Everyone struggles with motivation from time to time, and unfortunately, the reason can vary dramatically from person to person and moment to moment. Some days you may be tired or stressed. Other days, you may not even know why you’re not in the mood to work. Well, I can’t promise a cure-all, but here are 10 tips to try to keep your motivation up and running.
10. A Dedicated Work Area
Having a dedicated area can help trick your brain into developing habits that make it easier to work regularly. If you’re trying to write in an area where you commonly watch tv, play games, or read, you’re going to get conflicting subliminal messages when you sit down to work. It’s better to give yourself a specific space where you only write so that you can develop new habits. In other words, use your own subconscious to your advantage (and get a tax write-off!).
9. Clean & Organize
This one depends on how your brain works. Some people need pristine, beautifully organized area to be able to work well. Others can deal with a certain amount of chaos, and yet others thrive on complete chaos (though they’re fewer than rumor suggests). In any case, it’s good to know your own limits for how disorganized your work area can get. While a pristine workspace isn’t really my thing, personally, I find that I have more energy and focus if I pick up on a fairly regular basis.
8. Goal Reminders
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but a visual reminder of a goal can help. Even if you print “get published” and hang it over your desk, that might spur you on when you feel like being lazy. If that doesn’t work for you, making a list of smaller goals (stair steps) and hanging them up to check off, one by one, can help, too.
7. Track Progress
This overlaps with the last one somewhat; however, having a big reminder of the progress you’ve made can be encouraging. A whiteboard where you update the wordcount each day can give you a thrill at the progress you’re making. Or maybe you go by the number of chapters or something else.
This method is especially good when you’ve been making forward motion. If you haven’t, it can be a bit depressing – which can either spur you to change that or discourage you, depending on your personality.
6. Choose the Right Background Noise
I’m writing this while listening to an anime series (subbed). That’s a sublimely bad choice if I want to pay attention to my work and not get distracted. Don’t be like me. Resist the urge to turn on something in the background if you know it’s likely to slow you down or stop you altogether. Or, at least, do it rarely, not all the time.
5. Use a Reward System
Reward systems work great for some people and not at all for others. The basic idea is that you take your list of goals and make a corresponding list of rewards for each one. When you complete a goal, you get a reward (buying something, doing something, reading a book, etc.). If you like stuff and have enough money to buy the stuff you want, getting to buy something can be a nice reward, but it doesn’t work so well if it makes you broke. So try to be reasonable about what you can do. I like using this for bigger goals – like finishing a first draft.
4. Do Writing Exercises
If you’ve been dealing with the work side of writing a lot, it can wash the excitement of writing and being creative right out of you. Exploring a random writing prompt where you can focus on the fun side instead of the duller, more painstaking parts of writing can help revive that excitement and give you fresh energy.
3. Write Somewhere Else
Working in the same place every day can feel boring and uninspiring at times. Even when you like your workspace and normally do well there, there will be days when it’s not doing anything for you. Going somewhere else can counteract that. Go to a cafe or restaurant. If it’s a pretty day, write outside. The change of pace can get your brain churning, and then you’ll be ready to work at home again the next day.
2. Have Fun
Believe it or not, sometimes the one thing that’ll help your writing most is taking a day off, stepping away from it, and having a good time. Recharge, and when you go back to the work, you’ll have a fresh perspective. I won’t say not to do it regularly: regular relaxation is necessary. Just don’t do it every day or so often that you stop making progress. Then, it’s not motivating anymore (well, it might be motivating you to take days off, but that’s not the goal).
1. Reduce Stress
This goes right along with the last one. Car trouble, a bad work environment, bills, relationship problems, illness, terrifying government elections, all of the above, etc. (you know, life) – these are all things that can cause stress, and stress of any kind can be a big motivation killer.
Maybe, somewhere, some people thrive on that kind of stress and get super motivated, but I think that’s pretty rare. I’ve found it’s more likely for the stress to eat up your energy and make working seem pointless or impossible. Whether it’s caused by big problems or simply lack of sleep, finding ways to reduce stress can increase motivation and improve your writing progress.
I’m sure there are more tips to help motivation, but these 10 are a decent start. Got any to add? What works best for you?