The key to consistent writing and actually finishing a writing project is staying motivated and focused.
This month’s Challenge in the Write into the Woods Facebook group featured tips about just that, keeping motivated to write and staying focused on those words and your stories.
There are so many things that can get in the way of our writing, whether it’s the day job, running a house, keeping your family dressed and fed, those big life moments like moving house or illness, or simply a bad day/week/month.
The way you stay motivated to write depends completely on what is getting in your way and stopping you from getting those words down, or researching, planning or editing.
So here are six things you should look at when you need a little oomph in your writing habit.
Say no to procrastination.
If you’re struggling to write because you always seem to end up watching TV, reading a book, cleaning the house, sorting the laundry…basically anything but writing, then you’re procrastinating.
Don’t worry. It’s something we all do. It’s a big part of being a writer.
In summer 2018, I found my own way of beating procrastination and I’ve been banging on about it ever since.
Now, not every method works for everyone, but give this a go if you think it’ll work for you.
Step One: Break your writing up into chunks. For example, you’ll spend 30 minutes writing or you’ll write 500 words at a time.
Step Two: As you sit down to write, your brain will throw other ideas at you. Say NO! to your brain.
You should check Facebook. NO!
I think there’s chocolate in the cupboard. NO!
Ooh, you haven’t watched that yet. NO!
Those windows could really do with a clean. NO!
Step Three: Once you’ve done a chunk of writing, reward yourself! And reward yourself with whatever it was your brain wanted you to do instead of writing. Check Facebook, watch TV, play a game, whatever you want.
(You can then do another chunk of writing. This is how I used to revise for exams!)
Pay attention to where you write.
Your environment affects your mindset, your mood and your focus. Where you choose to write and what you choose to listen to will help you to stay focused.
Some people feel self-conscious writing in public while others have no problem with it.
Some people can watch TV while they’re writing (I have no idea how).
Others need to shut themselves away from all distractions.
If you’re not sure what environment suits your writing, try different places and experiment with listening to different things. The TV, a busy coffee shop, music…
I personally love listening to instrumental movie soundtracks while I write and tend to listen to particular albums depending on the story I’m writing.
You can find some great playlists and albums on iTunes, Spotify and, if you prefer free, YouTube.
Set realistic, achievable goals.
Nothing can kill motivation quite like feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t think that you have to write 70,000 words, instead break it down into bitesize chunks.
You don’t need to write 70,000 words, you need to write 1,000 words a day and in around three months, you’ll have a novel. That’s much more do-able and much less overwhelming.
Set your writing goals to suit your lifestyle and what suits you at the time. You can always change the goals as life gets in the way or your schedule clears.
Find your own path.
It’s fantastic to read about what other writers are doing and brilliant to discover different methods of writing and learning from others (hello!), but don’t feel like you have to write exactly the way other people do.
Writing fiction is about experimenting. Don’t feel like you need to be like everyone else. Write your own way.
You need to find your own style, your own voice and your own writing path.
By finding your own way of writing, you’ll enjoy it more and get more done, which is the best way to stay motivated.
Don’t let fear win.
What’s holding you back? Fear can stop you from hitting submit, pressing send, publishing, contacting editors and cover designers, finishing that edit or even finishing your first draft. Fear can kill motivation dead.
And I mean dead. As in, some people let fear stop them writing for good. Which is the saddest thing.
But if you let the fear win, you’ll never hold your own book in your hands, see your name in print or have that wonderful rush of completing a fully formed story that takes on a life of its own.
And trust me, those things are the most wonderful feelings.
Please don’t miss out. They aren’t as scary as you think.
Don’t let the fear in. Decide you’re going to do something, count to three and just do it. That way, you won’t think about the what ifs and before you know it, you’ll achieving your writing goals.
Take care of yourself.
Do your writing goals mean that you’re writing every day? Great!
But what happens if you have a bad day? Or life gets tricky and suddenly you’re having a horrible week or month?
Let me be clear about this. Self-care is NOT procrastination.
You’re allowed a day off. You’re allowed a month where you hardly write. You’re allowed to give your mind a rest.
Take a day for yourself and don’t think about your writing (don’t worry, your sub-conscious will still be all over your story). Go to the movies, cuddle up in your PJs with Netflix, spend hours playing video games, go to the spa with your friends. Whatever you need and want to do.
Your mental health is important.
Think of it like this, if you push through the bad days and keep writing, you’ll get words written but over time you’ll lose motivation and your love for your craft. Take a day off and rest and you’ll come back to your story refreshed and with new ideas, stay motivated and keep writing!
Staying motivated and focused are vital for writers but every writer’s journey is full of peaks and troughs. Some days you’ll write all the words and others you won’t even be able to look at a notebook.
One bad day/week/month doesn’t mean you won’t ever write again.
Be kind to yourself, be persistent and get to know yourself as a writer and you’ll be able to keep your focus and stay motivated to breath life into all those ideas in your head.