Motivation – how to get it and keep it!

Motivation is the key to getting your book finished. That sounds very simple, especially in the beginning, but writing a book is a long, hard slog, and it is hard to keep going. Achieving the goal of planning, writing and then selling a book is a complete marathon. It is not something that is going to be easy. No on should ever go into being an author thinking that it is a quick fix, financially. Yes, there are authors who can write a book in a month, launch it via e-book platforms and see it sell in bucket-loads. Equally there are authors who write a book, find an agent and sell the rights for mouth-watering sums. But these are few and far between. There is a saying which completely encompasses the writing world:- ‘of all the writers who make a million, there are a million who make nothing at all and another million who never finish their book.’ Your motivation for writing a book is either that you have a story you must tell, or if you want writing to be a career, that you understand it is a long term, hard slog to get to the finishing line.

Keeping motivated to stay writing is difficult. Time and life often encroach. If you are struggling with the plot, or a difficult part of the book it can be easy to put writing aside, thinking that you’ll start again another day. There is no magic to staying motivated, other than routine. Stick to your writing schedule even if you don’t write anything.

An award winning author worked at one stage as a cleaner. He had a burning desire to write, but whenever his books were published they achieved very little recognition and did not earn him enough royalties to quit his day job. But determined to keep going and driven by the burning desire to share his stories, he wrote every day when he had finished his shift. Sometimes he was so exhausted, he turned on the computer, sat at his desk and went to sleep, but physically he still had the routine of writing. Eventually he went on to teach writing to university students and then published the book which completely changed his life and went on to win awards which finally brought him the success he truly deserved. But that took a long time – and a lot of luck, without a publishing company who could see the potential in his book he would never have achieved that. Many, many publishers had already turned down the book until it was finally accepted by a small company who were able to have the time to work with it.

Another, now full time author, writes a chapter a day when she is working on a book, this is done in 500 word chunks. Once 500 words are completed she takes a break to do other pressing tasks. “I find that everything else needs to be done when I start a book,”  she says, “I urgently need to paint the house, or tidy out cupboards.” With four books to her name she has learned how to deal with the dreaded ‘Writer’s Block’. “If I get obsessed with cleaning the house, or need to go to town to do some chores I set a target of 500 words, after which I can go and do the urgent task. When that is completed I write another 500 words before I do the other jobs. That way the 2500 words I like to write every day soon get done.”

Writers often ask, ‘how do I find the time write a book?’ There really is no magical formula, to finding the time, just one simple answer – just do it. Many people think about writing a book and may actually long to get the story they may have been mulling over for years down on paper and yet never sit down to do it.

The long and short of it is that no one has time. There is always something to do, be it working, family or social commitments that always get in the way. But these commitments serve a purpose in our minds, there is no time to write, thus we never get those words on paper and can never discover that our story is rubbish.  A fear of failure can prevent writers from making a start. This can be overcome with the help of a therapist, or by doing simple writing exercises to help ease your writing skills into life.

In order to keep motivated it is important to understand why you want to write. How badly do you want to be a writer? Is writing a novel something that you bore friends with over the last third of a bottle of wine, or is it a desire that burns so strongly inside you that it hurts?
With writing a book as a major end goal it is  incredible the number of people who have achieved their goals and who will say – ‘all I did was write my goals down.’ It really is that simple. Write them down, review them every few days to remind you of your direction and hey presto – like magic – you will achieve them.

 

Beforehand though don’t set yourself up for failure – your goals need to be attainable. If you write down that you will write a bestseller, make a couple of million and retire to the sun, well quite possibly you are setting yourself up for failure. Maybe you would achieve this, but setting a goal of actually completing and publishing a book is more realistic and achievable for absolutely anyone.

There is nothing new about goal setting, or the concept of writing them down. Buy yourself a notebook, don’t use one of your kids discarded school jotters, buy something new and utterly gorgeous, something that you will treasure and which shows you how much your goals mean to yourself.

Next find some quiet time. OK! Maybe that is next to impossible, a busy commute, noisy kids in the back of the car. But if you can’t find this time, then make it. In the moments before you go off to sleep, turn off the whirl of thoughts about tomorrows to do list and think about your writing goals. Everyone has ‘dead’ moments – in the shower, drying your hair, cooling down or warming up your horse before you ride. Put those fractions of time to good use, instead of worrying about ‘stuff’ plan your goals.

Write them down. It gives great power to goals if you have a big long term goal – like being self-supporting with your writing. But, unless you have already published a few successful novels that won’t happen this year and writing it as a short term goal is just setting yourself up for failure.

