Lost Your Motivation to Write? The One Thing that Helps

motivated to write Have you ever lost your motivation to write?

You have a deadline staring you in the face, and no words to reach it.

Feels awful, doesn’t it?

People love talking about motivation.

The truth is, there’s  some great content out there about getting motivated.

 

But asking “How do I motivate myself?” misses a critical point:

What do you do when you’re motivated?

 

How do you turn motivation into productivity?

And more importantly, how do you harness motivation to ensure that you stay productive later?

In effect: how to write even when you’re not motivated?

These may sound like silly questions, but here’s the truth: most writers leave hundreds, even thousands, of pages unwritten each year because they’re not using their motivation the right way.

Here’s how to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

It’s a fascinating psychological concept that will change the way you work – forever.

 

You Can’t Always Control Motivation, But You Can Control How You Use It

 

BJ Fogg, head of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, constructed a model for motivation that he calls the motivation wave.

The idea is that motivation isn’t constant; it ebbs and flows in waves.

Most of the time, our motivation is pretty low.

how to write even when you're not motivated

At such times, doing hard things – like writing a blog post that’s interesting and useful to your readers – is really hard.

 

But sometimes, because of a number of unpredictable factors – maybe you read an inspirational story, have an uplifting talk with a mentor, or just wake up feeling amazing – your motivation spikes.

how to write even when you're not motivated

And that’s when you feel as if you can do just about anything.

 

The Mistake Most Writers Make

 

What do you usually do when you’re feeling super-motivated?

If you’re like most people, you try and power through as much work as possible, writing page after page after page with reckless abandon.

But eventually, your motivation subsides, and once again, you’re having trouble just getting started.

 

Use This Simple Strategy to Write More Every Day

 

By using your motivation strategically, you can actually accomplish a lot more.

When motivation spikes, Fogg suggests we should harness it to do the things that “structure future behavior.”

What does this mean?

 

In a presentation at a health-tech conference, Fogg gave the example of someone trying to get fit.

Instead of simply doing extra workouts, when they are at peak motivation, they should do the things that will make working out easier when they’re not as motivated. For example, buying running shoes, or hiring a personal trainer and scheduling sessions with them.

This makes doing the actual workouts much easier, so the actual workout can be done even when motivation is low.

 

We can apply the same principles to writing.

You may find that the hardest part of creating blog posts isn’t writing them; it’s the research and outlining you have to do first. Once you have that, it’s relatively easy to fill in the existing sections and rewrite from there.

So if you’re extra-motivated, instead of spending your day writing four blog posts from start to finish, research and outline ten posts.

Later, even though your motivation levels might be lower, you can do the (relatively) easier work of writing the content.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

 

Here’s another example, this time from my past life as a copywriter.

Years ago, I wrote sales pages for clients. Dozens of them every month.

As my business grew, it started getting harder to keep up. I began to see my to-do list as a callous monster.

Me: C’mon! I can’t be at 100% every single day. It’s crushing me.

To-Do List: I don’t care. Look at me! Do you see how long I am? Shut up and get back to work.

Me: Okay :-(

(As it turns out, one of the side effects of burnout is being weird and talking to your to-do list.)

 

I began to test a new approach. On the days I was feeling “on,” I wouldn’t actually write that many sales pages.

Instead, I would focus on the three things I consider the most important elements of a sales page.

  • Headlines
  • Subheads
  • Calls to Action

I would write all the headlines, subheads and CTAs for a page, and then put it away and move on to the next one, and the next one, and so on.

Sometimes, I’d get through ten pages a day in this way.

 

Through the rest of the week, the work was much easier.

I just took the outline I’d already written, and filled in the rest.

Of course I did a lot of rewriting too, but the important thing was that the hardest part was already done. The rest of it wasn’t such a big deal, and didn’t depend on how motivated (or unmotivated) I was.

Granted, I hadn’t even heard of motivation waves then, but building that system started me on a long road of exploring productivity, time management and work-life balance.

It helped me write thousands of pages of different types of content over the years.

It can do the same for you.

 

Do This Now

 

Look at your to-do list.

What do you have to write in the next few weeks?

