Guest Post by Sarah Hamaker
When giving a recent webinar about time management, I mentioned this wasn’t a talk about getting motivated to write—it was a talk about finding and making time to write in our busy schedules. But of course, having time and wanting to write are two different things!
So I decided to tackle how to motivate yourself to write. Figuring out how to encourage us when it comes to writing can be one of the most valuable lessons a writer can learn.
How do we give ourselves a kick in the pants when it comes to writing? Some of us are disciplined enough that we can crank out the words even when we’re not “feeling” inspired. Many of us wait for the writing muse to settle on our shoulder and whisper words into our ear that we translate onto the page.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck last March, the enforced isolation upended many a writer’s schedule and motivation. Suddenly, everyone is at home 24/7, people’s livelihoods are in jeopardy, and writing seems even more difficult. Now that we’ve come to realize COVID-19 will be with us for a while, we’ve had to make adjustments and learn to live with this new normal.
Which leaves us to the topic of this blog post—how to motivate ourselves to write when we’re not feeling the story or poem or article or book. Here are 10 suggestions for internally motivating you to get those words written down.
- Limit screen time. Ha, you say, but I write on the computer! Yes, I know, but that’s not the screen time I’m talking about. Limit your surfing the web or scrolling through Facebook or posting on Twitter or liking all those pretty Instagram photos—social media in particular can steal your inspiration by conditioning your mind to only want the next shot of endorphins. That can play havoc with the quiet our brains need to think creatively.
- Exercise. Did you know that regular exercise can fuel your creativity? A 2014 Stanford University study found “that walking significantly improves certain types of cognitive efforts involved in creativity, specifically convergent thinking, such as the ability to come up with solutions to a problem, and divergent thinking, which involves conceiving open-ended, original ideas.” So take a walk or workout to a YouTube video, and get your creative juices flowing.
- Make sleep a priority. It’s hard to function without enough sleep, but it’s even harder to write when we’re sleep deprived. Try going to bed a half hour earlier and see if your desire to write improves. Resist the urge to sacrifice sleep in an effort to cram more into our days.
- Read, read, read. Especially in the genre that you write, but other books as well. Devote at least 30 to 60 minutes a day to reading. Yes, I know you don’t have the time, but reading an actual book or on an e-reader is good for your brain and helps you think about writing.
- Find accountability. Having someone who knows you’re supposed to be writing X words or chapters within a particular time frame can be very motivating. It can be a critique group, another writer or a group like CCWF, but find someone or someones who will help you hold your fingers to the keyboard.
- Set realistic goals. If you’ve been struggling with making progress or starting a project, you probably shouldn’t say you’re going to write 10,000 words in a week. Start with saying you’ll write something every week or 1,000 words a week. Give yourself room to succeed rather than setting yourself up for failure because you overreached in setting goals.
- Keep your eyes on your Work in Progress (WIP). It’s so tempting to look at others and see their word counts or writing successes and feel like you’re not keeping up. This happened to me recently. I saw a Facebook post about how someone wrote a book in five weeks on a regular basis. I considered my track record and realized my current life did not allow for that kind of pace—I’d never be that writer! Then I remembered—this writer’s life wasn’t my life, her goals couldn’t be my goals. I needed to take my eyes off her achievements and focus on my own writing journey.
- Schedule regular write-ins. Similar to accountability, this involves being with other writers (in person or virtually) and writing. Some writers participate in word sprints via Facebook groups, which is writing as many words as they can in 10- or 15-minute increments. Others designate certain periods as group writing time. Having this fellowship with authors can inspire writing.
- Celebrate successes. Some days, you’ll write 5 words and other days, it will be hundreds or thousands even. Any day you write should be a day to celebrate, so give yourself a pat on the back each time you write.
- Trust in God. We all hit a dry spell in our writing when the words come hard. Use that time to pray about your writing more, and wait on God for him to renew in you the words and desire and inspiration to write. Time spent in prayer is never time misspent.
Above all know that if God has called you to write, the words will come. At times, the words may come out in a trickle or in a deluge. You may experience a season of dryness or a season of steady rain. No matter where you are, remember that God has promised he will complete his good work in you.
Sarah Hamaker has been spinning stories since she was a child, with nonfiction and romantic suspense books published. Her stories have also appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes. Sarah won the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for romantic suspense. She’s a member of ACFW and ACFW Virginia Chapter, as well as the president of Capital Christian Writers Fellowship. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband, four children, and three cats.