Friday, April 24, 2015

Getting and Staying Motivated

There’s nothing harder for a writer than getting and staying motivated. In this high-tech, whirlwind world, it’s often hard to focus on the job at hand. If your cell phone isn’t buzzing to let you know someone desperately wants to speak with you, then it may be vibrating to let you know that you know that someone posted something on your Facebook Page. And then, of course, there’s your family, the stress at work, and who knows what else. What can you do to stay motivated when you’re bombarded with all this?

Well, take heart. There is a way.

There are probably lots of times when your head is just bursting with ideas. You can’t wait to get started—but you never do. If that’s the case, you have a problem with getting motivated. To sort things out, jot down as many of those ideas as you can. Look them over and pick three that stand out from all the rest.

Study those three and ask yourself why each is a good idea. Also ask how relevant each of them is. And finally ask how passionate you are about each one. One of them will stand out after asking these questions. That’s the one to start working on. At this point, forget about getting published and just get to work.

Get yourself excited about this new idea. Dive into researching it. The deeper you go in your research, the more fascinating the topic will become. You may even get so motivated that you ignore that blasted cell phone vibrating in your pocket!

But getting motivated and staying motivated are two different things. That initial surge of writing energy will only last so long, then what?

Visualize where you’d like to be with this project and your writing in general in say six months. Do you see your work being enjoyed by readers? That’s not the same as being published. While the two are intertwined, most writers don’t go beyond seeing themselves published. They forget about their readers. And the secret to success is that you just can’t do that. Your readers are the most important part of the process.

Imagine readers getting excited about what you’ve written. Imagine them laughing or crying. When a reader says they just couldn’t put a book down, that’s a testimony to good writing. Make that happen to your work.

To be sure you stay on track, set a writing time and place. Work writing into your schedule just like eating and exercising. Develop a writing routine (See “There’s Something to be Said for Routine While Working” from Feb. 17, 2014).

Ask yourself what would you like to accomplish with this piece of writing? Every piece of writing should afford you some sort of accomplishment. It may improve your writing skills. It may help you to advance your characterization skills. Or it may increase your knowledge substantially about a particular subject. No writing project is worthless. All contribute somehow to your writing ability and your outlook on life.

To stay motivated, set some goals for yourself. Look ahead. See the bigger picture. Set some long-range goals covering perhaps a year and some short-range goals covering a month or so (See “Setting Goals” from Jan. 4, 2013).

Take time out to read. Reading will stimulate your brain and give you even more ideas. Non-fiction is best. The fantasy of novels doesn’t always stimulate your brain enough because you get involved in the everyday lives of the characters in them. Everything is pretty much thought out for you. But with non-fiction, you’re often forced to think of other things related to what you’re reading.

Above all, decide why you want to write. What drives you? Why do you torture yourself with it? When you know the answers to those questions, you’ll be able to stay motivated, perhaps for a long, long time.