Except that I don’t. Even when I pretend that I do, I really don’t.
For those of us who can’t yet consider ourselves professional writers (as in the paid-to-write-by-strangers variety of professional), it’s all about self-motivation. This is true whether you consider your writing a hobby or a compulsion. There’s no editor breathing down our necks. There’s no rabid fan base absolutely demanding we deliver a new installment as oh-so-naively promised. Heck, most of us don’t even have a significant other that intimately aware of where our manuscript stands and eager to see its conclusion. In short, nobody outside of you is making you do this. So why do it at all?
Unfortunately, that’s sometimes a tough question to answer. We’re all busy. We all have a thousand other things we could be doing. And writing isn’t always super fun times. For me, the dip in motivation usually comes right around editing time. Drafting isn’t usually that hard. But cleaning something up to make it presentable feels more like… work. *shudders* So what’s a girl to do?
Turns out I’m a pretty unmotivated loser all on my own, so I’ve come up with a series of tactics to get me through my more lackadaisical moments.
Announce Your Intentions Let others know about your goals, especially if they’re people with similar goals. Especially especially if they can pester you about it when you’re sucking. Writing forums? Let them know what you’re working on. A few close writing buddies on Twitter? Give ‘em a timeline. Kids, parents, teachers, the crazy-cat-lady next door? Anyone will do in a pinch. But keeping it mum is like handing yourself a Get Out of Jail Free card to grab that TV remote instead of your laptop.
Join A Group Local critique circle? Perfect. World-wide movements like NaNoWriMo? Great. Any group will do. People you have to look at on a weekly/monthly/etc basis can be a very powerful motivator. (And while you don’t have to explain your lameness to anyone at the Office of Letters and Light if you fail at a month of NaNo, you don’t get your winner goodies. Or bragging rights. Which, for me, is also powerful.)
Treat Yourself Reward yourself when you hit your goals. Split your project down into manageable chunks and give yourself a treat for each chunk completed. And if you really don’t trust yourself not to tuck into that quadruple decker ultimate sundae supreme early, get someone else involved. When I’m really pinched for motivation, I have my husband come up with a list of rewards and I have to go through him to get them.
Develop Good Habits This is more of a preventative measure, but it’s still worth mentioning. Good habits make things so much easier. Don’t have them established just yet? Get started now. Ease yourself into it. Just ten minutes a day. Then fifteen. Bit by bit. Like starting a healthy diet or an exercise regime, allow yourself a developmental period of less-than-awesomeness, but build it up a little further every day. And when you eventually have that solid habit of daily writing/editing/blogging/whatever, it’s easier to beat off the inevitable apathy when it comes a-callin’.
Be Reasonable Because nothing will sap your motivation faster than unrealistic goals. The most awesome reward in the world will mean nothing if it’s unattainable. So when you’re writing up your goals, take a look at your abilities and obligations. You want challenging, not impossible. And if you get into your goals and find you were maybe a little too optimistic? There’s no shame in making adjustments to your timeline. Change what needs to change and keep moving forward.
How about you fine folks? What do you do to motivate yourself?