Updated: Mar 2
Whether you’re in the middle of writing a novel, a report for school or work, or in the middle of The Writer’s Games, lack of motivation can be a real problem when writing. It can happen to the best of us. We start with a great idea, we write out an outline (or not), write as much as we can and then our fingers just… stop (typing or writing). Life (or a new Netflix show) gets in the way but eventually our motivation to write our next masterpiece dries up. What are you supposed to do when that happens? Here are some ideas:
Get out the prompt book:
This doesn't need to be an actual book. There are so many websites that offer different writing prompts. Choose one that sparks your imagination and start writing. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to get your thoughts going and words on the screen. The Writer’s Workout offers prompts every Wednesday in the Facebook group and a series on the website.
Literally write down whatever comes into your head. Sentence structure is not important here, at least not at the start. Write down words or phrases that pop into your head and then go from there. It's okay to write badly. The more you write, the more likely an idea will spark and something will come out of this session. It might help with a story you’re working on or it might just be something that gets you out of your own head for a moment. Taking a break from what you’ve been working on for a while can be just the thing that gives you enough energy to finish your main project. Free writing gives you a structure-less outlet to continue writing but without the restrictions of a story that has set guidelines or preconceived expectations.
Get a writing buddy!
Having someone to keep you honest about your writing (deadlines, word count, etc.) and give you a pep talk when needed is a great way to stay motivated. They can give you prompts, offer you some relief when you get too down on yourself or be someone to bounce ideas off of (and if they’re there to stop you watching Netflix or wandering towards Tumblr, all the better!).
Set a daily word count:
Setting an amount of time to write can be good for some, but for others it means staring at a blank paper or screen for fifteen minutes. With a set word count, you hold yourself accountable. Setting a quota of 1,000 words or so a day gives you a goal to meet and ensures you actually get some writing done (and of course, you can go over the quota)! Try using Pacemaker, the sponsor of this year’s Writer’s Games, as way to track your word count.
Writing in the same place could be what’s making it difficult to come up with new ideas. Even if it's just once, try moving to a different location. The change may spark ideas to come to the surface. If you primarily write inside, try going outside. Nature can be quite inspiring. Try writing in a public space. People's conversations can be great stimulation (Writers for Eavesdropping!).
Giving yourself something you have wanted because you met your weekly deadline is a great way to motivate yourself to do it again next week. The reward can be anything that will motivate you to keep writing (especially if you hit the Wednesday slump). Ice cream, new shoes, extra hour of Netflix, a hot bath, a new novel. ANYTHING!
Read how other writers do it!
Writers are often asked how they stay motivated and how they deal with writer's block. Pick your favorite and Google them. Most likely their answer is published on a website. Some writers have also written books about writing that specifically discuss how they stay motivated. Stephen King's On Writing is a famous example.
Do you have any unique ways you stay motivated while writing?
About the author: Sarah Perchikoff is working on a BA in Writing at Grand Valley State University and interning at The Writer's Workout. You can follow her on Twitter: @sperchikoff.