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In Your Words: How To Stay Motivated To Keep Writing

motivation for writersFirst off, thanks to ALL the wonderful writers who sent us their tips about how they stay motivated to write.  It was very difficult to select just a few to appear on our blog! Note: Some entries have been truncated so that this overall blog post doesn’t get too long.



How To Stay Motivated To Write

Some writers talked about the importance of deadlines:

Stan Sinberg: When I was a young writer, I waited for inspiration. Then I got a job as a 3x/week newspaper columnist, and I quickly learned that ideas come from deadlines! I suddenly had three ideas a week, and when I switched to a weekly paper, I had one idea a week! Keeping my job was enough of a motivator for “inspiration” to kick in.

Some writers wrote about establishing a strict routine to stay motivated:

Bitsy Kemper: I read somewhere that you shouldn’t put anything on your calendar unless you were going to commit to it, otherwise, why write it down? The most efficient way I can now hold myself accountable is to write (sometimes arbitrary) deadlines on my calendar, such as “Find publisher for Balloon manuscript” or “Research e-book publishers.” Even though I know nothing will happen if I don’t meet the deadline, somehow it works. (I also set my clocks ten minutes ahead but that’s another story…)

MG McClintock: Many writers employ certain habits and rituals in preparation for the task at hand. Benjamin Franklin soaked in the bathtub. Truman Capote wrote lying down. Maya Angelou has a preference for legal pads, sherry, cards, a Bible and thesaurus while lounging in a hotel room. Shakespeare picked up his pen, turned around, rolled his pen between his hands, and spat over his shoulder before sitting to write. Yeats’ process involved simply putting the pen to paper and letting the words ooze out. I’m like Yeats, the words come and I let them. The motivation is internal and comes in waves.

Marshall Yaeger, who taps into acting techniques to deepen his work and who hasn’t missed a day writing in several decades, sent us this image of his notebook that helps him stay on track:

Some writers wrote about how to stay immersed in the world of a project:

Peggy Hattendorf: Visual aids help me meet my writing goals. I formulate basic tenents about each character—outward description, personality traits, disposition, temperament, style, achievements, interests, etc. Data is assembled into a resume/reference guide. With the written narrative, I find a picture in a magazine that captures the essence of that character. I have both the visual aid and written descriptions for each of my main characters and preserve these on a bulletin board in my office.

Jim (J.R.) Stewart: How do I stay motivated? If the juices are flowing and the characters are active, it’s no problem. If they’re not, I go back and just edit what’s come before. Invariably, that wakes a character up and he or she can tell me what to do.

Some writers talked about the importance of rewarding good behavior:

ice cream coneRonna L. Edelstein: To become the poet and the poem, the storyteller and the story, the essayist and the essay, I had to first train myself to be Pavlov and his dog.  For every page I write, I reward myself with a small bag of dark chocolate M&Ms. For every rough draft I finish, I reward myself with a dish of frozen banana yogurt.  When I complete a poem, story, or essay, I indulge in a huge bowl of frozen banana yogurt covered with mountains of dark chocolate M&Ms. With every new writing endeavor, I grow in creativity—and in girth.

Some writers discussed how staying motivated involves NOT having concrete goals:

Joseph Falank: I find if I set aside a specific time to write, the time usually results in being less productive than I would have liked. I tend to write better, and for longer periods, when the inspiration just happens and I have the available time to sit down and type away.

Some writers wrote about the importance other people play in the writing life:

Jamie Anne Richardson: I have a calendar that I go by and a friend to hold me accountable. She texts me the sound of a cracking whip if I fall behind.

help motivate writersSusan Bowmer: My motivation comes from remembering all the friends and family who have been encouraging me all the years I’ve been writing. Many of them have died without seeing any of my novels in print (although many knew me as a journalist) and in their memory I keep plugging away!

