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Motivation Tips that Actually Work: 6 Sure-Fire Ways To Get Writing and Keep Writing

A guest Post by Annabel Candy of Get in the Hotspot

Have you noticed how easy non-writers think writing is? When you’re a writer that can be frustrating.

There are three main things about writing that make it lack the social proof people expect of professional activities.

  • It’s intangible – Many people don’t seem to consider writing a proper job, maybe because often writers type away for days with apparently little to show for it. Yes, there may be the occasional article in a newspaper, possibly even a published book you can actually show people. But even then that small book, an object you can hold in one hand, isn’t a good indication of the many hours, months or possibly years of work that went in to actually writing it.
  • It’s unpaid - This is true even of successful, established and published writers, people like Zen Habits and Write to Done founder Leo Babauta who still regularly give away his writing on his own blogs and elsewhere. Many writers have blogs they write unpaid and if you’re not paid for something then other people tend to see it as a hobby and an unnecessary indulgence when for most writers creating a blog is a carefully planned career move.
  • It’s intellectual – People see hard work as being physical like laboring, or stressful like being a fighter pilot. They don’t realize the kind of mental determination that writing calls for, the inner motivation that’s required to get you writing and keep you going until you actually finish the work.

No wonder writers often struggle with motivation.

Writing is a common dream for people. Yet most people who dream about writing don’t actually do it. Some of them hardly even read. Meanwhile writers who do actually earn a living from their work still struggle to stay motivated and keep writing.

Faced with all this opposition, both external and internal, how can we motivate ourselves to get writing and keep at it?

Here are six ideas that work :

  1. Get motivated
    Accept responsibility for you own actions. Acknowledge that you’re the only person who can do this. That if you don’t glue your backside to the chair and first start, then finish writing your article or book, no one else is going to do it for you.
  2. Create tight imaginary deadlines for yourself to spur you on.
    Try pretending you only have one hour to write today and that can be a good incentive to get on with it. Or ask yourself what you’d start or finish writing if you only had a month to live.I motivated myself to write a 70,000 word manuscript by telling myself that if I didn’t write it that year I never would. These scare tactics do work and best of all no one has to die in the process.
  3. Commit to your writing.
    Work out how much time you can give to your writing and when. Schedule it in your diary it. Make it a part of your routine and keep at it until it becomes a true habit.Now stay focused. If it’s a book you need to be able to maintain your focus for months. For a shorter piece like a blog post or an article you need to focus for one or two hours.
  4. Remove all distractions.
    You know what they are. Unplug the phone, turn off your router, find a place where you can write away oblivious to the household duties which are being neglected.Try using a kitchen timer to keep you seated and writing. Set the timer for an hour and write away. When the time’s up have a five minute break then repeat until the piece is finished.
  5. Use motivational tools.
    Don’t dismiss Twitter as a waste of time waster or, at best, a simple networking tool. I’ve found it a powerful way to motivate myself and other people. It surprised me too but here’s how it happened.I followed a well known novelist and journalist called John Birmingham @johnbirmingham on Twitter.I noticed that he constantly tweeted how many words he’d written on a project and how many he was about to write. He’s prolific and his word count put me to shame so I decided to try his tactic and see if it helped me.First thing in the morning, I’d tweet:”Three jobs: edit chap two of fiction manuscript, finish short story for the competition, write blog post for Get In the Hot Spot.”Then I made updates on my progress via Twitter, as the day went on, such as:”Chapter two edited and looking good. About to update my blog now. Hope you’ve had a productive morning too.”I know this sounds ridiculously simple and unnecessary too, but if it works as a motivational tool, that has to be a good thing.
  6. Try co-motivation
    Sometimes on Twitter I’ve challenge other writers or bloggers to a word race if I know they’re in the same boat as me. As we both write more than we would have otherwise, we both end up winning. I’ve found that innocent bystanders who’ve seen my word count tweets are motivated and inspired by that just as I was by John Birmingham.This type of motivation even has a proper name. Appropriately enough for writers it’s called “bookmarking”.Basically, you tell someone your goal and then update them regularly on your progress. It may be a friend, but it can be anyone, and it can also be done on the phone, with a text message, face to face, or on Twitter where you don’t even need anyone specific to report too.One brilliant side-effect of this is that as well as John Birmingham motivating himself and me, my progress reports have motivated other people too.One man told me that my tweets about writing and my word count have inspired him to start writing again. Another Australian writer Peter Moore @travdude who’s published six travel books, emailed me saying”I’m impressed that you’re knocking out those kind of numbers in a family environment.”

Final word on motivation

Who cares if writing’s intangible, unpaid and misunderstood? We mark our progress in words written and don’t worry that most of them will be removed in the end. We pay ourselves a favor each time we put pen to paper and practice our craft. We wage a war against lassitude and writer’s block on a daily basis and we win.

