Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Staying Motivated

Here's another writing question posed by readers at Facebook: How do you motivate yourself to write and stay motivated?

It gets easier when you're writing with a contract because you've signed a document saying you'll have the book turned in and money is involved. Even then, staying on track when the deadline seems far away and there are other things you'd love to do can be challenging.

Staying motivated can be really difficult if you're trying to break in, have no deadline and have no guarantee that what you're writing will ever be seen.

One thing that helps is to have a deadline. If you do have a deadline and it seems far away, set earlier deadlines for particular parts of the project -- say, for a rough draft, for the second draft, for proofreading, etc. If you don't have a publisher's deadline, give yourself one, and it's best if you attach it to something you can't easily change so you force yourself to be honest. Say you're going to finish the book in time to enter it in a contest, before you go to a conference where you'll pitch it to someone, before a vacation or holiday where you want to have the book done so you can enjoy yourself. Write down your deadline.

I think it also helps to set smaller goals and give yourself little rewards along the way. It can be as simple as letting yourself eat a piece of candy when you've written a page or allowing yourself to watch your favorite TV show when you've met your goal for the day. Tracking your progress is a good way to keep yourself going. Record your word or page count for the day or make a chart showing how far you've come and how much more you have to go. I sometimes like to set a daily page or word goal based on the deadline and how much I have to write, and then if I've gone over that significantly for a while, I recalculate to see how much less I now have to write per day -- and then I still try to stick with the original goal.

Come up with a big reward for finishing the book. If it helps, find a way to visualize that and put it someplace where you can see it -- a picture of the shoes you'll buy, the meal out you'll enjoy, the place you'll go for your day out. I find it also helps to put into words the reason you're writing this book -- not just for publication or money, but why you need to tell this story. That's a good thing to go back to when you're feeling stuck.

It may help to have some kind of accountability partner, whether it's just someone you tell your deadline and goals and keep posted of your word count or someone who reads the book as you're writing it. I seem to make my fastest progress when I send a chapter at a time to someone else while I'm writing. That gives me some instant feedback (not a full critique, just a comment or two) and if I'm doing it right, it leaves them eager to read more so I get nagged to keep writing and get the next chapter done. I've heard of groups that create writing challenges and post their daily word counts to each other.

When it's not necessarily a particular project and more writing in general that has me needing motivation, I'll visit a bookstore. That reminds me of what I'm doing and why, and it makes me even more eager to get my act together and get more books in the store. It can help to create some kind of encouragement file -- positive comments from critiques or contests, reader mail, book covers, etc. -- to remind you why you're doing this. I've known of artistically inclined writers who create mock-ups of a possible cover for the book so they can visualize it on store shelves.

These are some of the ways I keep myself going. Any other suggestions?

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