Where Literary Legends Are Born

From the Assistant Desk: Making Motivation Happen

Several of us at M&O took on fitness/athletic resolutions this January, as I’m sure many of you reading this did. I have to say it’s been pretty exciting – two of us are taking on a half marathon, another is kicking butt with the new PiYo craze, and another is a regular at spinning classes that make my legs cry just thinking about them. As a result, we’ve been talking a lot about motivation around the office lately. Most of these conversations have gone something like this:

“Ugh, my training plan says I have to run five miles today.”
“Brutal. Why did we decide to do this again?”

Or:

“So, how’d waking up before the sun to do that workout this AM go?
“ *prolonged groaning* “

Basically, it’s going really well.

Motivation can be elusive, both for budding world class athletes like us (kidding, clearly!) and writers alike. Even writers with illustrious careers struggle with writer’s block. Then, there is the craze of daily life to deal with. Usually, writers aren’t just writing – many of them are working, wrangling kids, studying, traveling, or doing a million other things in a day. Even on a quiet day, it can be hard to get yourself to sit down and put words on the page.

The last month has certainly been an exercise in motivation (ha, exercise pun!) for a bunch of us here, so this week I thought I’d share some tips I have learned on staying driven that apply to writers as well. While the warm and fuzzy advice of “remember why you started” is totally legitimate, I think the more important key to motivation is knowing that it’s unfortunately not something that just comes to you. Often, you have to work to make motivation happen yourself. That said, I wanted to provide some tangible strategies for keeping the fire alive as you move toward that goal of finishing your manuscript. Of course, these may not work for everyone, so take what you need!

Make a schedule. Pick a time when you know you’ll be free to write and protect it fiercely. If someone calls with plans, tell them you’re busy. Because you are! Writing that amazing project, of course. Get used to planning your writing time like you would an appointment or other obligations. For most people struggling with motivation, a dose of structure can be a big help.

Track your progress. In the past month, I have become a big advocate of visual trackers of progress. Whether it’s a calendar or a checklist, seeing how far you have come can be a great motivator. Put some sort of visual reminder of what you’re working toward in your workspace that you can mark that will allow you to feel accomplished. You should decide based on what you are comfortable with for your goals – a chapter a day? Finally cracking this scene that’s been driving you nuts forever? There is nothing like checking off another day of success!

Talk to other people who are doing what you doing. Nothing motivates me like sharing running war stories with my fellow assistant here. We check in on each other, provide moral support, and make sure neither is slacking off. Consider getting a writing buddy who you click well with – preferably in your genre. If you work well with others nearby, think about setting up a date to write together and bounce around ideas. As we have mentioned before on this blog, there is an amazing support network of budding authors online. Tap in and surround yourself with people who are working toward the same goal!

Spice it up. If your old routine isn’t working, you need to change something. (They say the same thing at the gym). Visit a new place and bring your laptop. Try writing by hand for a chapter just to see what happens. If you have been stuck on a project forever, shelve it for a while and write something new.

Don’t let a slip-up wreck your progress. Look, life derails all of us at some point. Maybe you’ve got a cold for a few days and really can’t do anything but readjust yourself under a blanket. Maybe there’s a “historic” blizzard that isn’t really that big of a deal but still messes up your schedule one week. Those kind of things are beyond your control, unfortunately. That said, there are going to be days when you don’t want to do what you need to do just because you don’t feel like it. Sometimes, however, you just need a break for your own mental well being. Learn to know the difference.  If a slip-up happens, it’s a-okay. Forgive yourself, but get back on the train as soon as you can.

Good luck, everyone!

– Shannon