We just sit down to write no matter how hard it is, because no one else can write it like us.

How do you start writing and stick to it even though it’s easier not to? Please share your tips in the comments.

On the Internet it’s just the same as in real life ~ if you spend time with positive, inspiring people, you’ll be motivated to improve yourself and work harder.

Brrng, Brrng! Got to go now, the timer’s ringing. Have a super duper and highly productive day everyone.

Annabel Candy writes about self improvement at Get In the Hot Spot. She runs a web design company with her husband and manages to stay mostly focused on her writing despite the general mayhem created by their three children. To have as word count race or boast about how much you’ve written, tweet her @inthehotspot

Image credit: Photo by CarbonNY

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28 thoughts on “Motivation Tips that Actually Work: 6 Sure-Fire Ways To Get Writing and Keep Writing”

  • Kai Roer says:

    Thanks for this post, Annabel!
    I will start using the Twitter count/bookmarking tip right away!

    One thing that work wonders for me is to write with my writing buddy. We normally schedule one fix day of the week, where we first chat and update each other on other stuff, then we write, discuss the writings and ideas, eat some, write more, and most importantly – chair each other and tell the other one who good we just did!

    Kai

  • Jenny says:

    Love these tips. Another thing I’ll do is to not write for a day or so. If it feels forced, it’s not going to be my best work. It’s amazing how much I can not wait to sit down and write after a couple days away from my blog though.

  • Daniel says:

    Thanks for the post. It helps a lot. Going to try the twitter thing for sure :).

  • Great tips. Thanks.

    I’ve awarded your blog the One Lovely Blog award today. Thanks for all your work.

  • I like the article, and the one thing that I would state, if only for myself, is structure, structure, structure, and spontaneity of course. I have to set up a specific time to write and make it a habit, rather than something I must motivate myself to do. I haven’t mastered that yet — at all.

  • Ciawy says:

    Thanks so much for the really helpful tips. I just started writing/blogging last December and I would post sporadically. Right now I’ve changed my game plan into posting at the least 3 times per week. I’m also training myself to write something everyday – be it an idea, a draft or a post to publish.

  • Lovely to wake up and find all these comments.

    Kai – I’m doing a similar thing with a friend too. We meet once a fortnight for a chat and also progress report on how much progress we made over the past two weeks.

    Jenny – It is good to have a break and I try to make sure I get one at the weekends so my writing doesn’t become too much of a chore and go stale.

    Daniel – I’ll be looking out for you on Twitter:)

    Samantha – Wow, an award, thank you!

    Mike – I wouldn’t claim to have mastered it either but I think that with practice we can only get better:)

    CIAWY – It’s great to set yourself a target of 3 times a week and stick to it. I did that in the beginning and treated posting as a life or death situation plus told my readers exactly when I’d post and that kept me on track. Writing every day’s a brilliant way to get you in the habit of it.

  • Monique says:

    One thing I did to help me commit to writing was to make myself accountable to someone, namely my significant other. Each week I send him an email with the progress I’ve made. The report and the accountability is more for me than for him, but it feels much more motivating to try not let him down than it does to just try to not let myself down.

    @Kai: I would love to find a writing buddy, but no one in my social circle is that into writing. Alas.

  • “Here are four ideas that work :”

    You listed six. There’s also a lot of spacing issues in the article.

  • Monique – That sounds like bookmarking to me:) I bet you could find a writing buddy if you put the word out. You could try commenting on other people’s blogs and building up a relationship then seeing if they’re interested. It really help so I hope you can find someone. Doing it over Skype could work just as well as face to face even if your buddy is overseas.

    Matt – Whoops! Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Mary W says:

    I agree having an accountability partner makes a huge difference. Over the past year, I’ve grown as a writer and blogger from a someone daily on my side checking in on me. She’s my biggest cheerleader and and at the same time a colleague who gives me feedback and some coaching. What makes it work is that I also hold her accountable at the same time. It’s made the biggest difference in my productivity and helped me reach most of my goals in 2009.
    My accountability partner wasn’t a friend at the start. I found her through a company called Peer Success Circles.
    I can say that I’ve also got a lot of balance and feel more fulfilled than ever since I joined.
    The key is the consistency in writing daily and my partner holds me to that. One of my accountability partners recommended a book called The Art of War and I’ve found that useful as well.
    Hope this helps..
    -Mary

  • While I encourage any and all to take up writing, what galls me is how people who’ve never set pen to paper assume they are going to become a fabulously successful writer overnight. Sigh.

    I concur on the idea of an accountability partner, it really helps!

  • I am co-writing a biography and ghostwriting a western novel, plus working on a children’s book. It’s frustrating because I work such long hours and have nothing tangible to show for it. I announced my goals on my blog at the beginning of the year and it has made me more accountable. I doubt anybody else is keeping track, but, like you say, if it’s motivating, it’s a good tactic. Great post!

