The Writer’s Meal: 7 steps to keep you motivated to write
I will be writing about the typical writer’s meal, commonly known as The Book or Work-in-Progress. Today, I will talk about one part of the writer’s meal that is commonly overlooked until it ruins your diet.
As creative writers, the staple to our diet includes the clicking of a keyboard or the scrape of a pencil’s graphite tip against a blank, paper canvas. Naturally, the dessert is the yummy story, complete and beautiful. That salad you eat before your meal is that refreshing idea you are excited about and the outline that starts the project, and the bread on your entree plate is the filler–the thick editing you do after everything is finished but before you can say you’re ready for dessert. But what is that disgusting spinach we see? The gross, unavoidable slime that we sometimes find haunting the plate. Oh, dang. I forgot I needed that…it’s motivation.
Motivation is one of the most important aspects of your writer’s meal. It contains all the vitamins and nutrients that keep your writing going, just like spinach is that all-inclusive plant that fuels your body. The problem is that writers overlook it, not because it’s disgusting but because it is taken for granted, and we think it’ll stay nice and hot throughout the meal.
Once an idea appears, it’s hot and ready for you, and it tastes great if you eat it with your staple. However, if you let it cool and you don’t keep yourself motivated while you work, you’ll kill your story, and you will set your idea aside and lose it.
Sometimes you discover, too late, that you already lost the motivation to continue or start an idea; your spinach cooled off. Good thing we have microwaves, right? So, let’s start there and talk about how you can keep yourself motivated or revive the motivation you lost.
1. Find the nutrients that make your idea necessary
You fell in love with the idea for a reason. You kept it because you wanted to use it, so what is it? If your idea is something that is unique, take time to write it down and expand on it, little by little. Find something else that’s unique, and add it to the idea. Whether you use it in your writing isn’t an issue. Just let the idea grow and let yourself fall in love with it. You have to convince yourself it’s a good idea.
Read something similar to your idea. If you are writing a romance about a cowboy, read a romance about a cowboy. If you haven’t touched that romance WIP (work in progress) in two years, glance at it, then go buy you a book about a cowboy. When you read about something successful, you’ll find yourself hungry to do the same. That’s a trick that won’t fail until you no longer wish to be a writer. Find something that works and make yourself jealous.
One thing that fuels your idea is making it known. Tell someone. Tell them you’re going to write it, or keep up with it in a blog.
2. Keep yourself accountable; make someone watch you…no stalkers allowed.
To expand on the previous statement, keep updating people, your blog, your support group, etc. as you progress and add to your idea. If you simply post a tweet stating “I wrote 2,000 words today! Let’s see if I can do it again, tomorrow.” or even “I have to finish my chapter today. I will not fail!” you will find yourself obligated to follow through. You’re a writer, and you won’t fail yourself. No “buts”. Say it aloud. “I’m a writer, and I won’t fail myself”. Did you say it? It wasn’t a joke. Say it.
Go back up and say it.
That’s accountability. If you want a physical bat, keep an agenda or give someone who is willing the ability to hit you upside the head. Find someone who will ask you if you wrote that day, or tell someone about your idea and ask them to help by asking for updates about its progress or asking questions as they come up with them.
Find a fellow writer and keep them motivated, and ask them to keep you motivated in return. Co-motivation is a great tool, so use it. You may even find a long-term friend. You may even want to join a writing group or take advantage of a writing group you’re currently in. Ask for help and offer help in return. Keep in mind that you’re not the only one with this motivation issue, and another writer could benefit from you. Naturally, I’ll suggest Authors’ Tale. It’s a great group. 😉
3. Don’t beat yourself up.
You’re going to have bad days, bad ideas, bad writing, and bad everything else. We’re human; even our characters are screwing up, so expect that you will too. Do not think you’re running in circles because your screen or paper has a rectangular shape, and every word makes your story bigger and longer, not curvy(er). Besides, you’re writing, not running. Do that on your own time.
4. Set goals and deadlines.
If you’re picking up an old idea, the key to getting started is setting goals. Sometimes, this is best accomplished with an outline so you know where you need to be in your story. If you have an accountability person, use them. Tell them you’ll have an updated chapter or excerpt by a certain day, and send it to them for feedback.
When you do reach those goals or make your deadlines, reward yourself. Take a night off, sleep early, write something fun, eat chocolate… Do something to reward yourself, and use that reward as a motivational cookie.
5. Don’t touch the backspace button. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Many times, when you do get yourself to write, the result is lukewarm mush and you get frustrated. Who cares? Let it be mush for a while. Type your thoughts, save it, then come back the next day. Read over it and think about what you didn’t like, or just try again the next day, see what you type, and keep going if you like it. If you don’t like it, either, compare your two bad ideas and figure out what your brain is trying to get your fingers to type/write.
6. Follow the lit path of those wonderful ideas.
When you’re trying to meet that ridiculous deadline you set for yourself, you find yourself grunting and slamming your head against the table because you’re on a boring chapter or a filler section that simply needs to be written. At some point, you’ll have to write it, but sometimes a light turns on in your head like a little demon saying, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if this happened when you get to the scene in ten chapters?”
Write it. That isn’t a demon, it’s an angel. You had a flicker of an idea, so your day will change, and you will now write that thought out. It’ll simply be ready for you to use or expand on when you get to it later. Don’t lose it!
Little sub-note: If you have an idea at random and nothing to write on, record your voice and say the idea, type it in a memo on your phone, text it to someone, or yell at your waiter and steal his pen.
7. Become a life coach for yourself.
You have a life outside of writing, so you won’t meet every deadline, and you will skip a day or two. First of all, don’t sweat it. Shake it off and plan your next writing day. If you need to take a step back for a couple days, do it, but schedule a day when you will look at it again. You can’t let that spinach get cold, and you can only microwave it so many times. Remind yourself why you’re writing, and remind yourself why you like the idea that created your story.
Most importantly, remind yourself that your future readers need the story. They haven’t read it yet, and you’re the hero that will save them from such a terrible fate. You’re a good writer, and you need to tell yourself that, no matter what. Your grammar or initial presentation of the idea may be awful, but that’s what people like me are here for. We get paid to read a story and refine it. So, don’t worry about that. The idea is the thing, and your words are the message. Feed your readers, or you have denied people the chance to love it, too.
Remember, no one else can write what you can because no one else knows how. You’re the only one who can write it, and no one else will do it for you.
In the end, you’re going to have to sit your butt down and do it. You have to make it a daily thing…a scheduled regiment. After a while, you’ll find yourself eager to sit down. Don’t be afraid to write a few side-stories or ideas when you take a break. Keeping your creative wheels practiced and oiled up may help your writing, and it may even help your WIP. Pick up the project and start. You can’t motivate yourself to finish something until you first decide to start it, so pick up the fork and dig in.
Have a wonderful evening. I hope this helps, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter or ways you motivate yourself; I’ll add them if you think it’ll help other writers.