Writing takes commitment, self-discipline, and desire. Don’t let other distractions get in the way of your writing goals–set aside time every day to write. When you are tempted to make up an excuse as to why you can’t write today, stop yourself. Only you can write the rest of that chapter you’re working on or meet your deadline. Remind yourself why you are passionate about writing. Plus, look to these 10 tips for writing motivation from Writer with a Day Job by Aine Greaney.
10 Tips For Daily Writing
- Make a date with yourself. Yes, I know your schedule is jam-packed. But you deserve a writing rendezvous with yourself. We owe ourselves some creative, meaningful time in our lives. So make a date and keep it. Oh, and show up on time.
- Right brain. Right time. Is there a time of day when you’re naturally more whimsical, more in tune with your inner or imaginative self? First thing in the morning? Last thing at night? Right after your morning yoga? Immediately after your lunchtime jog? Sitting at your son’s hockey practice? If there’s a time when you believe that writing will come more easily, make this your daily writing time.
- A clean, well-lit place: It doesn’t have to be a custom-designed artist studio with an ocean view. But your daily writing spot needs to make you feel comfortable and happy, and it needs to match your personality. Even if it’s just a table in the corner of your shared bedroom, this spot should make you feel free to be yourself. It should fit the creative you. At a minimum, make sure that your writing spot is free of any negative associations or memories.
- Tell your family or friends. You may want to be a mystery writer, but you don’t have to a mysterious writer. Because it’s a new surprising side of you, because it’s a new personal that your family may not have encountered before, you may be shy about saying to your family, “I’ve started writing.” Quite simply, it may make you feel vulnerable. Or you may feel that it sets some kind of expectation for blockbusters or huge advances, or that you’ll start to walk around talking to yourself. Or you may fear that your friends and family will see this as time away from them or a set of shirked household duties. Actually it will. Beginning a writing life means sacrificing or cutting back on other things, including your social life. But share your writing dream with your family, friends, or roommates. A real friend will support you. A fake friend will laugh, tease, condescend, or try to discourage you. Or worse, these friends or family will make it all about them (“but what about our Thursday night movie?”). Believe me, every writer needs a cheerleader or two or three. Also, rearranging your schedule to find some writing time will require the support and cooperation of the other people in your household.
- Same time. Same place. Set up a place where the writing is going to happen. By going to that same spot with the same view and smells and general feel, you give yourself some sensual and spatial prompts to start writing. Yes, we’re Pavlovian creatures, and this is especially true in writing. “Oh right,” you think, as you sit in that plastic seat inside your usual window at McDonald’s. “I’m here. So it must be time to write.”
- Switch off all electronic communication. Take this as fact: e-mail, iPhones, Blackberries, text messaging, and any other electronic-messaging system are the enemies of writing. First, all that time spent reading and responding to messages eats into yours precious writing time. And second, those bleeps and pings and newsy e-mails distract you into completely different mental space—a place far away from your writing mind. However hard it is, even if you are chained to your work or personal electronic device, switch it off. All those messages will be there when your writing time is over and complete.
- Write naked: Say a prayer to the writing gods. Develop a prewriting ritual that works for you—even if it means wearing a Stetson hat or writing naked (not in McDonald’s, please!).
- Set a daily quota or word count. As you look at that calendar or day planner, you may automatically allot a time to writing—a half hour or fifteen minutes or an hour. This works in terms of finding and assigning a regular writing time. But when I’m starting a new project or a first draft, this never works for me. Quite simply, it’s just too easy to say, “I spent a half hour at my writing desk today.” But that half hour doesn’t count if half of it was spent checking the online headlines or just gazing at the computer screen. Make your writing slot work. Set a word quota.
- Praise! Alleluia! Keep a little calendar about your desk or, at the end of your writing session, open up your online calendar or online to-do lists to record today’s completed word count. It will serve as a time sheet—and a rewards system to praise yourself for your excellent discipline.
- Allow yourself to write badly: At least for the early drafts, you need to just write. If you stop to judge, edit, delete, and rewrite, you will be spending all your time playing reader or critic, not writer. Trust me, you and your work will have enough critics later when you finish your final draft and put it out there for public consumption. But for now, for these early drafts, be gentle with yourself. Love your writing. And above all, trust where it’s going.
As writers, we are horribly, horribly hard on ourselves. We stop too often to censure, edit, and worry what the readers, the publishers, or the critics might think. Love yourself. Give yourself a break. Keep writing.
This excerpt is from Writer with a Day Job. To get exclusive content from the book, listen to an online webinar with the book’s author, Aine Greaney. Plus, refer to these writing resources for more writing inspiration and tips:
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Tip of the Day, Creative Writing Tips
A guest Post by Annabel Candy of Get in the Hotspot
Have you noticed how easy non-writers think writing is? When you’re a writer that can be frustrating.
There are three main things about writing that make it lack the social proof people expect of professional activities.