Break up that list into two categories: hard tasks (the ones that will structure your future behavior) and easy tasks (the ones you can do even when your motivation is low).

While the tasks that are easy or hard for you will vary depending on your individual strengths as a writer, use these examples as a guideline.

 

Examples of “Hard” Tasks

  • Coming up with great content ideas
  • Writing irresistible headlines
  • Building outlines for your posts, chapters, books and guides
  • Writing the first line of any writing project
  • Distilling a complex idea into simple, readable copy
  • Buying a writing course, training, or other personal development resource

 

Examples of “Easy” Tasks

  • Using your outline to write body copy
  • Searching online to find research to back your writing
  • Revising your latest draft
  • Proofreading
  • Breaking up your to-do list into “hard” and “easy” tasks

 

The secret is to ride your natural motivation wave and use it productively. This means making decisions about what to work on at different levels of motivation.

This simple act will help you break down your barriers to productivity, and accomplish more every single day.

 

How do you tackle lack of motivation? Let me know in the comments.

 

About the author:

Sign up for Len Markidan’s latest posts on productivity and work/life balance at Home Office Hero. He’s also the Director of Marketing at Groove. Or follow him on Twitter.

Image: No motivation courtesy of Bigstockphoto

How to Maintain Focus when Writing

focus when writing

Can you maintain your focus when writing?

If so, you’re a wonder!

Most people struggle to maintain focus. They feel scattered and find it difficult to stay on track.

I recently got an email from one of our readers, Barrett Caton. He said:

I tend to over-think things when I write. Sometimes it just feels like a part of my mind is scattered all over the place, and it’s affecting my writing. How can I remove this annoying barrier?

Do you suffer from a similar malaise?

If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone!

The reason we struggle to maintain focus is simple: our brains are wired to pay attention to all the sensory input we are inundated with.

The sunbeam hitting your paper, the sound of cars passing, the way your new tee scratches your neck. The smell of coffee beans from the nearby cafe.

And the distractions we face …

Your phone rings.

You wonder whether your friend on Facebook replied to your comment.

Unpaid bills press in on you at the back of your mind.

You remember that you didn’t do the grocery shopping.

Your loved ones clamor for attention.

And on and on it goes…

 

Where does that leave the piece you are writing?

What piece?

Oh, the one I was just writing.

Now let me think … what was I about to say?

Sometimes it’s a wonder we ever get to finish a piece, don’t you think?

Back to Barrett: I told him how I maintain focus when I feel scattered.

It’s simple.

I listen to music that helps me focus. There;s a site, called Focus at Will where you can get a free account and listen to music chosen for improved concentration.

There is a lot of research that music can help us focus. In particular, music with about 60 beats a minute calms you down and puts your mind into a state where you can be focused and creative.

 

Why is it so important to maintain focus when writing?

 

If we maintain focus for at least five minutes, we can enter a zone where we can push the limits of our capability.

maintain focus writing

 

Yes, when we are focused, and push ourselves into that special zone, it can result in magic!

 

What about you? How do you maintain your focus when writing?

I’d love to receive your tips so that I can put together a resource for writers.

Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments.

As to Barrett, he’s 14 years old. You can tell he’s going to be an outstanding writer. He’s got the drive:

I love to write, whether it’s at school, in my spare time or on the toilet.

He’s an inspiration, isn’t he?

I look forward to reading your tips!

How to Write a Book or Blog (The 6 Danger Stages You Need To Overcome)

picture of woman holding danger sign You’ve probably had the experience of starting a novel or blog with great intentions…

…only to find that, a few months later, you’ve barely made any progress.

Maybe you started strong but lost momentum.

Maybe you jumped ahead when you should’ve paused.

Or maybe you got discouraged and gave up.

And you wonder: how to write a book (or blog).

I’ve coached many writers in workshop groups over the past few years, and I’ve noticed that there are six key stages when projects often stall or go wrong.

Here’s what to watch out for.

 

Danger Stage #1: Once You’ve Got a Great Idea

 

Let’s say you’ve got a new idea you’re excited about. Perhaps it’s a great premise for a novel, a topic for a blog, or a prompt you want to work on for a short story.

