I recently commented on a fellow writer’s Instagram post about some ideas for staying engaged and motivated when writing, and the conversation reminded me that every writer sometimes has those moments when they feel a little…well, less than awesome. When you’re in the long haul with a book or whatever project you’re currently working on, it can get tiring. I know a lot of non-writer people think that’s insane and might throw around remarks like, “But don’t you just sit at a computer all day?” or, and this one’s my favorite, “Don’t you just make stuff up?”
But don’t listen to those people! I get you. I know that on days when it gets too hard or you’re having trouble finding a way to get motivated, it can be super tempting to collapse on the couch and marathon How I Met Your Mother instead of plugging away on your work in progress. Sometimes even when you have the best of intentions, you just get…stuck.
So, to help keep you from getting stuck, here are some methods I either currently use or have used to help me stay motivated and stay engaged with my work in progress. Hopefully they work for you, too.
Now don’t use this as an excuse to go down the rabbit hole and spend five hours pinning cute outfits or bedroom redecoration ideas, but Pinterest can actually serve as a really useful writing tool to help get and keep you motivated. Creating and looking at Pinterest boards related to my work in progress has been really helpful to me at times. You can create a board about the overall work and just pin things that make you think of it, such as pictures of places that remind you of the setting or images that help cultivate the vibe of the story. For example, if you’re writing a spooky piece that takes place in a dark, drafty castle in Ireland, you could pin images of castles, the Irish countryside, or anything with a dark, spooky aesthetic that makes you think of your WIP. Pinterest can also be a really useful place to keep anything you might need to refer back to for your WIP organized in one place, such as glossaries of terms, maps, or reference images.
But perhaps my favorite way to use Pinterest to help keep me motivated is by creating character-based Pinterest boards. I’ll name a board after a character and then pin pictures of what I imagine that character looks like, outfits they’d wear, things they’d like, or images related to their interests or hobbies. It helps me to flesh out my character in a more visual way, and then whenever I go back and look at that board, it’s really easy for me to be immersed in the character, and feel more immersed in the story. It’s a good way to motivate yourself to keep working just by taking a few minutes to look at something!
Much like Pinterest boards but in a slightly more old-fashioned form, vision boards can be useful for getting and keeping you motivated, as well. You probably all know how to make vision boards already—you collect images that inspire you and place them on a large poster board or tri-fold, or whatever is most convenient for you, and place it somewhere where you’ll see it when you’re working. So, you know, exactly like a Pinterest board, except made out of paper.
Vision boards can take more than one form, as well. You can use make vision boards representing the visual aesthetics of your WIP, so that every time you look at it you’ll be immersed in that world and be consistently thinking about it, or you can make a vision board focused on the what you’re really working for with your writing. If you dream of inspiring others or touching lives, you can make a board of quotes about reaching people through writing and the importance of art. You can include images of the work of other writer and artists who inspire you, or logos from a website or magazine you hope to write for some day. The point is, put whatever works for you on your vision boards. Whatever you think you will make you look at it and say, yes, now let’s get to work!
Sometimes when I’ve felt like my work in progress and I are just at a total stalemate, I like to make a playlist inspired by what I’m working on. That way, when I’m stuck, need to get motivated, or just need to get in the right frame of mind, I can listen to my playlist (yes, sometimes on repeat), and instantly be transported into the world of my novel or the mind of my characters. You can fill your playlist with songs and music your characters would love and listen to for a way to really get inside their heads, or you can fill it with songs that you feel just fit with the vibe of your work in progress. As the creator of the art in question, you will be the best person to be able to tell which songs fit best with it, and which music really makes you think of your story.
For example, my previous work in progress, about two old friends reuniting for a cross country road trip, featured California by Phantom Planet, Closer by The Chainsmokers, Georgia Before Daybreak by Colin Alvarez, and I Will Buy You a New Life by Everclear (just to name a few). And yes, I realize that those are all very different songs and don’t seem like they go together, but in my mind, they do, because they’re all songs that made me think of road tripping, reuniting, and looking for an escape, all of which were major themes in my novel. Since music can be such an immersive experience, it’s easy to just disappear into your playlist and really feel the major vibes of your story. And don’t worry if, like mine, your songs don’t “go” together—it’s your playlist for you to listen to while working, so do whatever you want!