- It’s intangible – Many people don’t seem to consider writing a proper job, maybe because often writers type away for days with apparently little to show for it. Yes, there may be the occasional article in a newspaper, possibly even a published book you can actually show people. But even then that small book, an object you can hold in one hand, isn’t a good indication of the many hours, months or possibly years of work that went in to actually writing it.
- It’s unpaid – This is true even of successful, established and published writers, people like Zen Habits and Write to Done founder Leo Babauta who still regularly give away his writing on his own blogs and elsewhere. Many writers have blogs they write unpaid and if you’re not paid for something then other people tend to see it as a hobby and an unnecessary indulgence when for most writers creating a blog is a carefully planned career move.
- It’s intellectual – People see hard work as being physical like laboring, or stressful like being a fighter pilot. They don’t realize the kind of mental determination that writing calls for, the inner motivation that’s required to get you writing and keep you going until you actually finish the work.
No wonder writers often struggle with motivation.
Writing is a common dream for people. Yet most people who dream about writing don’t actually do it. Some of them hardly even read. Meanwhile writers who do actually earn a living from their work still struggle to stay motivated and keep writing.
Faced with all this opposition, both external and internal, how can we motivate ourselves to get writing and keep at it?
Here are six ideas that work :
1. Get motivated
Accept responsibility for you own actions. Acknowledge that you’re the only person who can do this. That if you don’t glue your backside to the chair and first start, then finish writing your article or book, no one else is going to do it for you.
2. Create tight imaginary deadlines for yourself to spur you on.
Try pretending you only have one hour to write today and that can be a good incentive to get on with it. Or ask yourself what you’d start or finish writing if you only had a month to live.I motivated myself to write a 70,000 word manuscript by telling myself that if I didn’t write it that year I never would. These scare tactics do work and best of all no one has to die in the process.
3. Commit to your writing.
Work out how much time you can give to your writing and when. Schedule it in your diary it. Make it a part of your routine and keep at it until it becomes a true habit.Now stay focused. If it’s a book you need to be able to maintain your focus for months. For a shorter piece like a blog post or an article you need to focus for one or two hours.
4. Remove all distractions.
You know what they are. Unplug the phone, turn off your router, find a place where you can write away oblivious to the household duties which are being neglected.Try using a kitchen timer to keep you seated and writing. Set the timer for an hour and write away. When the time’s up have a five minute break then repeat until the piece is finished.
5. Use motivational tools.
Don’t dismiss Twitter as a waste of time waster or, at best, a simple networking tool. I’ve found it a powerful way to motivate myself and other people. It surprised me too but here’s how it happened.I followed a well known novelist and journalist called John Birmingham @johnbirmingham on Twitter.I noticed that he constantly tweeted how many words he’d written on a project and how many he was about to write. He’s prolific and his word count put me to shame so I decided to try his tactic and see if it helped me.First thing in the morning, I’d tweet:”Three jobs: edit chap two of fiction manuscript, finish short story for the competition, write blog post for Get In the Hot Spot.”Then I made updates on my progress via Twitter, as the day went on, such as:”Chapter two edited and looking good. About to update my blog now. Hope you’ve had a productive morning too.”I know this sounds ridiculously simple and unnecessary too, but if it works as a motivational tool, that has to be a good thing.
6. Try co-motivation
Sometimes on Twitter I’ve challenge other writers or bloggers to a word race if I know they’re in the same boat as me. As we both write more than we would have otherwise, we both end up winning. I’ve found that innocent bystanders who’ve seen my word count tweets are motivated and inspired by that just as I was by John Birmingham.This type of motivation even has a proper name. Appropriately enough for writers it’s called “bookmarking”.Basically, you tell someone your goal and then update them regularly on your progress. It may be a friend, but it can be anyone, and it can also be done on the phone, with a text message, face to face, or on Twitter where you don’t even need anyone specific to report too.One brilliant side-effect of this is that as well as John Birmingham motivating himself and me, my progress reports have motivated other people too.One man told me that my tweets about writing and my word count have inspired him to start writing again. Another Australian writer Peter Moore @travdude who’s published six travel books, emailed me saying”I’m impressed that you’re knocking out those kind of numbers in a family environment.”
Final word on motivation
Who cares if writing’s intangible, unpaid and misunderstood? We mark our progress in words written and don’t worry that most of them will be removed in the end. We pay ourselves a favor each time we put pen to paper and practice our craft. We wage a war against lassitude and writer’s block on a daily basis and we win.
We just sit down to write no matter how hard it is, because no one else can write it like us.
How do you start writing and stick to it even though it’s easier not to? Please share your tips in the comments.
On the Internet it’s just the same as in real life ~ if you spend time with positive, inspiring people, you’ll be motivated to improve yourself and work harder.
Brrng, Brrng! Got to go now, the timer’s ringing. Have a super duper and highly productive day everyone.
Annabel Candy writes about self improvement at Get In the Hot Spot. She runs a web design company with her husband and manages to stay mostly focused on her writing despite the general mayhem created by their three children. To have as word count race or boast about how much you’ve written, tweet her @inthehotspot
Image credit: Photo by CarbonNY