Lost Your Motivation to Write? The One Thing that Helps

    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? Tweet

    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

      Len Markidan

      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.

    • I linked it on my page. I like your article a lot because it changes the whole wait for motivation game!

    • This is a nice post. A lot of people can relate to this. And i agree. Motivation is always there. It is more on how you effectively use it to become more productive.

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      I need help and ideas to start a new website?

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    • Linda H says:

      Wow, what a timely post. I’ve experienced so many ebbs and flows of motivation it’s crazy. These are excellent tips that I’ll use immediately. Was wondering how I’d get through the ebb tide of motivation today. Great ideas.

      Looking at my lengthy To Do list, I’m suddenly excited about how to complete the projects and meet the deadlines, with flying colors. I’ll be interested to see how much higher my productivity goes moving forward.

      All writers can benefit from these tips. Truly contributes to how to better manage your energies and accomplish more in less time. Plus, with the repetition of research, then reviewing outlines/notes later, it improves recall and can bring greater insight into a great project. Outstanding.

    • Great blog post.
      Rereading your old writings, when motivation is lost helps a great deal. It also helps in bringing new ideas to write about.
      Revisiting and updating old blog posts, helps a great deal.

      Breaking up your to do list to difficult and easy tasks, it’s a great idea. Doing difficult tasks at highly productive hours helps a lot. Doing easy tasks when you lost motivation helps to gain motivation.

    • Vanessa says:

      I have a lot of uncompleted write ups that I just hit and run on the topics ’cause the motivation just runs away and muse goes on holiday….but I think this piece is a great resource for tidying up.
      Thanks Len.

    • Reginald says:

      Hey Len,

      Great article! Oh yes, the godly to-do list. That’s exactly what I do to get more ideas. For this, EverNote is a great help.

      Whenever I have any idea or information, jot them down on EverNote and refer back from time to time. It will do wonders to you 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Len says:

        Thanks for the note, Reginald! Love evernote 🙂

    • Pooja says:

      Hey Len,

      I am a productivity nut, and I love exploring new ideas to get more things done. The motivation waves are very helpful. I’ll look more into them.

      I can relate with the “easy tasks” you mentioned. It’s all about procrastinating the smart way, isn’t it? 😉

      Funnily, I was feeling the same type of ugh feeling toward a client project (it’s a long ebook) and kept delaying it. Only when I allowed myself to shut up and “just follow” what the to-do list asked me to do, I could get started on the project.

      Sometimes, you just have to follow the calendar.

      Loved your tips Len; thanks for the share!


      • Len says:

        Thanks, Pooja! I agree 100%: it’s the best way to break out of a writing rut.

    • Jane says:

      Makes total sense to me Len. I’ve never thought about putting my motivation spike to this kind of use. Just along the convention I will aim at “getting things done” when the motivation is high and I usually don’t care if I am doing the hardest thing or the easiest thing (on my list).

      But what you say here makes a lot of sense. Instead of focusing the times when we have high motivation and trying to make the most out of it, we also should consider those times when we will be dragging our feet out of poor motivation 🙂

      Thanks for the wonderful tip! I will certainly apply it from now on 🙂

      • Len says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful response, Jane, I hope putting motivation waves to work will be valuable to you!

    • This is a little bit BRILLIANT, Len! I would accomplish so much more by outlining MORE blog posts than writing them from start to finish. This post was amazingly helpful, and I’ll definitely refer back to it. Thanks so much!

      • Len says:

        Many thanks, Marcy! I’m thrilled that it was so helpful to you!

    • Sherry Carter says:

      Wow, I really need this! I’m always up in the mornings but my motivation craters after lunch. I sometimes try to power through but, most often, I sit and mope. Thanks so much for these lists. I will certainly try them out. My afternoons will finally be productive!

      • Len says:

        Thanks, Sherry! Be sure to let me know how it goes.

    • This is exactly the system I use for my accounting work – I do the really tough stuff when I’m full of energy, and save the more routine tasks for when I’m not feeling so motivated. But I rarely apply that methodology to writing – it sounds like a very effective means of time and productivity management. Thanks for an informative and practical post!

      • Len says:

        Thanks, Lori! Glad you liked it.

    • What’s up, just wanted to say, I loved this article.
      It was practical. Keep on posting!

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