Staying Motivated

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When I set the goal to finish my second novel in September, I had no idea that decision would jolt my already strong work ethic into an absolute frenzy. By the end of September my nerves were shot, my brain fried, and my body utterly exhausted. Yet, here I am more than halfway through October with the same schedule. Not only am I beginning to question my sanity, but so is everyone else.  Where does this drive come from and why do I keep pushing myself? The answer to these questions is easy: I am motivated.

A little something I keep on my writing desk.
Photo by: c.b.w.

Motivation is a fickle thing as it ebbs and flows within the mind. There are days where I can’t type fast enough and others where I’m so exhausted that pressing a key seems like a monumental task. On the days when sitting on my couch is much more appealing than packing up my stuff for a writing shift, I rely on the little voice inside of me that says, “You have to write.”

Getting motivated is quite different from staying motivated.  After six weeks of almost non-stop work, I have to keep reminding myself to refill my motivation well so it doesn’t run dry. It’s all about taking care of my muse and making sure there is always a reason to keep writing.

Things to keep in the Motivation Well:

1) Muse Juice

Back in August of 2011, I outlined everything I need for successful writing session. Everything on the list remains in the must-have category and it all continues to help me stay on track when I sit down to write, (See Muse Juice).

2) You’ve got to want it and want it bad.

Writing is an incredibly difficult thing to do on a daily basis. Writing a novel asks you to dig deeply into your soul and use everything you’ve ever learned about life, storytelling, and sentence structure. It’s exhausting and it’s tempting to give up. Your need to tell the story has to be stronger than the challenges that arise.

3) Set concrete goals that are reachable.

Something I learned very early on is the fact that I need goals to chase. I set them for the day, week, and month. Its important for me to always have something I need to be doing in order to reach a benchmark. I don’t like to fall behind or fail, even if I’m the only one who notices. At the same time, its important to set goals that are both reachable and challenging at the same time. Never let yourself get too complacent or comfortable.

4) Make a schedule and stick to it.

Life has a way of getting pretty busy, so setting aside a block of time to write is crucial.  I’ve made it a rule that nothing (aside from emergencies) is allowed to occupy the same time block I’ve devoted to writing. Much like setting goals, setting boundaries can be a very effective way to stay focused.

5) Create a Love List.

The exercise of creating a list of everything I love about my WIP is at the heart of my recent surge of motivation, (see What I Love About My WIP). You have love what you write in order to keep moving forward.

6) Embrace imperfection.

An obsession with perfection is a big reason why so many writers have more unfinished than finished drafts. Nothing is perfect and no draft ever will be no matter how many times you go back and read through it. Instead, focus on creating the best draft you can and embrace the imperfections that give you a distinctive voice as a writer. Letting go of the inner perfectionist silences the pesky inner critic that slows you down.

7) Expect to fall and get up again.

Failure is a natural part of the creative process. Accepting failure when it happens and learning from it is a necessary part of success. This is a struggle for me as I don’t like to fail, but I’ve also learned that I try harder when I fail. The drive to overcome a badly written piece or a rejection can be very powerful. Use it to your advantage.

8) Giving up is not an option.

This sounds simple, but it is very difficult. The easier (and often tempting) path of doing nothing is very appealing when exhaustion sets in or writer’s block drives you batty with frustration. To combat this, its important to remember why you write in the first place. Giving up does not serve your story or your dream.

9) Believe in yourself.

None of the above matters unless this key component is in place. It means ignoring the inner critic even when she’s screaming at the top of her lungs.  It means knowing you can do anything.

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c.b.w. 2012

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46 thoughts on “Staying Motivated

  1. catherinelumb

    Fantastic entry – so inspiring. I’ve just written a blog post on my own motivators after reading this – tagged this entry as the inspiration for it (to be published tomorrow)! Made me really think why I want to write and continue to write everyday. And, some fantastic tips to help maintain that motivation. Thanks CB!
    Take Care, Cat

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  2. Great post! I think I follow some of the same rules, but you said them better! Your list is going on my music stand. More than anything, rule # 8, Giving up is not an option, kept and keeps me going when I am the most discouraged. When the Inner Critic knows that I am not going to give up, he gives up, and I can get on with whatever is challenging me in music, in writing, in life, that day.

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  3. I’m always reminded of the movie Beaches with Bette Midler because you alway do what I can’t, say what I should be, and have ideas that far exceed any that I do.
    I asked in a post before if you keep track of when you started each writing project- and because I am so un-disciplined. I look back at things from 2009 or 2007, I think to myself seiously how can I return to that and remember what I was feeling at the time to pick up and continue because if I don’t, how can I keep the same tone throughout the remainder. I’ve always felt forced by making sure I sit and work on it if I want to or not, but if I don’t…. time passes by.

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  4. Great post.. thank you! Funny how sometimes I can’t write anything and some days I can write all day. One thing I know for sure, planning to write is usually a bust. I have to write when I want to, not when I can.

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  5. You are right on with each of your points. I didn’t realize/pay attention to “my” act of writing until I read in a book: “Writing is hard. It is one of the hardest things a person can do.” As I go through my books, I force myself to remember “there is no perfection”. I can spend the rest of my life rewriting what I’ve already written, never write anything new, and perhaps still not be happy-or have readers not be happy-with what/how I edit. Thanks for the reminder.

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