Writers tend to make one of two mistakes here:

  • They jump straight in, full of enthusiasm, without planning. They make a great start, and might get a few chapters into the novel or a few posts into a blog … but then they get stuck.
  • They wait – and wait – until the “perfect moment” to begin actually writing. They put off starting until they’ve got past family commitments and a busy spell at work … or they read about their chosen field of writing without getting any words down on paper.

 

Move Forward

Once you’ve got a great idea, invest some time in planning.

You don’t necessarily need a chapter-by-chapter outline of your novel, but you’ll at least want a clear idea of who your characters are, what kicks the story off, what key scenes take place, and how it’s all going to end.

If you’re writing a blog, plan out your next month of posts. Having an editorial calendar makes it much easier to get a great balance of content and to keep yourself on track and motivated.

 

Danger Stage #2: When You’re a Few Chapters In

 

Many writers end up abandoning their books about five chapters in.

At this stage, your initial burst of enthusiasm has waned, and it feels like you have a really long way to go until “The End.”

Some writers are serial abandoners, with many just-begun novels, or several attempts at starting a memoir or non-fiction book. If you fall into this pattern, it’s easy to get defeatist, and tell yourself “I never finish anything.”

 

Move Forward

Develop a consistent, regular writing routine and stick to it, whether that means writing daily first thing in the morning, writing during your lunch break, or having a couple of evening sessions each week.

If you write one chapter of 1500 words per week (that’s about 215 words per day), in six months, you’ll have close to 40,000 words, which is easily half a full-length novel.

You might like to read Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect for an encouraging look at how small, regular efforts add up.

 

Danger Stage #3: When You Hit a Roadblock in Your Writing

 

I can’t think of a single writing project I’ve taken on where everything went smoothly from start to end.

If you’re writing anything longer than a blog post, chances are, you’re going to get stuck at some point. Maybe you need to do more research, or you’ve discovered a huge hole in your plot.

When you get stuck, it’s easy to put your work aside for a few days while you figure things out. The problem is, “a few days” quickly turns into a few weeks, then a few months.

 

Move Forward

Don’t plow on blindly when you realize there’s a problem – there’s no point writing chapter after chapter if you’re going to have to eventually cut them.

Instead, grab your notebook, and start figuring out what you need to do to solve the problem. Asking yourself “What’s the next action?” is vital to David Allen’s process and book Getting Things Done.

 

 

Danger Stage #4: The End of Your First Draft

 

You’ve finished the first draft of your book.

Congratulations! Break out the champagne, share the news with your Facebook friends, and celebrate how far you’ve come. Even if your project is a short story or mini-ebook, you’ve done really well to complete the first draft.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re done, though. No first draft is perfect, and most aren’t anywhere close to publishable (mine definitely aren’t).

However keen you are to be done with your project, don’t rush it out before it’s ready.

 

Move Forward

Set your book / blog post / short story aside for awhile. Ideally a week or more for a book, and a whole day for a blog post or short story.

Then read through the whole thing, and note any “big picture” changes you need to make such as cutting entire chapters, rejigging the relationship between characters, or adding new material. For more on the editing process, see Eight Simple Tips for Editing Your Own Work.

If you can, get other people to help you edit. You’ll want to do a full edit yourself, then send your work to them for feedback. Knowing that you have readers waiting can help you focus on doing a great job of getting your project shipshape.

 

Danger Stage #5: Your First Rejection

 

Whatever you write, and however good you are, there’s one difficult moment you’re certain to face at some point in your career, and that’s your first rejection.

It could be a rejection letter from an agent or editor, your first negative review, or the first critical comment on your blog.

Some writers get so upset by rejection that they let it stop them entirely. They’d rather give up than face negative feedback.

 

Move Forward

Every author gets rejected. It’s no reflection on the value of your work (or of you as a person).

Some editors simply won’t “click” with your style, some blog readers will be having a terrible day when they leave that snarky comment, and so on.

Do the best you can with your writing, but don’t be afraid to put it out in the world. If you do get a rejection, give yourself a limited amount of time (maybe 24 hours) to feel sorry for yourself, then get straight back to writing.

