Writers are legendary procrastinators. I am never so good at doing ANYTHING ELSE than when I’m supposed to be writing.
New writing is born in the soul then moves through the heart and into the brain to make its way out of the fingers. It’s a long journey from there to here and is one that is easily thwarted by texting, books, television, dishes, phone calls, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, hair twirling, staring. There is no end to distractions and diversions when it comes to writing. Especially if there is a particular piece that is begging to be written, but refuses to come out. Like a stubborn cat under a couch.
You can spend time trying to coax the cat out with toys and treats, or you can go do something else and wait for the cat to get bored enough or hungry enough that he’ll miraculously jump on your lap when you least expect it. I would much rather write when the cat is purring on my lap.
But this just doesn’t happen a lot. Ideas (and cats) are fickle and unknowable. Sometimes you just have to do the work of coaxing. Especially if you want to get into making a good habit of it and actually make progress on a project. No one can write the work for you. It’s one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a writer. I can even talk about all the stories I want to write and the characters that I have ideas about but it is still so annoyingly unsatisfying compared to actually writing it.
Additionally, I get in my own way. I think all writers do. There’s this internal conversation that is essentially a ping-pong back and forth of:
“I write to breathe.”
“I hate what I write.”
“I might be good at this.”
“I am the worst writer that ever tried to write.”
“You’ll never get better if you don’t work at it.”
“Everything is stupid and I should just quit.”
All to say, I have a hard time staying motivated. But I’m actively working on it and have come up with some strategies that do work for me, like, at least 37% of the time:
Method One: Quotes
I like quotes. Quotes are totally inspiring to me. I know that this is super cheesy but I can’t deny that they work on me. I have my favorites written on post-its all around my desk so that when I sit down and consider changing the tab over to just do a “quick social media check” aka 20 minutes later I’m deep in a hole of a friend’s new baby pictures and no closer to writing, I read these quotes and get back to the task at hand. Or that’s the theory at least.
Method Two: Daily Writing
I try to update Brimming daily. I’m getting faster at coaxing those words and ideas out of my soul and into my fingers that way, which is also helping with the fiction I’m working on.
Method Three: Reading Good Books
A well-written, beautifully crafted novel gets under my skin like nothing else. I simultaneously love them and seethe with a weird envy that makes me feel kinda gross. The only way I’ll ever calm that monster is to keep writing. Reading an excellent book is the ultimate motivator.
Method Four: Listening to Podcasts About Work
Entrepreneurs, celebrities, moguls, athletes. Hearing stories about people who work really hard, even if it has nothing to do with the career I’m pursuing, is super inspiring to me and reminds me that even if we don’t end up in the same place, we all at least start in the same place.
Method Five: Visuals
This is my phone wallpaper. It’s relatively absurd, but it reminds me every day to be a badass and work hard because it could pay off with a cigar and NBA finals championship trophy. Or, my version which would be, like, a glass of champagne and holding up my novel in my pajamas. Dreams!
Method Six: Taking Breaks
When in doubt, I take breaks. If I’m not feeling it, sometimes the only thing to do is stop and take a break. Sometimes that’s an hour, sometimes it’s several days. There is a point when it’s simply too demoralizing to keep at it. When you’re working and working and no closer to chiseling down your idea to something that resembles anything, a break can work wonders.
Honorable Mention: Money
I’m sure if I were being paid, that would be pretty motivating. But until then it only gets an honorable mention.
What keeps you motivated?