7 Ways To Stay Motivated In Your Writing

Written by A Guest Author | January 12, 2017

By Kelli Fitzpatrick

A former student recently emailed me asking how I stay motivated to write. As a full-time teacher, I am under a constant barrage of demands on my attention, but writing is too important to let slip. The following are my best pieces of advice for keeping your eyes on the prize.

  1. Create a writing sanctuary. As author Jory MacKay discusses in his article about productivity, our brains tend toward “task association”–we mentally link certain spaces with certain activities. If you designate an area for writing only, you may find it easier to write while in that space. Over the years, my sanctuaries have included a table at the local cafe, a desk in my home library, and a lawn chair on my deck. Consider your own writing goals and needs when choosing, then respect the space and use it only to write.
  1. Post your inspiration. You’ve got a sanctuary, now fill it with inspiration. Why do you write? I write to better myself, to contribute to the body of impactful literature, and to inspire others to find their unique voices. So, in my library (my current sanctuary) you will find framed advice from other authors, books that shaped my worldview, and newspaper clippings of the achievements of my student authors. These artifacts remind me why I chose the writing life, and seeing them when I sit down to compose gives me courage to keep writing, even when it’s hard. Are you writing to make a better life for your family? To share your travel insights? To shed light on a societal issue? Whatever your cause, post it as a visual reminder of your identity as an author.
  1. Set a goal and stick to it. An uninterrupted string of victory is a powerful motivator. Define your writing goal, then build a history of success one day at a time. I personally like the Self Journal and its accompanying 13-week goal chart which allows for very specific success-tracking. For a more basic approach, try Jerry Seinfeld’s method of getting a wall calendar and putting a red X over every day you meet your writing goal (could be word count, time spent writing, etc). Pretty soon you’ll have a string of X’s you won’t want to break.
  1. Embrace a deadline. Nothing motivates me like a ticking clock. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a popular and fun way to commit to a deadline (with low stakes) and I’ve found it useful for making progress on a new project. One of my students said, “Deadlines keep me motivated to reach my goal because I don’t like leaving things incomplete.” Her NaNo goal was to write six poems in a month. She met the goal in less than two weeks. I also find motivation in submissions deadlines (for magazines, fiction prizes, or literary journals), and contests or competitions. Despite having an entry fee, my favorite writing competitions are hands-down the NYC Midnight challenges, because of the unique prompts and the detailed judge feedback on every story.
  1. Publicize your goals. If all your friends and family know your goal is to finish your novel by the end of the year, you will likely find yourself with some cheerleaders, some willing beta readers, and may even discover some fellow writers you didn’t know you knew. Social media can be a great place to meet people who are doing the same thing you’re doing–writing because they love it. I discovered a flourishing writing community on Twitter that has been insanely supportive. (Try searching hashtag #amwriting to find other writers online).
  1. Join a writing group. Having started two writing groups now–one for teens and one for adults–I can testify that there are few motivators as strong as a group of like-minded writers who meet regularly to encourage each other, read each other’s work, and give meaningful feedback. One of my 12th grade students, an aspiring journalism student, stated, “Writing group helps motivate me through the advice of others.” There’s power in collaboration and in having a set schedule for sharing your work. No writing group in your area? Consider starting one (try speaking to your local librarian) or search for free online communities, which can be just as helpful.
  1. Celebrate successes, even small ones. Whatever victory you happen upon, seize it and revel in it. Publication is certainly worth getting excited about, but I have celebrated many moments in my writing career: finishing a chapter, getting unstuck on a plot point, tipping the word count of a novel draft over 40,000, making it past the first round of a contest, receiving my first check in the mail. I’ll leave the method of celebration up to you–but reward yourself. These moments are the reason motivation matters in the first place.

Kelli Fitzpatrick is an author and educator living in rural Michigan. She is published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2016 from Simon and Schuster, and enjoys long runs at dawn and writing far past midnight. She can be found at kellifitzpatrick.com and on Twitter @KelliFitzWrites