 

Danger Stage #6: After Your Work is Published

 

Your blog post is up on your site, your book is on Amazon, or your short story collection is available for free online.

Whatever form publication takes, your work is out there for the world to see. (If you get stuck just before publication, read Carol Tice’s post Scared of Publishing? 2 Proven Ways to Write With Confidence.)

Many writers don’t realise how crucial promotion is. Unless you’re writing purely for personal enjoyment (a diary or memoir), you’ll want as many people as possible to read your work. How can they do that if they’ve never heard of it?

Even if you have a publishing deal, there’s a limit to what your publisher will (and can) do for you. Most authors have to arrange their own book launches, do their own social media, and so on.

 

Move Forward

Get to grips with the idea of promotion – it doesn’t mean becoming a scammy marketer. Instead, it means getting the word out about your book.

For bloggers, one of the best ways to promote your work is to build relationships with other bloggers. This could mean getting to know them on Twitter, or pitching them a guest post for their blog, which will give you access to their audience.

 

Is your writing project currently at one of these danger stages?

Now you know what to do to navigate it successfully.

But maybe you have other strategies that work for you. If so, tell us in the comments below. And if I’ve missed any danger stages, share those too.

 

About the author: 

Ali Luke’s course “On Track” is a free, seven-week program designed to get your project moving again. If you’re feeling stuck, in need of inspiration, or just want a bit of guidance through the different stages of your project, click here to find out more. You’ll get a bonus ebook, Seven Pillars of Great Writing, as soon as you join.

Image: Danger courtesy of Bigstockphoto

How I Made Over $7500 From One Email as a Freelance Writer

how to become a freelance writer
Have you ever wondered how to become a freelance writer?

Maybe you think it’s a challenge to find clients for your freelance writing business.

Maybe you’ve tried your hand at in-person networking events.

Pitched editors and marketing managers of companies?

But the results are far below your expectations.

There’s a much better alternative you might be missing.

How I Accidentally Discovered Online Networking

In mid-2012, I received a request from an acquaintance to connect on LinkedIn.

I already had a LinkedIn account but it was dormant, with just 60-odd connections. I’d almost forgotten it existed.

When I accepted the request, I saw that many people were looking at my LinkedIn profile, and some of them fit my ideal client market. Over the next few days, I updated my profile, added a fresh photo and sent out a few invites.

As time passed, I received new connection requests.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when an editor from a reputed online publication added me. That was a glorious moment.

I instantly sent them a “Thank you” message. (Looking back, I was acting like a kid in a candy store, but never mind that.)   What happened after that was life-changing.

The editor replied to my message and said my profile looked interesting. No amount of in-person networking can provide this. Don’t get me wrong – networking events are great for boosting your confidence. But they don’t attract the targeted leads you want.

LinkedIn lets you pick and choose whom you connect with – the potential is unlimited.

 

How I made over $7500 with one email

 

In December 2013, an unknown person added me to her network. Her profile didn’t clearly spell out what she did.

I accepted the request and sent her this message:

Hi Name, How are you? Thank you for adding me to your network. I’d love to know more about what you do – and help you the best I can. Looking forward to hearing from you!  

She was looking for a writer.

After a few email exchanges, I found their pain point, offered my help and suggested what they could do next.

This company went on to hire me to write blog posts at $150 per post – all because of my small gesture of reaching out, asking if she needed help, and offering it.

Don’t wonder if they’ll hire you – that’s not important. Simply offer help that you’d ideally charge for. This is when you tell the client what you can do for them.

How they do it is entirely up to them. They may do it themselves, or hire you. Chances are – they’ll do the latter.

For example, guest posting was one of the things I suggested to this client, and backed it up with some stellar examples of what it had done for a few clients. She immediately asked me if I could help.

Of course I could!

Now that you know how I’ve made over $7500 from one email, here’s how you can do it too.

 

Step 1: Create Your Profile

 

1. Create a profile here.

2. Add a profile photo, and keep it professional.

3. Add your title – this is vital real-estate. Mine says “Blogger | Freelance Writer | Editor | Behavioural Specialist” because that’s what I do.

4. Ensure your Title and Summary have relevant keywords in the description so people can find you. For example, if you want to show up for “technical writer,” have these keywords in your title.

