The secret to having the motivation you need to write, work out, to eat well, or anything else you want to accomplish is to simply go out and get it. Motivation doesn’t just come to you if you wait long enough. It doesn’t rain down from the sky in silvery streams to refill our hearts and souls. It doesn’t magically appear when you need it most like some blue-tinged fairy godmother come to grant wishes.
Motivation isn’t kind, patient, and readily available whenever you want to accomplish something. Instead you have to wrestle it away from apathy and excuse. Motivation likes to be chased and you will have to actively pursue it, tackle it, and bend it to your will. It will be very difficult at first, but motivation does come easier once you begin to see results, as your writing improves, and as your word counts grow.
There are ways to keep the momentum moving in the right direction and I’ll walk you through a few that work for me, but you should know you also have personal motivations that will only apply to you. Perhaps your girlfriend’s smile when she catches you writing, your husband’s pleasantly surprised look when he reads a passage, or even the right mix that pushes you to do better. Find out what unique things motivate you and lean on them.
Set a Goal
You need a plan of attack. Don’t think for one second that the vague phrases “writing more” or “writing better” are proper goals. They are merely good ideals. Goals need to be specific and accomplishable. Write for twenty minutes three times a week, edit ten pages each day, sprint with friends three times each week for half an hour, or sit down and plot out an outline over the next five days. These are specific goals and things you can accomplish. Use them as examples and build your own plan.
Write it Down
A goal unwritten is merely a wish. Write it down, cementing what you want to accomplish in visible words. Post that goal somewhere you will be sure to see it every day: on the fridge, on a bathroom mirror, or on your front door. I’ve even stapled goals to my ceiling above my bed. If it is somewhere prominent, it will serve as a reminder and give you the fuel and motivation to keep going.
You don’t have to climb Everest , run a marathon right away, or tackle an entire book all at once. If you set huge goals, it becomes easier to lose hope and give up too soon. Begin with something small that you can achieve. Once you do, move on to something bigger. Then bigger. Then even bigger! That’s the way motivation works, built upon a ladder of successes until it’s hard to believe you had trouble finding that motivation once.
Celebrate each success, no matter how tiny it may seem. Each fulfilled goal is a huge step in the right direction. Do not allow yourself to think that even the smallest success doesn’t have value. It does and so do you! If your goal was to write for five minutes every other day and you do it, celebrate that and then start on your next goal. Each one is important. Each one is worthy of a moment of rejoicing.
This sounds like something easier said than done, but really it just requires you thinking about your goal often with the right frame of mind. Read your goal each day and smile, even if you are filled with dread at the thought of continuing or your fingers are sore from typing all night. As long as you smile and try to be happy about your goals, the excitement will come and with excitement comes motivation. I’ve also found that music can help me get into an excited frame of mind as I think about my goals.
Search Out Inspiration
Find motivation in the success of others. Read blogs, articles, and watch videos from people who have reached their goals. Feed off their motivation, their excitement, and their encouragement. There are many people who have gone through exactly what you are attempting to do and most are willing to help and share others follow their lead. The writing community has an amazing mix of passionate, friendly, and giving people.
Use your Imagination
Humans have a great gift of creation that allows us to dream up new and impossible things. Harness the power of your imagination to picture yourself succeeding, how will your book look and feel in your hands. Smell the pages and run your fingers over your name printed on the cover. Then use those feelings of success to motivate you. Our brains do not distinguish something imagined or read from reality. Convince yourself of your success and you will be more likely to achieve it.
Your goals should be public. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to post an article in the paper or call a press conference, but you should tell your friends and family what you intend to accomplish and ask them to help you. You will need support.
Continue to build that support group. Find a writing buddy or critique group. You can encourage and motivate one another and it is much easier with a friend than on your own. Take classes, go to conferences, and seminars. The other participants and instructors will motivate you. A mentor can also make a huge difference in motivation and what you are able to accomplish. I’m still trying to get Jasper Fforde to be mine.
Focus on Benefits
It’s easy to lose hope and motivation when we focus on the difficult aspects of writing. The long, lonely hours in front of the screen, the rejections, the reviews, the queries, the marketing, blech! Writing is hard, creating living characters is painful, making time means altering habits. Don’t focus on the work! Focus on the results! Before sitting down at your keyboard, think about the benefits you will reap and the accomplishments you have won so far instead.
Remember that writing can be fun. Don’t just put your head down and plow through your scenes like you are tackling a chore. Discipline is a good thing, but you need to let yourself play now and again too. Find writing exercises you enjoy. Get up now and again and jump up and down. Laugh. Have your characters laugh with you and see their joy at being alive in your head and their humor seep through. Sing out loud to yourself, argue with your characters, talk to your manuscript, but have some fun.
Motivation comes in waves. Don’t beat yourself up if you lose it briefly. Forgive yourself for not writing today, for not reaching your goal, for feeling apathetic about the whole thing, for getting a rejection, or for not writing well as you had hoped you could and then move on. Forgiveness of yourself is probably one of the most important skills to learn as a writer, heck, as a human being. Love yourself even when you mess up and then keep following the advice above and focusing on the positive. Motivation will come back to you again. I promise, if you want it to, it always will.