How to write when you can’t get motivated

Even if you can't light that fire at will underneath you, you can get something smoldering

Even if you can’t light that fire at will underneath you, you can get something smoldering

Like many, I am a writer. And like many writers, I both believe it’s necessary to write every day (in theory) and difficult to make that aim a reality. Some days, I’m busy. Other days, I just feel stuck and the words won’t come. The last thing I want to do is fiddle around with that work in progress.

Every writer gets to that point, and we all need some way to find the push to keep going when we arrive there. Through the years I’ve developed some tips to carry me forward when I just don’t want to open that blasted file and deal with the draft and its issues.

  • I remind myself what excited me about the story in the first place. Sometimes that’s enough to motivate me to power through a tough section.
  • I’m a big “write every day” person, so I tell myself half an hour won’t be really that long of a struggle to make some headway, and afterward I’ll feel good about myself for diving in. Sometimes, I get on a roll and when that half an hour is up, I feel inclined to write a little longer.
  • If I’m editing and up against a scene (or group of scenes) that frustrates or bores me, I consider whether some of that material can come out. How much of it is vital to the story? A scene that doesn’t interest me or that I want to shirk from is a red flag, after all. (Perhaps. Not always…. Sometimes it has the potential to be great, and I’m just feeling lazy to make the changes I need to. But it’s always worth considering where that malaise is coming from.)
  • I remember how much I love calling myself a writer. And I think that I can’t do that if I don’t write. While I know taking a short break doesn’t disqualify me from that title, I acknowledge that a short break is the first step to a longer one, and a longer one still.
  • I haven’t been so good about this lately, but when I know my day is going to be jam-packed, I try to get up a little early and get some writing in before I do anything else. Then I can just do what I need to do and not worry about squeezing some writing time in somewhere along the way.

One of the biggest keys to writing and polishing up a novel is just to figure out some way to do the work when you don’t feel like it or you don’t have the time. So, I’m curious: how do you get motivated when the going gets tough? Does anyone promise him or herself a reward? Set deadlines and stick to them, come hell or high water? For someone with discipline, that’s a great strategy. (I’ve decided I will release “The King’s Sons” sometime in 2013, making my deadline December. It’s out with beta readers, so that’s a reasonable goal, I think. If I don’t make it, I don’t make…. But I’m feeling like I should.)


21 responses to “How to write when you can’t get motivated

  1. Well said! It strikes me that motivation is motivation, whether one is talking about writing or something like getting exercise. I find that when motivation fails, then having a good habit, like your writing before your day starts, or commiting to 30 minutes a day, is just the ticket.

  2. I’ve been slacking and I cannot put my finger on the cause on my lack of motivation. It’s not just writing; everything is a struggle. I will try, no matter, to at least write something for at least 30 minutes. I liked that tip and I think it could be the very thing to start writing regularly again–maybe I can uncover the reason for this extreme block.

    • Glad the post helped a bit. Best of luck of you, Erika! In all your endeavors. I’ve been in a slump myself where everything but writing is concerned. Oddly enough, writing is the only thing going well for me right now, so it’s hard to motivate myself to tackle the more difficult things (like finding a dang job)

  3. Some great advice here. I’m half-way through a uni assignment, and finding it even more difficult than usual to motivate myself to write. But, as you mention, usually once you start, it’s not so hard to keep going. Just have to get started…

    • Glad you liked the post! Getting started is definitely the key. Some days I only get those 30 minutes in (especially during a first draft) and I hardly get anything written, but progress is progress. The thing is just to keep plugging. Those breakthroughs will come eventually

  4. One thing that helps me on a low-motivation day (or month) is to make a deal with myself that I will set the timer for 15 minutes. I tell myself 15 minutes is no big deal and it’s better than nothing. Then I set the timer and get going. If I really want to quit after the 15 minutes, I do, BUT most of the time, I set it for another 15 and see how much more I can do. I often then exceed my original time goal for the writing or whatever else I’m working on. If a gimmick can get me into it, it’s worth it. And, like I say, I often end up meeting or exceeding the actual goal.

  5. Pingback: What Can I Do in 20 Minutes? « Container Chronicles

  6. It’s always nice to hear advice about fighting a lack of motivation. I find that getting up and moving around helps get me through a tough scene. Walking works but Tae Known Do is better excercise.

  7. I enjoy your posts:) I actually haven’t had a problem being motivated so that’s a good thing!

    • thank you, Toni! I’m so glad you enjoy then! Glad we connected on Social Buzz Club 🙂 I’m so envious you don’t have a problem finding motivation, haha! I don’t always, but more than I’d like.

  8. I like the thirty minute tip too! It’s believable because it’s achievable. I struggle because I tell myself I need a full morning or a clear couple of hours. Not true is it? 🙂

    • I LOVE the thirty minute rule 🙂 I think with our modern lives the way they are, a lot of us have to cram writing time in where we can find it. If we wait for that full morning, it often isn’t going to come 😦 thanks so much for dropping by!

  9. I have a similar tip to Deborah’s, above. I set a timer for 15 minutes, and then write constantly until the timer goes off. Then I give myself a 5 minute break, before writing another 15 minute timed session, then another 5 minute break, etc.
    Breaking your work up like this into manageable chunks of time works for me when I am finding it difficult to write. And it increases my productivity.
    Some good pieces of advice here, too, thanks.

  10. Thanks, my aim is to finished “Crowd” by December..:)

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