Last week, Brooke Johnson posted about Navigating the Swamp – how each novel is an adventure to write with its own pitfalls and hardships. As writers, we need to find our motivators to help us stay on this path. Whenever we hit a wall and the novel feels lost, we must power through, but how?
With four chapters left of The Mundane List (on Wattpad), I’ve been putting off writing the ending because it is going to be emotionally hard. To help re-motivate myself, I created this post about motivators that have worked for me in the past, which might help you also get out of the quicksand.
An article I read a long time ago (so I cannot, unfortunately, give it proper credit here) discussed how creating a new system, such as a new to do list, a new calendar, a new planner, a new anything, can actually help you accomplish more, at least temporarily. As someone with a short attention span, I switch up my system frequently.
This is pretty straightforward. You set out a specific goal, and if you reach it, you reward yourself with something. The goal should be achievable with a small reward. For example, if you finish writing this chapter, you can have a piece of a chocolate bar. Make the reward equal how much work you’ve put into the goal, so there is always a satisfying payoff in addition to the work you’ve accomplished.
Make a List
While lists don’t work for everyone, sometimes having a lot of tiny goals can help you plow through them. There’s a fine line here, though. You don’t want to overwrite your list and overwhelm yourself. Maybe keep the list to five achievable items, like “edit 500 words” and “create a blog post on X” and “schedule promotional tweets” and “write 250 words.” Anything that contributes to advancing your writing career can go on this one. If you finish your list, start a new one.
Create a Planner
For a while, creating my own Bullet Journal worked wonders for me. It motivated me to make a new weekly page every Monday (which is the beginning of my weekend), and then I plotted out an entire week. I was achieving a lot. But, since I have a short attention span, this method only lasted about two months. However, during those two months, my productivity got a huge boost and helped me accomplish a lot.
Join a Writing Group
Joining a writing group can be done either online or in person, but find a smaller group of folks who will hold you accountable and expect you to do the same in return. There’s a lot of communities that form in / around NaNo, and the one in my hometown is still going strong into December. Check your region on the NaNo page or look on Facebook to see if there is a NaNo writing group near you. Use google, use twitter, use G+, use anything at your fingertips to find a group of people who will get together once a week or a few times a month to sit down and write.
Find People Who Love to Write and Read
While all the other motivators help me get little spurts of energy to accomplish a lot in a small amount of time, this one is the real key. Through the years, I have found more and more people who enjoy writing, enjoy reading, and have ample of opinions on both. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone who has a book (but don’t interrupt their reading, because goodness, that’s the worst). Sometimes even a brief encounter with a fellow passionate reader can give me the boost I need to power through editing another chapter. Surrounding yourself with positive, creative people is important to fostering creativity.
Give Yourself a Deadline
I know, I know, who is going to hold you accountable for a deadline? This is similar to creating a planner, but instead, you focus on one thing. You have to finish X by the end of the day. Or, you have to do Y by midnight on Saturday. This way, when you finish the item earlier than expected, you can move onto a new deadline. If you don’t finish the item early, and you procrastinate (like my NaNo graph shows me doing), then you at least finish at the last minute because of the deadline. You must finish, and therefore, you will.
If All Else Fails … Consult Your Cats (or Pets)
If none of the above work for you, do something incredibly silly. This week, I couldn’t decide on which book to read. I also wanted to give myself until the end of January to read eight books on my bookshelf. I took eight books off my shelf and put them on the floor, each with a treat on top. Then, I put my cat in the middle of the books. I wrote down the order in which he ate the treats, and now, I am going to read the books by the end of January in that order. I have a deadline, and my cat chose the order. So if I fail, I’m essentially letting my treat-loving feline down. If you are unable to make a decision, perhaps you should consult your pets.
I wish you the best of luck with navigating your stories and finding motivators to keep you on track. If you have one that I didn’t list, feel free to share in the comments. I’m always looking for new ways to stay on task!
Behold: my cats after they chose my reading list … They are being cats, now with books.