I know, this one seems contradictory, right? But sometimes the best tip I can give someone for staying motivated is just to work in the quietness or silence. Granted, this method doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, sometimes I need some background noise to keep me from going a little (more) crazy. But sometimes what you need to help you get a lot of work done is to be alone with just your thoughts—not the words or images created by others. It can seem daunting if you’re not used to it, but give it a shot and give it some time. Turn off the music and the TV or whatever background noise is happening around you, sit down at the computer, and just give it a little time, and see what comes to you when you have nothing else to listen to you except your characters speaking to you. It can really help you get a lot done!
Of course, I realize that this isn’t always a possibility for everyone. Everyone has different situations, whether you have kids, lots of roommates, or fifteen dogs (lucky!), some households are just loud. But if you’re able to carve out a quiet niche of time for yourself, make an effort to do so, whether that means writing early before the rest of the household wakes up, writing late at night after they go to bed, or taking some time away at the library or a quiet corner of a coffee shop.
Find a Routine That Works for You
As you may be able to tell from the fact that some things on this list directly contradict others, no two routines are going to be the same. Everyone has different things that work for them as far as what gets you motivated and what keeps you motivated. So if the method that keeps you motivated isn’t the same method that your favorite author uses, your best friend uses, or seemingly everyone else in the Twitterverse uses, don’t worry about it. Just find what works for you, and go with that. Even if other people think it’s weird. Even if you think it’s weird. If it works, it works.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you may not find your perfect routine right away, especially if you’re new to writing, and that’s okay, too. Try out different routines, different motivation methods. Try working in silence and with background noise. Try writing on the computer and with pen and paper. Eventually you’ll find what works best for you and really gets you motivated and engaged.
Understand and Accept That Your Routine Might Change
And then you could spend all this time finding the perfect routine, figuring out exactly what motivates you and keeps you motivated, and exactly what gets you ready to sit down at the computer and pound out that novel and….it could all change.
I know, right? It’s terrible. But it’s life. The reality of the situation is, in life, things change all the time. One day you could sit down in your perfectly quiet office and take a look at your perfectly curated vision board and go, you know what? This just doesn’t work for me anymore.
Don’t freak out. (Easier said than done, right?)
It’s important to accept that your writing routine might change. The things that get you motivated might change. Your situation might change—maybe you’ll move to a new home, or start working on a new novel, and whatever worked in your old house or on your last novel doesn’t work now. Accept that your routine could change, and adapt to whatever works best for you in the moment. Personally, I’ve been working with background noise in the form of TV or music for years, but lately, I’ve found that I’m way more motivated by working in silence. At first I couldn’t help but think, wait, what happened? What’s wrong with me? But I had to come to terms with the fact that the real answer is—nothing. Nothing’s wrong with me. I just needed a slight change in routine to keep me motivated.
Don’t talk down to yourself
So this one is less about motivating yourself and more about NOT demotivating yourself. (I know, the grammar in that sentence, right?) The easiest way to not get anything done is to tell yourself that you’re not going to get anything done. Or that you can’t get anything done. Or that there’s no point in getting anything done because you’re terrible at this anyway.
Talking down to yourself is a slippery, slippery slope, and it won’t get you anywhere. So stop the negative self-talk and just let yourself work! Let yourself work without telling yourself that it isn’t worth it or that what you’re putting on the page is crap. Because for one thing, there’s a very good chance it’s not crap. And for another thing, if you’re putting anything on the page, you’re already lightyears ahead of the people who say they want to write but don’t even try.
And hey, if it really is crap (we’ve all been there), that’s what rewrites and editing are for.
But the main point is, you’re trying to get yourself motivated and keep yourself motivated—so don’t let the negative part of your brain do the exact opposite. I know it can be hard, but sometimes focusing on what you’re doing right and not beating yourself up is, plain and simple, the most motivating tactic there is.
So what about everyone else? Do you have any tips and tricks to help you get motivated and stay engaged in with your work in progress? Let me know in the comments! You know I’d love to talk. <3