5. Add your websites in your profile. You can add a link or upload a file to give people more information about what you do.

6. Fill in your Experience, Publications, Skills and Endorsements (use rich keywords here), Education and any additional information you think will help boost your LinkedIn searchability and attract prospects.

7. Become a member of groups related to your industry. You might choose to be a member of “magazine writers” and “report writers.” According to LinkedIn data, group participants get 4 times more profile views. The more you comment and contribute to the group, the more profile views you get.

8. Ask for a Recommendation. Tweet this! The number one rule of networking is to give before you ask. Give your clients something so good that they are compelled to write you a 5-star testimonial. You can also recommend others you’ve worked with, and ask them to return the favor.

Step 2: Check in Everyday

Log in to your account every day. Make it a part of your daily marketing hour. If that sounds too much, you can schedule 15-30 minutes every couple of days.

Step 3: See Who’s Viewed Your Profile

Under the “Profile” tab, you can see who’s viewed you in the past week. If many people from the IT industry are viewing your profile, it’s because you’ve used keywords related to that industry. Good for you if you’re looking for technical-writing jobs!

Step 4: Send a Message to Your Viewer

If you’re getting many profile views every day, return the favor and check out the profiles of those who viewed yours. Found someone who is an exact client match? Send them an InMail (paid LinkedIn feature). If you don’t want to pay for a subscription, you can add this person as a connection and then send them a message. (To send a request, they need to be in your “network,” separated by you by up to three degrees of connection.) If they are out of your network, you can still use InMail to reach them.

Step 5: Accept LinkedIn Requests

Don’t ignore requests from unknown people. LinkedIn isn’t a personal platform, so why ignore requests from prospects who might be interested learning a little more about you? Granted, not everyone is a prospect. But if you ignore everyone who wants to connect, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. Filter requests and add people from your target industry – look at their profile and if it looks remotely interesting, give it a go. I accept most of the requests I get, except from people –

  • who have nothing in common with me
  • are from an industry I have no knowledge about
  • don’t have a profile photo (Seriously, add your real photo!)

 

Step 6: Send a Thank You Note

 

Once someone adds you, send them a “thank you” note. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just introduce yourself and ask how you can help. If you both have something in common, make it a point to include that. This shows you’ve taken the time to read their profile. A question most people cannot resist answering is “I’d love to know more about your business – could you tell me more?” The point of doing this is to get a conversation going. You want to engage them.

Step 7: Take the Conversation to Skype or Phone

Once you’ve had a few email exchanges, take the conversation to a more personal platform. Ask if they’d like to schedule a quick chat on Skype where you can discuss their business further.

People love that.

They want undivided attention from someone who can help them achieve their goals. Be that person. On the call, share helpful tips. You don’t have to share anything new – you can repeat what you discussed on email and reiterate it, using examples.

Tell them you’re in the business of helping people do exactly what you’re suggesting to them. If you do it right, you might’ve found yourself a client!

LinkedIn is your readymade platform to launch your business, giving you targeted leads that convert to revenue. 

In my experience, leads on LinkedIn pay much more than leads on job sites. It’s less time-consuming and less daunting to reach out to anyone on LinkedIn than in any other way.

LinkedIn helps you create a more focused network for your marketing efforts. Connections lead to more connections – and more business!

So go ahead and give it a shot.

How do you use LinkedIn to grow your writing business? Share in the comments!

About the author:  Pooja has been featured on Firepole Marketing, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. She teaches aspiring writers how to become self-employed, create wealth and live better lives by launching their online writing biz. Steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.

Image: Money from email courtesy of Bigstockphoto

Is Your Book Cover Design Stopping You From Being On The Bestseller List?

picture of books on a shelf Would you like to see your book on the bestseller list?

Who wouldn’t enjoy seeing the words “A New York Times Bestselling Author” gracing the cover of their next work?

While it is simply not possible for every author to gain “bestseller” status, even new authors’ books can carry the same quality and professionalism as those of established names in the business.