Eleanore Lee: I have a couple of friends who also have writing projects. We meet and walk down to one of our local college libraries and work there. No Internet access. The students around us are studying quietly. It’s an environment that really makes you want to work. After, we go out to lunch as a reward. I do this twice a week, but it’s how I get my core creative work done. Then it’s easier to continue at home.

This was a favorite entry. It succinctly wraps up many of the points above:

Robin A. Burrows:  I work full-time and take care of a husband and house full-time, so finding time and motivation to write can be a challenge. Here are some tips that work for me:

  1. Write first. If you put off writing until you complete your other “chores” you will never get to it.
  2. Set goals, but be flexible. I have a flexible daily goal and more rigid weekly goal. Some days you will accomplish more than others.
  3. Reward yourself. I reward myself with a cookie or a TV show if I reach my daily goal.

And we can’t close this post without including this fun entry from Janet Levin.

Some days ice cream, others 20 pages, variety
is the spice, deadline has bite, the only methodology is
answer the call:  Write!
Be awake.
Be willing to awaken in the middle of the night.
Or whenever
have a heartbeat.
Slow and sad is fine.
Ditto fast and furious.
Anything serves the pen.
Shocking truths may disembowel you.
Or someone else.
Anything’s material.
Anyone’s a subject.
Anywhere can be conjured in cadence, shade and tone.
Winter night writing (Alaska, under covers) requires a headlamp.
A waterproof pen serves both canoe and leaky tent.
Remember the insect repellent.

Again, thanks to everyone for your wonderful submissions and for sharing your tips with us!

Writers, if you’re hoping to join our client list, now’s the time to submit to our Review Board while we’re open to submissions.

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Which of these motivation techniques speaks to you?

9 Responses to In Your Words: How To Stay Motivated To Keep Writing

  1. Writing can be such an unpredictable endeavor for those who chronically lose motivation. Sometimes we love it and don’t want to stop, while other times it’s practically the worst possible task in our to-do list.

    What I personally do is step away for a few days and then I usually come back feeling refreshed. Another thing is trying your very best to write about topics you’re comfortable with, as unfamiliar subjects can potentially add to your writing-related burnout.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this article.

  2. I have a full time n very demanding job in healthcare which has cause me stress when I cant find some me time so that I can write. All my projects were started during holidays and barely reaches one third of completion. Thank you for all these tips! I hope I can start to incorporate it into my daily/weekly plans.

  3. SAT, praying before writing is a fantastic idea! I try to always ask the Holy Spirit to write through me both when I am writing stories or working on Children’s Ministry curriculum, and whenever I do stick to my practice, everything comes to me so much easier and what I write is so much better.

  4. It’s very personal, isn’t it? Some have a deep desire to write, gasoline-soaked coals that only need a spark, once there’s a moment to light a match. I think it comes down to discipline and inspiration: we can step outside and look at the world or listen to people talk and realize that we have a story, that we must express ourselves in order to exist.

  5. Fresh fruit. Veggies. Whole grains. Chamomile tea. Dark chocolate. Peanut brittle (during stressful deadlines). Coffee (only A.M.). Repeat.

  6. I really like the idea of having a habit or ritual before starting my writing. I draw a lot of inspiration from my faith – I want to start praying to God and asking Him for inspiration, ideas, etc. every time I sit down to write (and thank Him for giving me the wonderful talent to write!). And coming out with written material, and going back and reading it, is rewarding.

  7. These are great. I make sure to pencil in an hour every other day for my writing. If i stick to that, at the end of the week I reward myself with a new book :)

  8. I LOVE the reward system! Knowing that something I enjoy (like a lunch with good writer friends or a bowl of ice cream) is great motivation! I also agree with writing down your writing plans in calendar. That always helps keep me accountable with everything!!

    I think working with other writer friends is another great motivator. Other writers know and understand the challenges of writing and can help you stay on track!

  9. Hmm, now im distracted thinking about ice cream and M&Ms… LOL

    But really tho, thanks for the advice! =0)

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