So you want to write.
You’ve got plenty of ideas.
But, you just can’t start.
(Or perhaps you can start writing, but then you quickly run out of steam and can’t get going again.)
I get it.
Several years ago, I decided to enter a flash fiction competition. I spent two months writing a three-hundred word story.
(Yes, that’s an insane amount of time to devote to a small piece of writing.)
I had entered this competition several times during the past few years, and I was convinced I had a good story, that I knew what the judges wanted.
I was full of it.
I didn’t win but… I was delighted to find my story was short-listed.
Then, I faced a problem.
I didn’t want to sit down and write anything new, and even though I had some ideas, I couldn’t start.
I wasn’t motivated to write.
If this has ever happened to you, don’t worry.
The backstories of successful writers and creative people are filled with early risers, night owls and craftsmen and women who all felt demotivated at some point in their careers.
Here are five ways you can get motivated to write:
1. Associate ONE Place With Writing
Irish novelist, John Banville gets up early every morning leaves his house and travels to an apartment in Dublin city where he spends the day working on his novels.
“I live in Dublin, God knows why. There are greatly more congenial places I could have settled in – Italy, France, Manhattan – but I like the climate here, and Irish light seems to be essential for me and for my writing.”
You might not be able to afford an apartment solely for writing – and I agree with John about the weather – but you could carve out a quiet space in your house, in a coffee shop or even the local library.
Associate that place with writing and nothing else and you’ll slip into your creative groove more easily.
Just remember to leave a tip.
2. Search for a New Writing Routine
On the other hand, perhaps keeping a strict writing routine is causing you to feel demotivated?
Or what worked for you in the past no long fits with the demands of day-to-day life.
The novelist Anne Rice – she of Interview with the Vampire fame – used to enjoy writing late at night. When her son was born in 1978, that all changed.
Small children and keeping late nights don’t go hand-in-hand.
So, Rice began writing during the day and early morning.
“It’s always a search for the uninterrupted three- or four-hour stretch”
Your search will take you to unusual places, if you let it.
3. Obsess About Your Progress
I’m a little obsessed with productivity, and I can tell you, what gets measured, gets managed, and what gets managed, gets done.
Ernest Hemingway knew the value of measuring his progress.
Even though he drank late into the night, he still rose each morning at first light to write for several hours, before anyone could disturb him.
He tracked what he wrote on a board next to where worked so as “not to kid myself”.
I don’t recommend the drinking but alongside tracking your word-count, record how long you spend writing.
Well, sometimes the hours you put in the chair are as important as the words you lay out on the page. And that’s enough to keep motivated.
4. Get Your Blood Pumping
If you’re really struggling to get motivated to write a story or finish a book , stand up, put on a pair of trainers and go outside.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote early in the morning before setting off for an afternoon walk around Copenhagen. Then, he returned to write in the evening.
Charles Dickens was another prolific walker, often putting in 20 miles in a single day.
There was a man who could have done with a pair of trainers.
Often the best ideas arrive when you’re doing something different from writing.
One Sunday afternoon in July, I was 10 km into a 15 km run through a local park.
I was half-way up a trail and covered in mud, when I thought of a break-through for a non-fiction book I was struggling with.
I had to stop running and dictate the idea with my phone because I was afraid I’d forget it.
When I got back to my desk, I felt motivated to write for several hours that night.
5. Ask: ‘Are You an Amateur or a Professional?’
Tough talk time:
If you’re an amateur writer or a hobbyist, it’s okay to take a break or to give in to feelings of demotivation because hey, there are better things to do…
Checking Facebook, catching up reality television, cleaning the bathroom tiles with an old toothbrush…
If you’re a professional writer, it’s your job to keep on going when you want to do anything but.
The American novelist John Cheever was a consummate professional.
He rose each morning, put on his only suit and got into an elevator with the nine-to-five crowd.
While everyone left for offices, Cheever took the elevator to the basement of his apartment complex. There, he stripped to his underwear and wrote for the day.
(John’s job didn’t come with a dress code).
Know That It’s Ok
It took me a little while to start writing again after that flash fiction competition.
What did I do?
Well, instead of writing more flash fiction, I started a much longer story about a rich brother and a poor brother who trade places.
And the potential of that new idea helped me get motivated to write.
Creative people of all levels, you, me and John Banville included, feel demotivated sometimes.
Know that, it’s ok.
The trick is to know how to handle feeling demotivated so instead of losing a week or month’s worth of writing time, like I did, you get yourself going, get yourself writing and forget what problem is.