Motivation is a tricky business when you work for yourself. When you have a boss leaning over your shoulder telling you to get it done, you do. When you have a family that needs cared for, you do. When you work for yourself, you might. Sitting down at the keyboard can be the hardest thing for a writer to do. There’s so many more interesting things to do. Like dishes. Or laundry. Or that mountainous to-read pile. But you want to write. You really do. Unfortunately deciding to write a novel and actually producing one is hard. Really hard. Fifty to a hundred thousand words, oh my! How do you manage it?
First of all, quit thinking of it as fifty to a hundred thousand anything. Create manageable, attainable, daily writing goals and then low ball yourself. You heard me right, low ball. If you set your daily word count above what you know you can accomplish, you are setting yourself up for failure. Nobody likes to fail, therefore, after a couple of failures, you will quit. However, if you set your daily word count just below what you know you can do, then you will have success and you will keep coming back for more. I like to set my personal word count at 1500 words because I know I can do that on the worst of days. Once I hit 1500 words, its all gravy and “look how good I am.”
Next, make sure you start with something you are happy with. Do you need to plan out every second of the story? Then plan out every second of the story. You don’t need fancy computer programs or spreadsheets, a pack of note cards will do the trick. Don’t want to plan out every second? Then don’t, but make sure you have enough story to go on. Personally, I’m a pantser. I know how the story is going to start and I’ve got a pretty good idea where it’s going to end. All the stuff in between? I like to be surprised. Sometimes I find myself so caught up that I’m yelling at the computer as I write. However, the quickest way to lose momentum is to discover half way in that you don’t have enough conflict or motivation. It really is all in the planning, even if you don’t have everything spelled out to the smallest degree.
Third, set aside a time. Just like you can train your body to go to sleep or get hungry at certain times, you can train your brain to write at certain times. If you’ve ever suffered with jet lag, you know how true this is. I have woken up in the middle of the night just starving even though I had a snack before going to bed because it’s lunchtime halfway around the world and my body clock hasn’t adjusted yet. Your brain will operate the same way about writing. Once you’ve developed the habit of sitting down and doing the work, your brain will start even if you aren’t at your desk.
Lastly, start thinking about your story as you drive home or make dinner (or whatever it is that you do before you start writing) so that when you get to your desk you can start writing. I wrote entire novels while stocking magazines at Borders, just ask my co-workers. If you can sit down and start writing you will feel like you’re getting something done. If you have to sit down and figure out what’s happening next, then you have every chance that your mind will wander and Facebook beckons.
So what’s the key to motivating yourself to write? To borrow a phrase, just do it.
*Sadly, I do not know where I got this image from, but if someone can tell me I will be happy to credit the creator because I think it’s brilliant.