How to maintain your motivation to write

The struggle with motivation and focus can be helped by habit. I’m a fan of two steps, which has worked well for me, although of course everybody’s different.

1. Have some sort of master plan: an outline, a flowchart, a spreadsheet, a detailed synopsis, an index card for each scene, or whatever other organizational method works for you. Know the whole story before you begin writing; most novels that remain incomplete are that way because the writer started without knowing where he was going and how to get there. For a first novel, a plan is vital. Maybe you can write your second without one, but first you need to know you can finish a work that big.

2. Once your whole story is planned out, try the BIC method. That’s your butt in chair for a set amount of time every day, minimum 30 minutes. (An hour or more is better. You want to write this novel or not?) During BIC time you have two options, and only two. You may write, or you may not write. You can’t be online, have the TV on in the background, read or send texts or instant messages, play a computer game, do writing-related research, read what you’ve already written, adjust your outline, eat, smoke, or anything else. Write or don’t, period. (Those who give themselves BIC of more than an hour can schedule a break if they must have one–but it doesn’t count as part of the BIC time.) If others in the household might disturb you, you need to find a way to make that not happen, like doing it while they’re at work or school, asleep, or take your BIC time at the library or a coffeehouse. Most days, you’ll write. On the best days, you’ll ‘catch fire’ and go beyond your assigned time, which is great. However, you can’t amass credit. The next day, you still owe the same amount of BIC time as every other day.

Teaching yourself to write even when it doesn’t come easily or you don’t feel like it is part of the road to being a professional writer whose work other people pay to see.

  • If someone wrote about this topic, I'd definitely read it. There are a lot of different methods out there. I haven't heard of the BIC before, but the strategies I'm familiar with are very similar. Having a routine is crucial. Writing at the same time each day for a set duration of time ensures that you write everyday. Listening to music also helps me concentrate, especially if the music fits the mood of the piece I'm working on. Maybe also setting aside time to edit your work and do research is good idea. Every few days or so I'll reread what I've written just to make sure I don't have any glaring errors or things I can easily fix before continuing on. – S.A. Takacs 9 years ago
  • I love the idea of this topic. I would definitely read it. It could also be interesting to do some research and add some tips/suggestions from successful authors on what they do to combat writer's block and maintain motivation. – bookworm2g9 9 years ago
  • I like the idea that you are presenting, You also have made some important suggestions. Motivation at the same time is a very personal matter and has to be catered to individual needs and talent. While I enjoy guidebooks or foundation books that provides instructions on successful writing, often it is difficult to follow all the rules. Perhaps one point that this article could address is how to successfully use such guides. – Arazoo Ferozan 8 years ago
  • I am currently reading "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation" by Stephen Johnson. In Chapter 3, Johnson explores how some ideas are shaped over the course of generations and pieced together from the findings of different individuals. He calls this process the "slow hunch." Here is a sample of the text: “Keeping a slow hunch alive poses challenges on multiple scales. For starters, you have to preserve the hunch in your own memory, in the dense network of your neurons. Most slow hunches never last long enough to turn into something useful, because they pass in and out of our memory too quickly, precisely because they possess a certain murkiness. You get a feeling that there’s an interesting avenue to explore, a problem that might someday lead you to a solution, but then you get distracted by more pressing matters and the hunch disappears. So part of the secret of hunch cultivation is simple: write everything down." – DoultonSchweizer 8 years ago
  • Ideally there are some characters that come to life and just need to be written. Others stories write themselves. I always wait for it and never forget to thank my muse. – Munjeera 8 years ago
  • Butt in Chair is excellent! Truly, the story isn't going to write itself, and instead of planning what you're going to do the next time you write, just start writing! Don't allow yourself to procrastinate! – gretawhipple 8 years ago
  • I'm fascinated by anything to do with writers' processes, writers' habits and foibles. I'd read this. – J.P. Shiel 8 years ago
  • Definitely focusing on the differences between intrinsic / extrinsic motivation would be a good angle for the story. You can only force yourself to write in a vacuum for so long, you need others to push you along. – MCSWM 8 years ago

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