In a world full of distractions, it can be difficult to find motivation to write. If you’re like me, you have millions of creative ideas and you spend a great deal of your free time thinking about them but not actually putting the fingers to the keyboard or the pen to the paper. Maybe it’s the entitled millennial in me but sometimes I think that modern day creatives should receive awards for not allowing themselves to be distracted by their smart phones for long enough to record an album or write a book. The late, great writers of old had their own problems but they didn’t have Netflix, YouTube, smartphones, and in some cases, electricity!
Most times in order to get myself to write, I have to be bored. This is why when my friends suggest I get into this new show on Netflix, I frequently deny the invite. “But it’s so good. You’ll love it. The writers do a really good job…” I’m sure they do which is exactly why I don’t want to get sucked into it because it will distract me from my own endeavors!
I’ve written a few posts regarding productivity and finding motivation as a writer but somehow I feel that those posts still don’t cover everything. There is so much to say about the subjects of motivation and distractions. So I sat down and composed a list of my top 6 motivators for you. I hope they help you, fearless creative, to go after your own dreams!
1. Grant Faulker’s 52 Pep Talks for Writers
I love this book. In the author’s introduction he writes, “Stories remind us that we’re alive, and what being alive means.” An invaluable resource if you’re looking for motivation, Faulkner’s Pep Talks include, “Finding Your Muse,” “The Art of Boredom,” “Overcoming Creativity Wounds,” and “Pull Yourself Out of the Comparison Trap.” Seriously, picking out just four titles right now to share with you was a challenge because they are all so inspiring.
As the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Faulkner has the right frame of mind to help encourage us to push forward as adventure seekers and write. I constantly read and re-read this book, picking specific articles to read depending on what I’m struggling with most. In doing so, you feel a bond to the author. Sometimes hearing or seeing what other authors have to say about this solitary craft, makes you feel like it’s not so solitary after all. Though many of us prefer the isolation, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.
2. Be Held Accountable, Set Up a Patreon Account
It’s immensely difficult to hold yourself accountable to your own deadlines. It’s even easier to become discouraged when you don’t meet them. And again, if you’re anything like me you create impossible deadlines for yourself. I’m a huge culprit of this. However, things become so much easier when you break the work into smaller, more manageable chunks AND get other people to hold you accountable.
Not only has my partner promised me a trip to England when I publish my next novel (because he knows that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go there), but having followers who are interested in your work will prompt and encourage you to write more.
I set up a Patreon account with this in mind. Even though at the moment of writing this post I only have two people as patrons, those are two more people who I didn’t have before. Two more people who are eager and interested to see my writing which is all I can really ask for. This relates a lot to the last item on this list. For now, let’s continue.
Recommended Reading: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Also, check out her TedTalk here.
3. Struggle More
Sound strange? I’m a firm believer that struggle is helpful. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they are fighting to survive. Unfortunately (and it makes me sound ungrateful to say this), I had a very normal childhood…overwhelmingly normal. I grew up in a middle-class working family and was spoiled. I never learned what true struggle is and so when I went out into the real world, I expected things to be handed to me. Lack of struggle taught me nothing.
After being out on my own for a while, I had racked up a substantial amount of debt. By now I’ve paid some of it off but not all and I’m using what is left to help me struggle more. How? I’m throwing every penny I can spare at that figure. We’ve cut back on vacations, fancy dinners and all of the other things I was allowing myself to be spoiled with. Even something as simple as cooking in 6 nights a week and only getting delivery once has been an adjustment. To some, this is their normal life but I had some learning to do.
It’s been a wake-up call. Telling myself no grocery shopping until everything in the freezer and pantry is gone has shown me just how much food is in the house! I’ve realized that we’re not starving here and that what I consider “struggle” is actually nothing close to. While struggle can mean different things to different people, consider where you are and where you want to be. Cutting back a little to gain big later on makes the “struggle” worth it. It’s very motivating that I know I won’t eat sushi if I don’t meet my goals for the week…
4. Weekly To-Do Lists
This is a big one. I’m a huge fan of to-do lists but for the longest time I was doing it all wrong. As stated in my previous post regarding productivity and the Right Way to Create Routine, having too rigid of a schedule can hinder you. I used to make my to-do lists by the day. Now, I make them for the week. This way if I slip up one day or don’t feel well, I’m not automatically behind.
What’s on my to-do list this week? Here’s what it looks like.
-Write Monday and Thursday’s blog posts
-Finalize Mortis Book 1 Chapters 1-6 Final Drafts
-Create two public Patreon Posts
-Create two Patron-only Patreon Posts
It’s important not to overload yourself. Once I finish this post, everything on that list will be 50% complete and it’s only Sunday! But I have no idea how the rest of my week is going to pan out. Life happens. Leave room for it. You might have to work late one evening, or have a sick family member, or have to pick your kid up from his overnight stay in jail for an underage DUI…there’s no telling! You can always add more if you finish everything early. Keep it simple. Don’t hold yourself to doing a certain thing on Tuesday because let’s be honest, Tuesday might be shit.
5. Read In-Progress FanFiction.
This one might sound a little strange but I swear it works! I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a huge fan of FanFiction. And there is nothing more exciting than reading a work in-progress and seeing that “new chapter” notification show up in your email inbox. Recently, I’ve been reading a dark and graphic Harry Potter FanFiction called “Not the Same Girl” by Emmaficready.
The author does a good job of making things worse and worse for the main character in every chapter. So why is it motivating? The author also posts a new chapter about twice a week. Though the chapters are never long, they always progress the story. It’s a great way of seeing that sticking with a story, chapter by chapter, turns it into a novel-length tale. It helps remind me that I don’t have to create Rome in a day. I can work with smaller scenes to construct a larger story. So thank you to Emmaficready and other Fanfiction authors who update regularly!
6. Remember Your “Why”
Which brings me to my last point. As I mentioned earlier in the “Patreon” section above, at the moment of writing this post I have 518 blog subscribers and two patrons on my Patreon account. If you’re writing for the sole purpose of becoming rich and famous, you’re in the wrong business. Writers are in this for the story telling. Think about why you want to create. How are you adding value? Today’s society is saturated with advertisements that constantly tell people where and how they should spend their hard-earned money. What makes your work so special?
The truth is that no matter how bad the world gets, people need creatives. Whether you’re making music, painting, taking photos, writing books, you’re adding value to someone’s life. Artists provide a way for the world to escape its harsh realities. I believe it was Anne Lamott who once said, “A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. It’s a lie if you make something up. But you make it up in the name of the truth, and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly.”
As writers tell lies to speak truths, we also record history and capture moments with words instead of pictures. We evoke emotions, we create kingdoms and tear them to the ground. In a lot of ways, it’s playing the role of a god. We torture characters then we save them only to kill them in the end. Artists add value by providing a special place for people to get away from their lives… their soul-sucking jobs, their abusive and toxic relationships, their war-torn countries, etc. Writers create safe-havens. We send people on missions and adventures.
We are the silent leaders.
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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.