There are days when writing has momentum and flow, and it feels like riding a speedy bike with nary a hill in sight. Many other days, of course, are the opposite, and that bike has a wobbly (or entirely flat) tire. Let’s delve into some surefire ways to get self-motivation zooming again.
Write first, scroll later.
Save a social-media scroll for after you’ve clocked in words on your project. Perusing social media first is like allowing radio static from several stations to rush in and brain-scramble at once. Writing takes a lot of focus and clarity to tune into thoughts, but if we’re filled to the brim with what everyone else is saying or doing, it’s profoundly challenging to have the space and concentration needed for our own work.
Not to mention how overwhelming it can be to see everyone else’s highlight reels when we’re just beginning or when we’ve hit a tough spot in a latest project. It’s far easier (and more productive) to begin a morning or evening writing session before perusing social media. Seriously, put a momentary pause on it; social media will be there when you return.
Reread a few passages of a favorite book in your genre.
I can’t tell you the number of times this has done the trick for me on lackluster days while I watched the cursor of doom blink-blink-blink with a restless throb on the page. When I want to write poetry, I’ll open favorite poetry books, such as Mary Oliver’s. It doesn’t take more than a handful of poems before the spare resonance and precision of her language set a rhythm going in my head that sparks a few words in a new poem. Usually, my poems end up having far different subjects and different line and stanza breaks than the work I read, but just enjoying the polished poetry or prose of a fellow wordsmith gets my own muse moving again. When I want to write essays, you guessed it: I peruse books by my favorite essayists, and ditto for fiction. Reading issues of favorite literary magazines is also a wonderful way to kick-start your writing muscles.
Underplay it. Set an easily attainable goal.
Promise yourself that you only need to write a half page or 50 words today. So often, when I over-expect how much I can accomplish in an afternoon (like the day I thought I’d write three chapters in one sitting—um, just no!), I set myself up for lack of motivation that day and possibly the next. On the flip side, when I break down my writing goal to something bite-sized (say, writing a stanza of a poem or editing the first paragraph of an essay), I step out of my own way to emerge into an easy-to-reach benchmark. I can’t count the number of times once I get stated with a tiny goal that I end up blasting past the original aim and end up writing double or triple what I expected. Even the days when I write just what I said I would and nothing further feel like little victories—I showed up and fulfilled that day’s goal for my project. Win-win.
Paradoxically, give yourself a short break.
The more we get stuck in a shame spiral of obsessing over how much we’re not getting done, the more we’re just spinning our wheels. Whereas allowing ourselves to have a half hour, hour, or even an entire afternoon of downtime doing something else that we hadn’t expected often eases inner tension and restores us enough that, when we return to the page or the screen, there’s plenty of energy for our project. So take a walk, watch a movie, go skating or cycle or to the drive-thru for a treat—and then write for the day. Look, life happens to us all and we get a bit run down, especially during the holiday season when so much is expected of us. Letting the taskmaster side of ourselves chill for a while frequently leads to a more relaxed body, a mind that is receptive to fresh ideas, and more connective writing in the long run.
You’ve been writing and honing your craft for months or years and are curious about seeking publication for your latest project. Perhaps you wonder about the next steps in the process. Look no further!
This book has a little something for every writer interested in expanding their audience and sharing their writing with readers, from pre-writing and writing your drafts to choosing your market and the writing life before, during, and after publication.
Topics covered include:
- The Lovely Littles: Breaking into Literary Magazines
- The Spinning Spider: Keeping Track of your Brainchildren
- Options, You’ve Got ’em: Traditional, Indie/Small, University Press, or Self-Publishing
- Two Streams with One Stone: To Simultaneously Submit or Not
- Monetize it! Part One: All about the Benjamins; Monetize it! Part Two: Risk and a Swimming Metaphor
- The Myth of the Fancy-Pants Tools
- The Art of Writing the Author Bio
- Paradox Meets Passion: Writer vs. Author
- The Slam-Bam Reply: Now in Two Painful Varieties; Creative Noodling
and so much more!
Author bio: Melanie Faith is a night-owl writer, photographer, educator, and editor who has enjoyed drawing for years but just recently started sharing her perfectly imperfect doodles. Her latest book, From Promising to Published, was published by Vine Leaves Press earlier this year. Learn more about her books, art projects, and classes at