Hello fellow writer! Whether you write regularly or not, are published or not, if you have the writing bug, you’re a writer. However, as motivation to write wanes, you may feel like a * failed * writer. Good news: you aren’t. Maybe you have time constraints, you’ve hit a writer’s block or simply haven’t found your groove: you're a writer in need of a motivational uplift.
I have the tips you need to boost productivity and stay motivated. I will tell you how to identify and defeat the four most common obstacles to getting going, and share my favourite seven strategies for writing.
Wondering whether you are ready to write, have the right “kit”, workspace or where to find the inspiration itself? These thoughts can be powerful motivation killers.
Are You Ready To Write?
Ask most authors and you’ll soon find they have a stash of beautiful notebooks, pens, a favourite spot to sit and a treasured coffee mug, and rarely do they have all four of those at the same time when they write, as none are necessary. Whether in the notes app on your phone, on your laptop, in a notebook or on a sheet of paper, you only need yourself and the means to put your thoughts down in writing. You don’t need hours stretching ahead of you. 5mins is enough to get started. I like to put my phone on silent. You have the right and the ability to write. At any time, any day.
No Room of Your Own
If you are serious about being a writer, a writing space can be important. If you are intending to sit and write for more than about fifteen minutes, you need to ensure your workspace is comfortable and the lighting is adequate. You don’t need a beautiful writing shed in the garden - much as I try to tell my partner that I do need one! - a specific desk or space. Personally, I like to sit on my sofa and shift about constantly, laptop on my knees. I have writer friends who always sit at their desk, with various inspiring objects and quotes around them, as this puts them in the right frame of mind, others at the kitchen table. Some write in notebooks out and about and then edit as they type up. As well as my spot on the sofa, I write in cafés, in soft play while my kids tear about, in swimming pool changing rooms during swim class, on sunny days by the edge of the football pitch. No one place is the right place, so long as you are comfy.
First of all, I’d argue that you do not need to have inspiration to write. It certainly helps, but it is not necessary to wait for the idea to strike. Building up a daily practice and habit is just as important. That said, here are some tips to spark that inspiration:
Engage your creative brain – whether it’s going to a museum, drawing, listening to music, it’s all around you. Take a moment to really focus on the creative output around you, on what inspires you, take it in.
Creative Writing Prompts – these can be anything from word lists, describing your surroundings at a different level (as a fly or as the kettle for instance), to challenging yourself to picking a headline from the day and use each word to start a paragraph. This is not about working to your Big Project, but rather about building habits in a fun way to boost your creativity and give your motivation a bump.
So that’s the excuses out of the way – but how to build a good practice? Here are seven strategies for you:
1) Good habits
There is only way to make real progress as a writer. It needs to become a habit. I have two main things which I do:
- Every day I write for 7mins. This is a free, brain dump style of writing. It is not for anyone else. From “I really don’t want to be writing this I want a slice of toast” to the occasional poem, I write. After my daily dog walk, I find a quiet space, grab my notebook and I set my timer. That’s it. Every day. You may find it useful to do this at the start or end of your day.
- I am working on my second novel. Three days a week, I put aside a two hour block of time. The aim is 500 words. Unfortunately, this gets compromised. I can’t do this in holiday time. I work freelance and have deadlines. However, I have marked the time in my diary, so it has to be a conscious decision for me to decide not to do so. I try to re-schedule that time, as I would a meeting. It does not always work, but it is certainly more effective than hoping the time will somehow appear. Whatever you are working on, whether you can manage 30mins a week, or daily blocks of 3 hours, make a point of setting aside regular time to work on your project.
- It’s generally best to limit distractions. Put the phone on silent and upside down, have a beverage of choice ready to sip. Often I do have the tv or radio on at a low volume because I generally find that helps me to focus. Give yourself the best chance, you know yourself.
You don’t need targets for your 7min write, just the time.
However for your project time, it can be very helpful to set a goal – whether it is to complete a chapter, a word count, resolve a plot issue. Breaking the project into chunks can help you. I know several writers who like to keep a notebook listing these goals, ticking them off so they can see the progress beyond the word document. The generic “I am going to write a bit of my novel at some point this week.” is a hard target to achieve, whereas “On Thursday at 6pm I shall write at least 500words in two hours.”
During this project time, JUST WRITE. You can always edit later – you can’t edit a blank page. I separate my writing and editing time, which I also set time aside for. No one will read any of your drafts until you show them – it does not need to be perfect. The “editing brain” can block your “creative brain”.
3) Stretch goals
My “stretch goal” is to find the opportunity to write for a 4hour stretch with a target of 1000 words in any given month. I find a morning to block out in my diary and I respect it. Maybe yours is to complete a poem, an article or a blog post a month. Write yours down, in a diary or project book. It helps to see it written out.
4) Long term plans
Whether you want to build a long successful career as a writer, or you want to improve your poetry writing for your own enjoyment, long-term goals will give you an advantage. You can change these at any time of course, but what is your plan? What do you want to achieve? How hard are you willing to work for it?
It can be helpful to break this down: this year, I intend to complete a first draft of my second novel, to have 20 poems ready for a second pamphlet, and two short stories. It is a lot of writing, and I can’t leave that up to fate and the hope of finding time. Knowing that is really helpful for me when working on my habit building.
5) Read read read
If you want to write, you have to read. The more you read, the more good writing you are exposed to, the more you will grow as a writer. I usually have a fiction, a non-fiction and a poetry book on the go, and as I enjoy keeping up with current affairs. This means I read a variety of content in various forms. In addition, I read to my children every day – more often than not I wonder at the sheer skill of children’s authors to bring incredible worlds to life in just a few pages. The wordsmithing is astonishing.
6) Take a break
OK OK OK. You’ve been writing for 7mins every day, three two-hour blocks every week, a monthly four hour block. You’ve got the comfy chair, the prompts, you’ve been reading loads. Still nothing. Sitting and starting at your laptop and notebook is getting you nowhere. Take a break, a holiday. I don’t write during my kids’ one week holidays at all. When they have two weeks off, I only do the 7min write on weekday mornings, with my cup of coffee. Over the big summer break, it varies. So factor in holidays.
Another option is a change of routine, of environment. This is when I leave the sofa, and take my notebook to a café, or I swap my writing time for a walk. My labradoodle is an excellent writing buddy.
7) Writing buddies
Which leads me deftly to the idea of a writing buddy. Many writers are loath to discuss their next project in detail, worried about letting the genie out of the bottle. I have a couple of trusted writer friends with whom I work out plot-knots, share the occasional section, encourage each other. I have one friend to whom I simply send “7mins done” every day. Telling the story, talking it out can be a valuable tool in your writer’s pencil case. I found these friends by joining Creative Writing groups and by attending workshops. Writers, libraries, writing organisations often run these groups. My practice has benefited enormously from the writing groups I attend, and they have brought me great joy and friendship.
I am very aware that this post is one more in a string of blog posts looking to support writers through a lack of motivation or writer’s block. They exist because this is something that happens to every one of us. This is what works for me, and maybe it will work for you.
You do not need to ask permission to write, you do not need anything other than the means and a little space to put your thoughts into writing. You do not even need inspiration. You need to build good habits: 7mins of free writing a day, regular “project blocks”, and some short and long term goals are helpful. Read widely and often, foster writing friendships, and breaks can refill your mojo.
I hope that by giving you actionable and clear tips, I have helped you to take the next step towards achieving your writing goals. Let me know in comments. Happy writing!