Hello writers and welcome to the middle of another week. We’ve made through two and a half weeks of November, and for some of us that means two and a half weeks into National Novel Writing Month. Whether you are challenging yourself to write 50k words in a month, or simply trying to adhere to a regular writing schedule, many of us find our motivation flagging at this point in the year. Between the demands of holidays, family, pandemic, and stress from a dozen other factors, it can be hard to use the tried and true tactics for finding our motivation again. In today’s post we will explore some suggestions out there to help you find your motivation and how these suggestions can be adapted for a pandemic locked down situation.
Motivation Tips (& Tweaks)
Switch off all Electronic Communications
This is both very good advice and very difficult advice to follow with the need to pay attention to a million different notifications from work, school, family etc. However, there is a pure grain of truth in this piece of advice. It could help your concentration exponentially if you turned off all notifications and put your phone on silent for at least 20 to 30 minutes. If your day is full to bursting with chores, tasks, and other work, 20 to 30 minutes might be all you can spare. You might be able to only do 15 minutes at a time. The point is that you do it. Set a timer. Eke out that uninterrupted time for yourself, away from doomscrolling and distraction. Even if you don’t write a single word in that time, this is not a failure, because this time gives your brain a pause. A chance to fill the space with thoughts and ideas, a chance to imagine.
Allow Yourself to Write Badly
This is a tip I see everywhere and another one of my favorite tips. Sometimes, there is an unspoken pressure on us to create clean first drafts, despite all evidence in the writing world that any work put forth will undergo several revisions. It is a pressure to perform, not necessarily worse for authors who have previously published novels, but one that exists for many of us, whether we are querying, on our second novel or tenth, it seems we trick ourselves into thinking our first draft has to be perfect. The result can make us choke while drafting. Our minds fill with ‘what ifs’ and doubts, stifling the word flow. Instead of creating, we get tangled up in our process. It is important that we allow word vomit. No first draft is perfect. It shouldn’t be. You might have an epiphany in the eleventh hour that means rewriting huge chunks of your draft and that is perfectly okay. You might have to toss out your entire first draft and start again. And that is okay. For the over 21 crowd, there is a very tried and true saying: Write drunk, edit sober. Another way of thinking of this saying: Write sloppy, clean up with edits. Let yourself make mistakes. Don’t worry about typos, or awkward sentences. Save those for the morning after. You might be surprised what you do write when you avoid self correcting mid-sentence.
Time & Place
There are two tips here rolled into one hot mess thanks to restrictions put in place in many states and cities. Entire countries are bouncing between lockdown and limitations, which makes setting up an alternate time and place to write far more difficult. It may not be feasible to get out of your house or apartment to find a new writing spot, or feasible to have a set time every day to write in. Patterns and schedules can be hard to keep at the best of times. It is important to give yourself flexibility and forgiveness when trying to create a space and time to write. Instead of setting a specific time every day, give yourself a window of two or three hours. Give yourself alternative times when one time falls through. When it comes to space, you might not be able to leave the house, but you might find a new space within your house. Try writing in another room. Try writing on the floor (I’ve done this, it works). Heck, bring your laptop into the bathroom and write while sitting on your bath mat. (I do not recommend writing in the bath.) You might not be able to escape the distractions of home, but you can do your best to minimize them. Utilize music, write when the family is otherwise occupied, give yourself space to breathe and think. There may be no perfect situation here, but you do the best you can with what you have available.
This tip ties in somewhat with the idea of disconnecting from electronics and devices for a period of time. You’ve done the thing. You sprinted, you made words. Now give yourself a break. Take five minutes. Take ten. Give yourself a long break if you need to. Getting any words on the page is an achievement but gently remind yourself, you don’t need to get all the words done today. Breaks are just as important as words. Take a walk. Go outside. Drink water. Take a hot shower. Eat a snack. Watch an episode of your favorite show. It is important to get words down. It is just as important to be kind to yourself.