Without further ado, I present Cait’s response to my question for her.
Ten Ways I Motivate Myself to Write Regularly
This is a horrible post to write.
It’s horrible because it makes me look all my faults in the eye without blinking. One of my greatest faults is that I struggle to write regularly. It’s like motivating myself to go to the gym. I want to do it. I enjoy it. It’s good for me. But, somehow Candy Crush and laundry always get in the way.
This topic is also a challenge because I’m a relatively new full-time writer, and I’m still trying to figure out what my groove will be. Am I a binge writer that can pound out a novel in two months? Or am I a Steady Eddie that cranks a thousand words a day? I’ve been both before. I could be both again.
That said, there are things that help me keep moving forward. I will list them out, but I will also talk about exactly what foible they counteract. Maybe, just maybe, something I say might have meaning for someone other than myself.
- I am a small business.
When I decided to become a full-time writer, I went into it eyes wide open. I knew that marketing and business management were going to be a large part of my “job.” Just like any job, the business of being a writer is 20% what you love doing – the writing, and 80% the stuff that has to get done so you can have the 20% – the editing, marketing, finances, social media, etc.
I put together a five year business plan. I didn’t write down any numbers because I honestly didn’t know how enough about the what, when, and how of income from writing. But, I made a list of the books I would write each year, and I vowed to stick to that list. Year One was a total disaster. I kept getting distracted by the shiny new thing. Year Two is going better. I am exercising a painful amount of willpower to resist shiny new things, and it’s paying off.
So, when I feel like being lazy or want to go out with a girlfriend instead of writing, I remind myself that I am the CEO and Human Resources Director of my own small company. If I don’t do the work and take myself seriously, then no one else will, and there won’t be any money to finance the semi-fabulous lifestyle I want.
Lesson: Take yourself seriously. You are a business. This is a job. Treat it like one. Be your own mean HR person who is a stickler for sick time and vacation.
- It takes a village.
In other words, I need an entire squad of cheerleaders egging me on. I have built a small group of beta readers that I love and trust. Their job is to read what I’ve written, praise what’s good, tell me what’s weak, and nag me for more. I’ve been well-trained in the art of guilt, and so the positive guilt and expectations my cheerleaders give me is a tremendous boost to my confidence and my productivity.
Lesson: Find 3-5 people you love and trust. Share your work. Share your struggles. Be open to their feedback. Know it’s given in love. You and your work will be better for it.
- The one that gets you.
Out of my group of cheerleaders, there is Britt. She is the one who ‘gets’ my writing as much as she ‘gets’ me. She is a writer herself, and she knows the effort it takes to produce a book. She knows me as a person and will call me out when I am hiding or denying things that bother me and keep me from writing. She will see the very first, roughest pages and give me her honest opinion. She will spend hours doing what she has termed ‘Story Yoga’ with me to work out plot points. She demands I do better in the most loving way possible. She makes me a better person and a better writer.
Lesson: Find a friend who can be a partner. Treasure them.
- Accept the inevitable.
There will be days of writers block. There will be hours when you feel like you are slogging through the worst, most awful drivel you have ever written, and that no human being should be subjected to reading such tripe. You will think that you should give up and go back to accounting/marketing/retail/human resources/waitressing.
That’s okay. It happens. If you fight it when that happens, you will find yourself mired in days and days of gloomy introspection. But if you accept that this is part of the process and probably part of the writer’s temperament, then, you can allow it to rise to the surface and pop like a bubble…and then get back to work.
Lesson: You will hate yourself at times. It’s okay. It’s not forever. Just let it be.
- Procrastination will happen.
Laundry. Dishes. Dog. Bills. Gym. Doctor’s appointments. Mom. Friends. Cooking. Dishes. Squirrel!
Yes, you will procrastinate. I have made procrastination into a high art form. I mean, what I do to put off writing is up there with Warhol and Da Vinci. I can think of ten thousand things to do instead of writing and justify them all beautifully.
But just like accepting that I will have better and worse days with my writing, accepting that I will find ways to procrastinate seems to defuse the bomb of indefinite procrastination. I now recognize that procrastination is sometimes the time my brain needs to mull over plot points, and sometimes, it’s the break my brain needs in order to recharge.