  • Johnny says:

    The imaginary deadline works great for me. I post short stories onto a blog or epub website weekly. I’m able to keep up the pace by imagining an audience with a very short attention span hanging out for my post.

    In reality, it is probably just my wife, my mother, and an odd uncle. Motivating nonetheless.

    I think I will give the tweeting a try.

  • Tarahlynn says:

    For me, getting myself writing is always returning to what inspired me to start working on the project to begin with and find that again. Once I remember what made me feel like “this story needs to be written and I’m the only one who knows it!” it’s a lot easier to get back to work on the book that I’ve been putting off. Almost, in my mind, I feel like I owe it to my story, to my characters. Having that kind of respect for what I’m working on always brings me back to it no matter how hard it might be. It would just be a shame for it to not be finished and it’s silly of me to try and pretend that I don’t want to write it. That’s enough for me to always get back to it. Another tactic, beside that inward motivation, is that I always do a lot of prep work before I write. Right now my outline/changes for the book I’m working on are at my left elbow, the hard work I’ve already done, all I have to do is write.

  • Giovanni says:

    I don’t seek out for anyone in my family to motivate me right now, but since I run an author blog, and I wouldn’t want to keep any readers waiting too long without an update about the writing process. I picked up a lot from about every comment here though, and I just might try out the twitter idea.

  • I use a ‘whip’. That is the person that I set my deadlines with and then that person cracks the whip if I start slipping and missing those deadlines. Makes me accountable to someone other than myself. Love the idea of doing this on twitter also.

    Great Tips, thanks.

  • Phil South says:

    GREAT post Annabel, some wonderful tips there. I’d steal them and present them as my own work, but that would be so mean, you deserve full credit.

    I’ve just gotten through a few tips on motivation myself on my blog http://goingdownwriting.wordpress.com/ look out for the one about Writers Block and the one about Keeping Going.

    Thanks again, love your stuff, and following you over to your your blog right now!

  • Rachel says:

    From my own experience, I’d have to say point 6 is the best! I recently got a friend to check my work, chapter by chapter. She was so quick to send me feedback that my editing pace had to pick up to keep up. And the comments were a great spur! My final edit is flying!

  • This was so inspiring and really helpful to me today. I loved the Twitter thing too (and did it this morning!) I also liked that you banged out a 70K mss. in a year by telling yourself that if you didn’t write it that year, you never would. I’m doing the same thing, but have been diddling around for the last 3 mos. I think your piece put me back on track, and for that I am SO GRATEFUL!!

  • Lovely to read all these ideas and find that I’m not the only one who uses these little tricks to get going with things. Who said Twitter’s a waste of time? Now I’ve got in the swing of writing after a year or two of doing it almost daily I’m bookmarking with a friend on our business goals. Mine being my blog of course. I think the main thing is to keep at it no matter what and hang out at places like this where you’re surrounded by people with similar goals. Thanks everyone:)

  • This is definitely helpful for me. I have a terrible habit of blogging with the television blasting. I wonder how I compose the articles I do. I wonder how much better I’ll do if I shut out all distractions as you advised. hmmm These are such great tips. Thanks for posting

  • That’s cool tips…I have searched for some apps to do manage my time efficiently ant to be get motivated..I found Pocket Coach that much suits into the situation…Try it..
    http://www.itunes.com/apps/pocketcoach

  • Thanks for sharing such an informational article. The article is really well structured and portrays a positive picture of motivation techniques while writing.Writers must try these.

  • WOW, great tips!

    I especially like this one: “Create tight imaginary deadlines for yourself to spur you on.” Though I’ve heard many examples of people doing this in the past, I’ve decided to finally try it. For a year or so, I’ve been trying to save up for a house. So, a good motivator would be to tell myself, “If you don’t get this writing task done, you’ll never be able to buy that dream house you’ve always wanted” or “After you write this article, you’re one step closer to buying your dream house. If you don’t get the article done now, there won’t be another chance.” Simple thoughts like that I know will keep my fingers moving. Brilliant!

    I also like your Twitter tactic. I’ve been wanting to become more active on a social network like Twitter for a very long time. Not only will this tactic help motivate me, but it will also keep me active and (hopefully) increase my follower base… which then helps my business. I can also incorporate this idea in other social networks, like Facebook!

    Thanks a bunch for the motivational boost. I’ll get started right away!

  • Great tips and very inspirational. I’ve tried some of those tips already in the past, and they have indeed worked. I’ve been going through a motivational rough patch lately. I guess it’s time to put some of the into action again!

  • hi says:

    I agree with everything except the 5 minute break. Once I FINALLY get myself going, I can’t stop until I’m done otherwise I won’t be able to start again.

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