“I can never build a writing habit.”
“I can't think of anything when I'm staring at a blank page.”
“I wanted to write, but I ended up on the internet again. What is wrong with me?”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? If so, don't worry. Even the best writers struggle to find writing motivation when depressed, anxious, or distracted.
It gets even worse when your writing time is limited, but somehow you can't stay off your phone.
How can you stop procrastinating? How can you reach your writing goals when it feels so hard?
In this blog post, I'll discuss some different ways to help motivate you and give you the push that you need to consistently produce quality content.
One way to start writing is to set small, achievable goals. This could be anything from writing for five minutes to writing 200 words. No goal is too small.
You can also break your larger goals into smaller goals to make them more manageable. This will help you stay motivated as you work on your goal.
One Project at a Time
If you're like me, you have a tendency to start project after project, most of which never get past the initial excitement stage. Staying focused on one project at a time is far more productive than trying to work on multiple projects at once.
This is easier said that done. I'm always getting new ideas, and I get excited about new projects all the time. How can you stay focused on your writing project when there are so many other awesome things to do?
One thing that helps is scheduling a time block for working on each project, and sticking with it (unless something really important comes up). This keeps me from getting distracted by shiny objects too much. If my eye starts to wander too much, I have to
Create a Pre-Writing Ritual (Even if It Only Takes Two Minutes)
Rituals play a powerful role in our lives, shaping our daily routines and helping us to accomplish our goals. A pre-writing ritual can help to motivate you and get you into the writing frame of mind.
Even if it only takes two minutes, setting aside a little time before you start writing will help prime your brain and imagination for the work to come.
If you want to start a ritual, start by doing one of the following things for two minutes before you start writing:
- clean your office
- write down all your thoughts, stream of consciousness-style, without stopping
- repeat out loud your desired affirmations
- review your vision board
- pour yourself a glass of water, coffee, or tea
- visualize your desired outcome (see below)
As you develop a writing routine, you can add to this routine. But keep it simple when you begin.
Imagine Yourself Reaching Your Goal
Visualization is the process of seeing something in your mind before it happens in reality. It's a powerful tool that can be used for anything from manifesting a new car to increasing your income.
Visualization can be a powerful motivator, and can shape the course of your work more than you might think possible. By envisioning yourself writing a great story, essay, or article, you can imagine yourself succeeding, which makes success even more achievable.
Outline, Outline, Outline
An outline organizes your thoughts and prevents you from getting overwhelmed. Although some writers don't like to use them, I think an outline is an indispensible part of the writing process.
It can also help to increase your motivation because you will have a better idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Seeing the end goal will make it feel more real and achievable.
Turn Off the Internet (and Put Your Smartphone in Airplane Mode)
Turn off the internet. Turn it off. You can check that fact later. . The internet is a big distraction, and it's better to keep it fully at bay.
A lot of people find it helpful to put their phones in airplane mode so they won't be tempted by any notifications or social media updates while trying to write something. If you can't do that–if you're expecting an important call, for example–then use an app like Forest to keep yourself from reflexively trying to check your screen.
Write in Sprints
When you don't feel like writing, it can be helpful to practice writing sprints. This is where you write as much as possible for a set amount of time. You can write for two minutes or for twenty, it's up to you.
When you're on a writing sprint, you must keep writing until the time is up, without pausing to do anything else.
Don't edit your writing. Don't check your email. Don't turn on the internet. While you're on a writing sprint, your only focus is to get as many words as you can on the page.
Remember to start small. Good writing habits can be grown over time. A four-minute writing sprint is better than doing nothing.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a way to help you focus on a task by working for short periods of time and then taking regular, even shorter breaks.
When you use the Pomodore Technique, your work:break ratio should be roughly 5:1. If you write for five minutes, you'd take a one minute break; if you write for 20 minutes, you'd take a four minute break. After four of these intervals, you take a longer break, then go back to work.
You can use the Pomodoro Technique to plan out a series of writing sprints. Since writing sprints can be intense, you might want to take slightly longer breaks between sprints. For example, you might do an eight-minute writing sprint and then take a three-minute break, followed by an eight-minute break after four sprints.
There are many apps that will help you use the Pomodoro Technique, such as Tomato One (the app I use) and Forest. You could also use the timer on your phone, watch, or a dedicated timer like the Time Timer if you want to keep going when you hit a writing groove.
Don't Reward Yourself with (Time-Sucking) Distractions
Two minutes on the internet can quickly turn into twenty, or 120. When you do take a break, reward yourself with something that won't endanger you staying in the zone.
Here are some ideas for possible rewards:
- stretching. It's really good to stretch since writing is a pretty sedentary activity.
- get up and walk.
- draw or doodle something.
- do a light chore, e.g. watering a few plants or wiping down one counter.
- read a few pages of a book or magazine.
I would highly, highly recommend not going on the internet during your breaks, especially if you have ADHD like I do. All it takes is one wrong turn and you can easily ignore the timer and go down a rabbit hole of distraction.
Track Your Progress
One of the most important things to do when trying to change a behavior is to measure it. This includes tracking not just your writing output, but also your daily word count, the number of articles you write, the amount of time you spend writing, and more.
This data can be incredibly useful in helping you to see your progress and identify any potential areas where you need to make changes.
You can also track your moods and emotions. This information can help you to see if your writing productivity is related to your mental health. If it is, you can then take steps to address that issue.
If this sounds like way too much, just start tracking how many words you've written. It's a simple number and you can write it anywhere.
I used to tape a monthly calendar behind my desk. When I finished writing for the day, I would write the total number of words in the space for that day; if I met my minimum daily goal, I'd draw an X through the day as well. Having this visual reminder of my progress kept me motivated to write even when I was tired, upset, or burnt out.
Speaking of burnout…
Set a Realistic Goal
If you're working full-time and taking care of multiple kids after work, you'll have less time to write than someone with a freer schedule.
Don't beat yourself up if you don't write 3,000 words a day every day. Writing a little bit every day is much better than writing nothing at all.
Find a Writing Accountability Partner
Having someone to partner with you can be a great way to stay on track. This person can be someone who is also working on a writing project, or they could simply be someone who checks in with you regularly to see how you're doing.
You don't have to be in the same city or country as your accountability partner; there are many online tools that can help you stay connected, such as Slack, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.
Join or Start a Writing Group
Similar to having an accountability partner, being part of a group can help you stay on track. There are many online and in-person groups available, so find one that's a good fit for you.
You may not always feel like writing, but if you keep at it and learn how to find your motivation, you'll be able to put in the work when it's important. So don't give up; instead, try out some of these tips for finding inspiration and stay committed to completing your written goals. How do you motivate yourself?