The trick to accepting procrastination is that you have to set a time limit. Take control of your procrastination. Use the timer on your phone. Round up to the nearest half-hour. Play until then. Then guilt yourself back to work.
Lesson: Procrastination happens. Let it happen. Then get over it.
- The merits of a husband.
My husband supports me wholeheartedly. He is unflagging in his love for me and his encouragement of my ambition. He also is my anchor to reality. He is my partner in the truest sense of the word. He stokes the fire of my dreams while reminding me that kindling (pun fully intended) doesn’t come for free. I have to be serious. I have to be realistic. I have to have a goal and drive toward revenue. We are in this marriage together, and we both have to bring our best to the table. He helps me remember this and supports me as I grope my way toward success, knowing that I’m committed to our family and our future.
Lesson: Find a husband. Or a wife. Or a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. Or a pet. Someone to love you but still hold you accountable.
- Go for a run. Or a walk.
Breaking a sweat is one of the best ways I get myself to sit down and write. Running and walking clears my mind in a way that yoga never will. Once my antsy physical energy has been spent, my brain has room to kick in. After exercising hard, I generally need less time and write more. A twist on this trick is that I will tell myself after I get back that I have to write for 45 minutes or an hour before I can shower. Believe me, that gets my butt in the seat and working hard. And the shower afterwards is one of the best feelings in the world.
Lesson: Break a sweat with your body before you break a sweat with your plot.
- Get competitive. With yourself.
Writing is like going to the gym. It’s a habit you have to develop. Everyday I write, I get better at my craft, but I also develop more creative stamina. When I started writing seriously, I was lucky to get up to 500 words a day. I wasn’t impressed with myself. I knew I needed to do more if I was going to really crank out a book.
So, I set stretch goals for myself. Every week, I tried to raise my daily writing bar by 100 words. Today, I’m at the point where I can easily crank out 2,500 words a day, but I’m still working on increasing that. Eventually, I would like to get to the point of being able to write 5,000 words a day. Once I reach that goal, I will add in editing so that those 5,000 words a day are the best words I can put out there.
Lesson: Be firm in your word count goals every day. Don’t be afraid to push yourself to increase your creative endurance.
- Structure and routine are my friends.
I am a plotter, not a pantser. I have to have organization in almost every aspect of my writing, from setting up the routine of my days to how many words per chapter I write.
Believe me, I’ve tried to be the romantic, Bohemian pantser, writing when the spirit takes me and diving into a book without an idea beyond the basics. The only thing I have to show for those efforts are a folder on my computer full of half-baked, 10,000-word attempts at books.
Therefore, I have learned to embrace my OCD organizational needs and use them as strengths. I have developed a way of plotting that uses my entire double closet doors as a giant bulletin board where I tape up pieces of paper, index cards, and notes. I have perfected the 2,500-word chapter. I will either write two scenes of 1,250 words or one long scene of 2,500 words. I know how long it takes me to write 500 words, and based on that, I organize and schedule my writing time.
Lesson: Know how you plot. Know how you write. Know how much you write. Plan accordingly.
- Sprint like the wind.
This is probably the most important thing I do to get myself writing.
I am usually on Twitter every afternoon and evening, participating in numerous writing sprints. You can check out The Sprint Shack, Get Wordies, JuNoWriMo, Friday Night Writes, Write All Year, and others. I’ve met awesome people in these sprints, and they have become my friends and writing buddies.
There’s also something about being given a set time to produce then having to report back your word count that inspires me to be competitive and productive. I admit that I struggled a lot to drive myself to write when it was just me and a blank page. But, with the Twitter sprinting community, I get support, inspiration, a chance to vent, and a the direction and management that I need to get my butt in gear.
Lesson: If you have trouble writing by yourself, check out the sprinting communities on Twitter. It makes writing fun and companionable.
Thanks, Cait, for being willing to answer such a horrible question. 🙂 It really is a difficult question to answer (spoken from my experiences while doing NaNoWriMo), but your answers are fantastic.
Stay tuned!!~ up next is my review of Downcast.