Empty Pages. Stay classy and write those stories!
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