I’m back with another Writing Environment post, and the fact it’s taken me two months to write this, I promise, has nothing to do with motivation. Thought I’d point that out now. Honestly, things have been rather busy. That’s a mute point, really, but we’ll move on.
Whether you want to call it motivation, muse, or something else entirely, the fact remains that motivation can be an incredibly difficult thing to find and keep. There are a hundred and one things that can destroy it, or keep you from ever finding it. Motivation is like momentum, it’s easier to keep it up than it is to create.
However long it takes you to finish a project is not important. Whether you write 50 words a day or 5,000, the point of this post is in keeping up with a level you find comfortable and rewarding.
So here are some pointers to not only help you find your motivation, but to also keep the momentum flowing:
Until you publish (however you choose to do so,) writing can be a very solitary task. People may know that you’re working on a project, but they mostly don’t see the progress, only the finished product, which for some can take years.
One of the great things about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is that others can see how you are progressing. We can friend each other and see word counts, we can see whether we write in splurges or in a daily push. Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people all writing, and it’s all visible to everyone. This means that we feel more accountable to everyone, not only ourselves. It’s like trying to lose weight – Having others there who will see the progress we’re making motivates us to do better.
If you take a look at the front page of www.chelecooke.com you will see that I now have an updates section near the bottom of the page. This shows everyone who visits my site how I am doing on different projects. They could check back every week if they wanted. I am no longer accountable only to myself, but to everyone who looks at that page and sees where I’m at. We are social creatures, and sharing progress on a goal can motivate to keep that progress going, even if we never share the ‘after picture’ until we reach our final weight.
Ways to play with accountability:
- If you have a blog on writing, add your current wordcount to the bottom of every post, and post regularly.
- Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr – whichever social media works for you.
- If you have a website, set up an updates bar
- Set up a ‘word count’ group with some writing friends. – Set your own targets and share how you get on. GoogleDocs can be great for setting up a sheet that’s shareable with friends.
Some writers believe that you have to write every day. Writing regularly will increase productivity, not simply because of the amount of time spent at the keyboard (or notebook.) By writing every day you effectively train your brain to get into a particular space (getting into ‘The Zone’ anyone?)
However, by saying you should write regularly, I don’t specifically mean that you have to write every day. Some people work best in long splurges where others work better in shorter intervals every day. Does it take you a while to get into a rhythm? If so, maybe a five hour marathon every Saturday morning is better for you than an hour after work each week day. Either way, by setting up this ‘Writing Time’, you will start training your brain into focusing when you take your position at the keyboard.
Important to remember with regularity:
- Keep it up! Even if you only write ten words the first time you sit at your keyboard for an hour. Even if you only write ten words the next time too.
- Experiment. Try different lengths of time, different times of day, once a week or five times a week. Make sure you’re finding what works best for you.
- Take time off and do not feel guilty! Don’t allow yourself to get dragged into every second must be spent writing if that is not what you want. Do you writing time and then have some free time. (I’ll talk more about this in Rewards.)
Many of us work on laptops these days. Unfortunately, those laptops often come with a connection to the internet and endless videos on youtube, facebook updates, etc. A lot of us also live with others. Distraction can come from anywhere, even internally, and shutting them off can be a problem.
There are many ways to get past distractions. My personal favourite right now is to put on headphones and shut myself in my bedroom. As I said above, momentum is a glorious thing, easier to keep going than it is to start, and once you’re in a rhythm, don’t let someone or something pull you out until you’re ready.
Sometimes, however, we all need a big red NO button to stop us from updating our favourite social media site.
Things to try to minimise internet distractions:
- www.writeordie.com – Set yourself a time limit and a desired word count and start writing. If you stop, bad things happen.
- Freedom – An internet blocking software. Set a time limit and that’s it, no internet for you for that allotted time. The only way to cut it short is to restart your computer. You can try the software free with a 5 time trial. (While it says Mac, there is a PC version too.)
- Turn off your router and move rooms – The effort of going to turn the router back on and waiting for it to load might just put you off searching out that cat video. Though, this probably isn’t a good idea unless you’re alone in the house.
Just what it says on the tin. Setting yourself up with a reward at the end of a writing session makes us feel good. We achieved. We succeeded. Now, have something shiny to say well done.
Writing is a long task. Seeing your book in print for the first time is one of the most wonderful rewards I could ask for, but actually, that doesn’t get me though the months of slogging my guts out over a keyboard, of agonising over each word choice. For those times, I use small, sometimes meaningless rewards.
Now, I usually go by word count or as I finish a chapter (depending on the length of the chapters,) but you can also do this by time frame. Also, what you set as your reward is completely up to you. Lastly, most importantly, you don’t have to stop for your reward. If you’re on a roll, keep going, but don’t forget about the reward later. Let them build up if you want.
Things you can use as rewards:
- An episode of a TV show – If you’re like me and love to splurge on a specific TV show, set episodes as rewards. Write 1,000 words, you can watch the next episode. If you write 3,000, Boom, that’s 3 episodes for you to relax with afterwards.
- Money – It’s as simple as that. Set yourself a price per word and pay yourself for your time. Penny every 5 words? That’s £2 per thousand words. Use your £2 on something like chocolate after your sprint, or save up for a month or a week and spend the money on something bigger. Yes, it was already your money, but unfortunately I haven’t found anyone to pay me yet.
- Time on the internet – If you’re taking out the internet via limiting your distractions, you can reward yourself with internet time after a sprint. 100 words equals 5 minutes on Facebook. Save it up and after 1,000 words you have fifty minutes of uninterupted pointless browsing or endless funny videos.
- Sweets – Buy yourself a tub of sweets and allow yourself one for a word count/time slot you set.
And that’s it. My suggestions on motivation, how to start and how to keep it. I’d love to hear some of your tips for motivation if you have them.
Next up in the Writing Environment posts: Organisation! (My mum will love me because this one includes Excel spread sheets!)