Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
Whether you’re working on a short story, charging through NaNoWriMo, or writing the very article you are reading right now (that one only applies to me), you’ve got to find a way to motivate yourself to finish it. Some days, the words flow from your fingers like water. Other days, they—ooh, look, somebody posted a picture of their dog on Facebook! If you’re feeling burned out, I’m here to help you get fired up to get back to work.
- Set a regular schedule. To paraphrase Stephen King, the muse will visit you more often if she knows where to find you. Set a regular writing time for yourself. It makes the joy of creating new worlds and characters as much fun as a day at the office or going to school, except you’re doing it at 5 in the morning. (Though some people prefer evenings, when they’re already exhausted from their other responsibilities.)
- Jog your memory. Read what you wrote yesterday and challenge yourself to do even better today. Based on the fact that you’re reading an article on self-motivation, surpassing yesterday’s output should be a pretty easy bar to clear.
- Rekindle the romance. There’s something you loved about this project that made you want to exchange all of your free time for it, right? Think of your writing time like a date with your special someone. True, sometimes it feels like you’re dating a cruel taskmaster who inflicts constant pain on you, but some folks pay professionals lots of money for that type of experience.
- Misery loves company. There’s a Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.” Challenge others to a writing dash and see who’s the fastest to 500 words. Or, just for fun, each of you tells the other what you’re working on, then you try to write a scene in the other person’s book. Oops, you only wrote 300 words for the other person when they wrote 1,500 words for you. You’ll make it up to them next time, which might not be for a while, you’ve been pretty busy lately.
- Revenge. Use your writing time to enact your petty revenge fantasies. Is it small of you to write a thinly veiled version of your boss getting into a fatal car wreck the day after your mediocre performance review? Hard to say. Better blow up their car too, just to make sure.
Get a writing coach. Pay someone to literally stand behind you and whack your head with a ruler if you stop typing for more than ten seconds. Click this link for the name of someone who will do this for a reasonable fee.
- Change things up. Shaking up your routine can jog your creativity. Go to a coffee shop. Buy a new notebook. Get a haircut. Grow a beard. Move to a distant town by the seaside. Change your name. If you can no longer recall the name of your childhood best friend, you’ll know you’re ready to write that next chapter.
- Eliminate distractions. Unplug your WiFi router. Turn off all the lights in your house. Literally glue your pants to your chair. You can’t escape this prison of keystrokes you’ve constructed for yourself. If all else fails, you can write yourself a ransom note.
- Set a timer. See how many words you can write in an hour. You can keep a spreadsheet on your daily word count so you can try to beat it each day. Resist the urge to create a separate spreadsheet of all the TV and snacks you could be consuming instead. The urge will be powerful, but you can do it!
- Keep your eyes on the prize. Like the proverbial idiot who keeps hitting himself in the head with a hammer, think of how good you’ll feel when you’re done. You can scale this up to your entire writing career, too—writing is a life-long pursuit, and every day is another hammer blow, until one day, all those knocks to the skull will take their toll and you can finally stop forever. Just imagine how great that will feel!
Do you have secrets to self-motivation? How has this article helped motivate you to write more? Let us know in the comments!