Show of hands … who’s had a recent stare-down with your computer, muttered politically incorrect things at the blinking cursor and blank page, then proceeded to clean the toilet, weed the garden and the neighbor’s garden, fill the car with all those boxes collecting in the garage for the past year and driven them to the dump, read and filed emails from two years ago, just to avoid writing?
Not judging … come on. 🙂
Come on … I can’t be the only one! Can I?
*Clearing throat* Well alrighty then … Moving right along.
Life and other priorities have sucked up much of my writing time lately. Okay, okay, I’ve let them suck up much of my writing motivation lately. Sometimes it’s just easier to clean toilets or answer emails than to make myself sit and write.
Maybe it’s years in the corporate world where deadlines drove every minute of my day, but I do better with external motivators. Here are a few tricks I use to get the writing done (and no, super-gluing my behind to the chair isn’t one of them):
1. Setting a deadline.
When I first sit to write on a new project, I don’t necessarily have a deadline in mind. But as soon as the story takes hold, I need to corral the loosey-goosey pantser writer that I am by putting some structure on what I’m doing.
There are any number of ways to come up with a deadline. Look for contests that you’d like to enter and set the opening of submissions as your target date. Or if you’re looking at querying agents with that manuscript, give yourself a deadline to have a polished manuscript done by a set time—perhaps before the post NaNo crunch, or before/after the holidays, or a respectable time before or after a large conference so that your manuscript doesn’t land in the post-conference frenzy.
Set a realistic deadline. Don’t expect to write and polish an 80,000-word manuscript in two months. That’s not to say that some people can’t do it, but the majority of us could use a bit extra time. Build in time for critiques and beta reads, give yourself a couple of weeks between drafts and before submitting to gain some distance.
2. Accountability partners.
I have two writing buddies I check in with regularly. Sometimes it’s a daily “are you writing today” or a “I accomplished this today, how did you do.” Some days it’s talking one or the other of us off a ledge or commiserating over bad writing, dirty toilets, cats with hairballs.
When I flip on the computer first thing in the morning, that’s the email I’m looking for. And when one of their emails or texts pop up during the day, it’s almost as good as a double espresso. 😉
3. Joining a group challenge.
I love challenges. The extra push of being in the trenches with others is a nice little motivator. A few I’ve participated in:
- NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for those who can crank through 50k during November
- Camp NaNoWriMo is a more open ended version, with sessions in April and July and word-count goals between 10,000 and 1,000,000.
- PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) also takes place in November and is geared for picture book writers who want to build up a collection of ideas.
- The Women’s Fiction Writers Association puts on a Write-A-Thin challenge for members in January. Though the focus is on editing (hence the “thin” part), all goals are welcome and encouraged.
If you’ve been part of a group challenge that’s not listed here, please add it in the comments!
Another option is, of course, to create your own challenge. As part of the Power Writing Hour, Jamie has been cheerleading the group with several challenges recently. May was for creating a writing habit. June is one of my favorites—by far—the Finish Something Month. Oh baby do I need to finish a few things! The support and enthusiasm of these groups keeps my motivated even when it feels like someone has their finger over my snorkel.
[Note: if you didn’t read Jamie’s post on Monday about online writing communities, you can find it here. They are great motivators!!]
It doesn’t have to be a large group either. You can put out a challenge for your critique group.
4. Reminders, reminders, reminders.
I keep a sticky note above the computer with my target dates. First draft done by such-and-such date, first round of revisions done a month later, beta read or another round of revisions X amount of time after, final revision and polished manuscript on this date.
Once I have those deadlines, I print out calendar pages and mark what word count should look like in order to meet my goal. Doesn’t mean I always hit that mark, but it keeps me focused on moving forward. Even if I’ve fallen a bit behind on word count, there’s usually a section of the book that flows faster and I catch up. That calendar stays on my desk, in plain sight. Seeing the word count goal each day when I sit to write is a great motivator.
Play around with one or two or even all four of these. You might find a combination that helps you stay focused on the end goal of a finished, polished manuscript.
Your turn ... what’s worked for you?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.