Motivation: It’s Not Just for Characters

From the "Illustrated History of Furniture, From the Earliest to the Present Time" by Frederick Litchfield (1893)

From the “Illustrated History of Furniture, From the Earliest to the Present Time” by Frederick Litchfield (1893)

One of the biggest challenges aspiring writers face is staying motivated. On the one hand, you face the challenge of cranking out the million words necessary to hone your craft into something fit for public consumption, while on the other hand you (usually) don’t have much external pressure to keep going. You’re essentially a hobbyist at this point and while writing can be rewarding it’s also very often a chore to do, which makes procrastination so very alluring.

Now, you could set deadlines for yourself, but it’s very easy to grant yourself extenuating circumstances: it was a tiring week, it was a busy month, you had a thing. For a lot of aspiring writers, self-imposed deadlines just don’t work. But I have an easy bit of advice on creating more effective deadlines: get yourself an audience.

If you have a regular group of readers, be it a writing group or just a couple of friends, and you commit to providing them with something at regular intervals, you’ve effectively created your own external pressure to keep going. Since around the time I started this blog, I’ve been providing a few of my writer pals regular updates on the progress of Sheep’s Clothing, my fantasy novel. And I’ve found that just knowing that there are people who are expecting me to deliver something once a week has created a powerful sense of obligation and responsibility to deliver for them. Even if I’m tired. Even if it’s been a busy week. Even if I have a thing. Even if I only manage to scrape together a few paragraphs that week.

The act of writing is by its nature a solitary pursuit, but the process of writing should involve plenty of other people. Even if they don’t all give you input, the fact that they are expecting something from you by a certain date can be a powerful motivator.

And while many aspiring writers tend to be very reluctant to share their work until it’s “ready,” don’t be afraid to share unedited first drafts. The goal here is to find a reason to keep forcing words onto the page. If you’re afraid of what people will say, ask them not to say anything. Or share the excerpts from your novel with your non-writer friends and save the polished stuff for the writing group. The key is just to get people to expect something new from you every week or every month or whatever time frame suits your circumstances.

It’s been a very valuable experience for me as I work on what will be my third novel and I think this approach could help plenty of other struggling writers out there stay in the game. If you have any tips of your own for staying motivated, please feel free to share them in the comments below!

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