Writing really is a strange and lonely occupation and, like many writers, my motivation ebbs and flows depending on how busy I am, what I’m writing, and my general mood. However, there are things I know that work to keep me organised and to keep me going. Here are my tips on how to stay motivated as a writer.
Make the time
The first tip is certainly a ‘I should practise what I preach’ kind of advice but from experience, I know that scheduling the time to write is the best way to keep motivated and make sure that you actually do it. I have every Monday off with my Creative Writing MA, and as I’m in the second year of the course, I don’t have classes anymore and just meet twice a term with my tutor. This means that I effectively could allow myself a three-day weekend each week (and believe me, sometimes I do). But I know that if I treat this day as a dedicated writing day, I will be a lot more productive than just telling myself that I will write when I feel like it.
I know that I work best in short, concentrated bursts, so I like to give myself tasks each hour on my day off – eg. from 9am to 10am I will redraft a short story, from 10am to 11am I will research short story competitions, from 11am to 12pm I will go back to the short story. This way, I am mixing up the work that I’m doing (to please my short attention span) and really making the most of the time that I have.
Similarly, I try to pencil in time to write for an hour before work once a week, or book myself in for writing evenings after work. By carving out the time in my week to write, I am able to stay motivated and on top of things, and make sure that I’m keeping everything ticking over. Forcing yourself to keep thinking about your work throughout the week means that you often solve problems and find inspiration when you’re not even trying!
Share your work
I truly believe that you can only exist in your isolated writing bubble for so long. Once you’ve mulled over an idea, written it down and redrafted, quite often you are then useless to see its merits/flaws any longer. The best thing you can do is to find somebody, or a group of people, that you trust and can share your work with.
Doing my MA I’ve been lucky enough not only to have formed a solid group of writers who meet regularly to share and discuss our work, but also to have a tutor who understands what I’m doing and can offer an opinion from a different perspective. It can sometimes be hard to hear where others felt your piece lacked, or didn’t make sense, but it’s also incredibly useful to have someone else read the thing formed only from your mind. Of course, there’s nothing better than when somebody enjoys and gets your work too, and I always come away from these meetings feeling motivated – to redraft, to do better, and to keep writing.
Find a community
This definitely links to the above point of sharing your work with other writers, but where that might not always be possible, I’ve found a great joy and inspiration in following writers – both aspiring and published – on social media. Every day on my Twitter feed I see people sharing their successes – awards and book deals – as well as writers talking honestly about their writing process, their motivation, and sometimes even their failures.
It all helps me to feel less alone. On Twitter I heard about the writer putting different coloured beads into a jar depending on whether they received a rejection of manuscript request from agents – she’s going to string it into a necklace when she’s finally published. I also saw one writer describing the journey of a short story he wrote years ago and how it’s finally ‘found a home’ in a magazine. These are the things that have stuck with me, but there are so many other examples that have really motivated and inspired me.
Reading about writers and writing online everyday gives me a sense that I’m part of something bigger, and helps me to understand that everyone is on their own journey. Plus, it’s a place where I enjoy sharing my own experiences of reading and writing too. On that note, follow me on Twitter!
Write what makes you happy
It probably goes without saying, but the main way to stay motivated as a writer is to write what makes you excited. I’m not saying that writing is never boring or painstaking (hello, editing), but at the end of the day, if you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, it will make it ten times harder to see the project through to the end.
So be disciplined, be open to sharing your work and getting involved in the writing community. And above all, write what you love. Happy writing!