Monday, April 27, 2020

3 Ways to Make Yourself Write When It’s the Last Thing You Want to Do

In every writer’s life, there comes a time when putting words down on a page seems impossible. Writer’s block, creative burnout, exhaustion: call it what you want, but when it strikes, you know the next couple of days are going to be brutal.

Most writers have their own methods to handle these issues, whether it’s drinking copious amounts of coffee or cutting themselves off from the Internet. But I firmly believe that positive reinforcement is the best approach for writing success — which is where the following tactics come in! Here are three ways to make yourself write when it’s the last thing you want to do.

1. Focus on the “one cool thing”

Perhaps the most difficult part of writing is staying motivated. A concrete deadline or reward can provide extrinsic motivation, but this will only take you so far. If you want to feel fulfilled by what you’ve written (and therefore motivated to continue writing in the future), you need intrinsic motivation: a personal or emotional connection to what you’re doing.

Even with personal writing, it can be hard to maintain this kind of motivation, and when it comes to writing for school or work, it may seem utterly futile. But just as every cloud has a silver lining, every piece of writing — no matter how academic or dull — contains at least one interesting, unexpected, or fundamentally cool aspect.

This is the key to your intrinsic motivation: not only will the “one cool thing” re-engage you with your own work, it’ll also give you the interesting challenge of conveying it to your readers! For example, back in college, I once wrote a five-page English paper on the significance of bees in Paradise Lost because I wanted to make my professor laugh. I got an A, and have trusted intrinsic motivation ever since.


2. Make post-writing session plans

Another excellent (albeit extrinsic) motivator is having something fun planned after your writing session. This works on two levels: firstly, it gives you a clear-cut reward for a day of writing, and secondly, it holds you accountable to the people with whom you make plans.

Of course, your idea of "fun" will be relative. It could be a big night out or a quiet night in, whichever sounds better to you. Also consider using a writing app to track your progress and make sure you’re meeting your goals; checking these off at the end of the day will be its own reward.

If you’re a real lone wolf — or trying to adhere to social distancing in the current climate — you can make plans with yourself, too: a nice solo dinner or movie night. However, this does take away that prong of social pressure, which I’ve found pretty persuasive even on my most unproductive days. So if you want this tip to work for you, get your friends on board, at least in video chat form.

3. Start fresh every day

By far the best way to avoid creative burnout and keep yourself writing is to set bite-sized, achievable goals each day, and to never pile on work from previously missed writing sessions. Indeed, unless you’re on a super-strict deadline, there’s no reason to put so much pressure on yourself!

To that end, think of every day as a brand-new opportunity to achieve your writing goals. Don’t beat yourself up if you were 500 words short yesterday, and don’t attempt to make it all up the next day. Remember that perfectionism hurts much more than it helps, and your writing doesn’t need to be flawless the first time around — that’s what editing is for!

Those who have trouble letting go of previous failures (like myself) might benefit from meditation, or some other head-clearing routine to confirm that each day truly is a new start. If you perform this same routine just before you begin to write every day, you’ll soon build much better habits around the act of writing itself.

All that said, I won’t deny that writing requires a ridiculous amount of mental and physical energy. But if you adjust your attitude, kill your procrastination patterns, and take things one day at a time, you’ll still get much more joy out of it than pain. Then maybe you, too, can write an article about your favorite writing productivity techniques — and pay all that satisfaction forward to writers just like yourself.


Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She’s not always great at self-motivation, but she certainly tries her hardest!



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30 comments:

  1. Great tips! I couldn't agree more with "start fresh each day." That's really key. If you try to catch up, it's so demotivating.

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  2. Tips I shall remember Diane, especially at this moment in time. It's hard to write when one is in isolation and not living life to the full.
    Hope you are well and take care.

    Yvonne.

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  3. Great tips!!! Love the 'start fresh every day' - that works well for me! :)

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  4. I'm not putting more pressure on myself than I have to!

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  5. Great tips. I think sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and that has the opposite effect of what we want. Starting fresh each day is good.

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  6. Wonderful advice. I try all of that and eventually something works! :)

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  7. You've captured the essence and it sounds so right Diane. "This is the key to your intrinsic motivation" Now I could say - "The key to your motivation per se" but making writing understandable so readers can enjoy is far more important than sounding nerdy, lol

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  8. How about the constant dread? How does one write through that? lol Just kidding. Kind of. Good tips, though.

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    1. You mean the dread that our economy is going down the toilet while Sweden proves lockdown wasn't necessary? That dread I know!

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  9. Great tips, Diane! I especially like the one to start each day anew.

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  10. Good tips. The thing that works for me is to allow myself to write about nothing. My life. What I'm feeling. I find it segues into the writing I want to do after getting some of that off my chest.

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    1. You will Love Chrys Fey's book coming out this summer then - she talks about just that!

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  11. Great tips! I started do writing prompts with family around the country. It's been fun and has help with the blocks as well as just being plan uplifting.

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  12. This is really helpful. Motivation has been a problem for me.
    I'd add to the list: change up your writing space. Since I did, that's helped.
    Be well, Spunk.

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  13. Usually I write something sarcastic or snarky. However those were some excellent tips. Very useful. Thank you.

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  14. Hi Diane - great guest with some wise ideas. The main thing is to keep writing ... all the best to the two of you - Hilary

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  15. I registered for the publishing:)

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  16. Great tips!

    I tend to get on a roll, then have to stop when I go back to work. Getting back in the zone can be hard when I finally have a day off again.

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  17. Very helpful tips! Starting fresh is a big one, which for me includes getting enough sleep. My creative brain doesn't work well on low sleep.
    Lori at https://lorilmaclaughlin.com

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  18. I thought you were going to say, "Drink copious amounts of alcohol" instead of coffee. I can only imagine what drinking would do for my writing. :)

    I agree wholeheartedly with not trying to pile on because if we feel like we have even more to do we can get overwhelmed and it tends to get pushed to the back burner again and again. Great tips. Thank you!

    Stay healthy and safe,
    Elsie

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  19. Great tips! Ordinarily, writing comes as naturally to me as breathing, but since my husband's scary struggles with his various cancers began, it's been more difficult to care about writing. It just doesn't seem to matter to me right now. As he continues to win the battles, I'm hoping the desire to write returns, because my long-neglected WIP is pretty darned good, if I must say so myself.

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  20. Not putting pressure on one's self is a good way to be. Great tips indeed.

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  21. Great tips! I try to schedule little blocks and if things are going well, I stay with it. But- no pressure. :)
    ~Jess

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  22. It's hard not to put pressure on yourself! If you take it day at a time and do what you can, the writing gets done.

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  23. You've probably figured out by now that my biggest problem is time management ~ LOL! I would have enjoyed reading your paper on the importance of bees in "Paradise Lost." I compared "Paradise Lost" with Tolkien's "The Silmarillion." I'm guessing my professor (who gave me an A) would have enjoyed yours more! I love your tip #3. I'm talented at piling things on myself every morning. My husband calls them my "burdens." I should take this tip to heart. Thanks for all you do!

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