How to Get Motivated To Write: 18 Tips That Work

So you want to get motivated 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 like other writers.

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 18 writing tips that you can get motivated to write.

If they can help me, they might just help you too.

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.

He says,

“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 or time in your house to write.

Associate that place or time with writing and nothing else, and you’ll slip into your creative groove more easily.

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 longer fits with the demands of day-to-day life.

The novelist Anne Rice – she of Interview with the Vampire fame – enjoyed 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.

She says:

“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 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 he 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.

Why?

Sometimes, the hours you put in the chair are as important as the words you layout 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.

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens: prolific walker and writer

There was a man who could have done with a pair of trainers. Often the best ideas that will help you start writing again arrive when you’re doing something different.

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. Adopt the Mindset of 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 on 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.

So, don’t give up.

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 their 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).

4. Set Writing Goals

A good writing goal will help you work towards some meaningful outcome like writing and self-publishing a best-seller or increasing your monthly income from freelance writing. 

Set goals using the SMARTER framework, that is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
  • Evaluated
  • Rewarding

e.g:

I will write and publish a non-fiction book about parenting by Dec 31st of this year.

6. Identify Your “Why” For a Writing Project

Before embarking on a big writing project, like writing a book, it's a good idea to spend half an hour considering why you're going to spend so much time and creative energy on a single project. 

I recommend aspiring authors write down five to seven reasons why a writing project is so important personally. You don't have to show them to anyone else. Instead, when you feel unmotivated about writing, reread these reasons as a reminder.

7. Break Big Writing Projects Down

Let's say you want to write a book.

The prospects of writing a 50,000-word book would put any one-off, particularly when you encounter a creative roadblock, as often happens during a first draft.

Instead, break down that big writing projects into smaller milestones that you can tick off each month, week, or day.

That 60,000-word book should have three acts. Next, break each act into ten chapters, each of which is thousand-words long. 

Now, set a challenge of writing 500-words a day for each chapter. That way, you can make measurable progress on your book.

On that…

8. Track Your Progress

It's a good idea to track your progress or writing sessions in some form. The business author Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed” and the same applies to writing.

If you're working on a first draft, considering tracking your daily word-count in a spreadsheet. If you're self-editing that draft, record how many hours of writing time you spend on it each day. 

Similarly, if you're a freelance writer or blogger, track how many articles you submit to an editor or publish each month.

9. Use Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are one of my top motivation tools. I keep a collection of them on my desk and in a file on my computer. Use them as a jumping-off point into your writing. 

You could try to use first-lines from great books or build your own library of personal writing prompts. Alternatively, an app like Daily Prompt can help. 

10. Stop in the Middle

The author Ernest Hemingway famously stopped writing in the middle of a sentence, so he'd always know where to pick off from the next day. He also didn't want to leave the well dry.

A close up of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway managed his motivation for writing cleverly

He said,

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day, you will never be stuck.””

That way, our subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it, and your brain will be tired before you start.

11. Write Somewhere New

I write mostly in my home office early in the mornings while wearing a set of noise-cancelling headphones. That said, it's a good idea to mix up your writing routine from occasionally. 

Take your journal or laptop to a nearby coffee shop or library. Or consider dictating a first draft while walking around a park. A new environment could prompt more creative thinking.

Just remember to leave a tip.

12. Change Your Inputs

As a creative, what you consume is almost as important as what you write. If you spend all day doom-scrolling on social media or the news, you're likely to feel more anxious and despondent about creative work. 

Instead, why not inspire yourself with some great literature, popular best-sellers or a trip to your local art museum?

13. Try Writing in Different Genre

I spent many years writing journalism. Then, I enrolled in a creative writing course in short storing writing non-fiction in the Irish Writer's Centre in Dublin. Both writing courses sparked an interest in literary non-fiction. 

For a while, I wrote short stories and even published a novella. Although I failed as a short-story writer, changing genre re-sparked my motivation for non-fiction, which led me to blogging and content marketing.

14. Learn a New Writing Skill

You don't need to attend or join an in-person writing group these days. It's possible to learn many new writing skills for creatives at the top of their game on the likes of Masterclass. 

I've taken courses by writers like Malcolm Gladwell and poets like Billy Collins

Other writing skills worth acquiring, including copywriting, self-publishing, and online marketing. All will help you get paid to write. Now, I try to mix-up writing sessions with learning sessions daily.

15. Write Every Single Day for a Month

Many new writers talk about problems like writer's block and only wait until they're uninspired to write. That's a surefire way to avoid writing anything.

Why not go for the opposite approach? 

Sit down at your desk every morning for just fifteen minutes and write a little. It doesn't matter if it's any good. But keep going for fifteen minutes. Now repeat the next day. And the next. By the end of the month, you will have material to work with.

16. Respect The Writing Process

A while ago, I read about the music writing process of composer Philip Glass. As a young man, he forced himself to sit at his desk and compose for two to three hours each morning. 

At first, he found the process torturous. The next day, he turned up and tried again. And then the day after that. He composed a little each day, and his creative output gradually increased over time.

17. Hire A Writing Coach

I've worked with many different writing coaches over the years. They've helped me with problems like earning an income from blogging to more exploratory creative writing. 

Of course, hiring a one-to-one writing coach isn't cheap. So if cash is an issue, read some of their books, take their courses, and study their influences. 

Many writing coaches have podcasts too, and you can learn a lot by listening to them talk about their writing process.

18. Sign Up for a Writing Challenge

NaNoWriMo is perhaps the most popular only challenge for writers. It takes place every November, and participants sign up to write a novel in a month. I took part a few years ago because I wanted to write a new book on business self-help. 

I didn't quite manage to finish my novel in 30-days, but by the end of December, I had a first draft to send to an editor for critical feedback.

19. Indulge in a Little Procrastination

Sometimes, it's good to take a break and indulge in a little procrastination guilt-free. You might just need to recharge for a day or two.

I keep a sign near my desk. It reads, 

“Reculer pour mieux sauter.” That translates as, “Step back in order to leap forwards.”

Basically, it serves as a reminder for taking a break and refilling the well so I don't lose motivation.

Find Your Motivation for Writing Today

Creative people of types, including John Banville, feel demotivated sometimes.

It took me a little while to start writing again after that flash fiction competition.

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 I got into self-publishing books on Amazon.

Whether you're a novelist, blogger, or freelance writer, the trick is to know how to handle feeling demotivated. Instead of losing a week or a month’s worth of writing time, take action. 

Use the writing motivation tips above, you can start writing again and achieve what you want on the blank page.

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