 

Bestselling Books Usually Have the Best Designs

 

As you walk through your local bookstore, you’ll see covers ranging from the bold type of John Grisham’s latest thriller to the frilly embellishments of Beverly Lewis’ newest Amish Romance.

fiction-bookshelf-466x350

Each carries a level of quality that you immediately equate with professionalism in the content.

It is the combination of the author’s reputation, and the thought and craftsmanship used in the design that persuade you that “this book is for you.”

Let’s face it – if you saw the average, self-designed book sitting next to Karen Kingsbury’s latest, it would stand out, though not for the right reasons.

Self-designed books rarely assure book buyers that they are anything other than, well, self-designed.

 

In an uncertain book market, getting a potential reader to buy is harder than ever.

The book cover is the first impression, so it has to do the job of convincing the potential buyer that the message inside is worth their time.

If the cover portrays even a hint of “my nephew designed this for his school project,” nine times out of ten, the book will not receive a second glance.

While it is true that a well-designed book cover alone isn’t enough, I can tell you from experience, it certainly helps.

 

How to Compete with Bestsellers

 

It is possible to compete with the bestsellers.

What gives big name authors their edge (aside from the quite massive typographical name placement) is the fact that they alone do not decide how the book looks.

Any writer who has signed with a leading publisher knows this.

Authors are asked for their input, but in most cases, it is the publisher who has the final word on the cover design. This is because the publisher knows what makes a book’s design successful.

Again, this is not to minimize the importance of the book’s content, but the design (inside and out) must convince readers that their purchase is worth every cent spent.

 

Hire a Pro

 

If you are one of the fortunate few to have sold a book to an established publisher, it’s likely that you’ll end up with a top-class book cover, because your publisher will hire a qualified, experienced, book cover designer to handle the project.

But what if no publisher has yet shown interest in your work?

Your book will still need the professional look if it is to compete successfully with other titles in the market.

The solution, then, is for you to do the same. Ask around, search online resources, and track down a designer who specializes in book cover design.

 

Book Cover Design on a Budget

 

At this point, you’re probably wondering how expensive it will be to hire a professional book cover designer.

Because a book cover is arguably the most important part of your marketing effort for your book, paying a book jacket designer who knows the industry or niche you’re writing in is a worthwhile investment.

But there’s also hope for those on a serious shoestring budget.

Thanks to services like Elance and oDesk, it is easier than ever to find a talented, knowledgeable designer at a budget that suits you.

Services like these allow you to list your project and your budget, while designers from around the world place bids or “proposals”  describe their experience, portfolio, price, and approach to the job.

I cannot emphasize it enough: as far as possible, trade “general” graphic designers for a professional book cover designer who is aware of current trends in the publishing industry. It will mean spending more time, but the results will be well worth the extra effort you make.

 

Don’t Hijack Your Project

 

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect designer for your book.

Despite having successfully accomplished step one, you are still not guaranteed a winning book cover design.

Many professional designers, editors and marketers work with authors every day and end up with a finished product they are not proud to call their own.

How can this happen after hiring a pro?

This happens when a project gets “hijacked.”

self-published-book-sample-233x350

For example, an author may insist the designer change the font of the book’s title to “Comic Sans,” rather than working with the designer to understand the reasoning behind their typographical choice.

Or, the author may capitalize a word despite The Chicago Manual of Style suggesting otherwise.

Or, the author may ask for a cover that will sell well through Facebook ads, before even knowing whether they will find an audience on Facebook.

More often than not, “hijacked” projects render mediocre, at best.

What you need to do is partner with your designer. After all, how often do customers tell their mechanics how they want their brakes fixed?

 

You can have a book worthy of the time and care you’ve lavished to craft the finished manuscript.

 

All you need is to find a pro book designer conversant with book design trends in your genre, and work with them to have a book cover that’ll put your work on the same shelf as the bestsellers.

Have you tried to come up with the perfect cover design for your book? Share your tips and experience in the comments!

 

About the author

Thomas McGee has enjoyed working with publishers and authors on hundreds of book cover design projects. It is his joy to bring an author’s painstakingly-crafted works into market-targeted, stunning designs. Check out some of his work at Writely Designed and say hello on Twitter.

Image: Books on a shelf courtesy of Bigstockphoto