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.
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.
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.
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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