Have a five year plan. In five years’ time I will be earning enough from writing novels to quit my job. Then backtrack and see what steps you need to put into place to achieve that. Write every day. Finish novel. Find great editor. Rewrite book. Publish book. Start book 2. Small achievable steps that will carry you in the direction you want to go.

In order to make sure you fulfil your goals, have the small steps written where you will see them daily. In a diary or on a calendar, is probably the best place.  Take the first steps today and change your life tomorrow.

Writing takes a huge amount of determination. It is very hard to make a writing schedule and stick to it. Practice saying ‘no.’ Only accept commitments you really want to do and find or make an extra ten minutes every day when you can at least get a few words down. Write, plan or edit during your lunch break, or on your morning commute. Turn off the car radio and think about your plotline, or what your characters are up to. Get up ten minutes earlier, or if all else fails shut yourself in the bathroom for writing time. It is important to get the habit of writing and becoming engrossed in your story.

If you work long hours, then the likelihood is that you don’t have three or four spare hours a day to devote to your novel. But I bet you could find 30 minutes, or even 15. Set those aside every day to your book and you will be surprised how quickly you make progress.
Finding that time is the key to writing. And that is very hard. It is very easy to start with the best intentions and to then run out of steam when things get tough.

There are people who successfully write books without any planning at all, but often those who are not skilled, experienced writers will faulter when the plot twists and they don’t see how to take the book forward. Planning time spent beforehand can eliminate this. If you know where the book is going to go to each time you sit down to write half of the task is already done. All you have to do is show up. It is easier to keep motivated to want to write if the story is there ahead of you itching to be written.

The reality of most writers is that they have to chisel time out of a busy day. That is not easy, most have full time jobs, a long commute and are juggling work and children as well. But anyone can find fifteen or thirty minutes at the beginning, or end of the day, or on a lunch break at work. There are authors who aren’t yet successful enough to make a full time living from their writing, who write in the moments before they start work, sitting in the work car park on a laptop or tablet. Others write during train or bus journeys. There are apps available on telephones which allow users to dictate into recorders, even ones which will translate into text. It really has never been easier to find that time.

It does help if you have a supportive family and partner. It is very hard to write when they don’t understand how important writing is to you. But that is something you must explain to them in order to have their support in your desire to write a book. Having a supportive network around you really helps. It is wonderful if you can have a team who take up some of the chores, around the house, to free up your time. Personally I found an unsupportive friend who was extremely scathing about my desire to write, was a great motivator in the desire to keep going and to achieve my goals. I took great pleasure in seeing her face when the book was finally finished and published.

It certainly helps if you can have a supportive partner to distract the children, or to help with tasks such as cooking a meal while you write, but if not you will have to get clever, use your time wisely. Cook meals in bulk so that you have extra time for writing. Make sure partners and children pull their weight around the house. Another way would be to job share with a like minded friend, look after her children one afternoon a week so she can achieve her goals, and have her do the same for you if that is the only time you can chisel out.

Alternatively write before anyone is awake, or make time when they are in bed. The important thing is to keep going. Keep showing up, putting your bottom in the seat and turning on the computer. It really is the only way. There is no magic other than to keep going. Having the chapters detailed on a chart is a great way to motivate yourself, you will see them being ticked off.

Many authors who successfully complete books chart the progress of the book before they even write the first words. A good desk calendar is a useful piece of motivational equipment. List the chapters of the book, or sections of it on the various days and make sure you stick to that. Don’t be too hard on yourself though, make sure the tasks are achievable, other wise you will end up getting stressed and frustrated by the process and will give up.

I like to list each of the chapters I will write in the various days giving myself time for days off, not writing when I can see I’ll be too busy and getting straight back to it when the writing requires it.

Habit makes it easier to keep writing, taking a big chunk of time off makes it harder to get back to work and the motivation soon slides.

When planning it helps to have the book broken down into tiny chunks, 1000 words for the action to do X,Y and Z, or even 500 words for A to B to happen. This makes writing very simple and achievable.

It is very important to turn off any distractions, be it the television, social media or family. When I first wrote I would long to sit down and lose myself in a good film or tv series, but I would ask myself which would I rather do – watch the tv, or publish my book. The book and seeing my characters come to life always won. Now it is possible to record whole series and films. Having small rewards after you reach certain goals is a good way to keep motivated. Spend a day binge watching that series when you are half way through writing your novel. This is a good way to keep going, seeing the reward on the horizon makes the slog of writing seem a little less daunting.  Having social media on in the background is extremely distracting. Turn off your wifi.

Once you have the habit of writing just keep going. Authors often find that the plot begins to deviate, or the characters start doing their own thing.  It is hard to keep going when you know the book isn’t going in the direction you first had in mind, but equally when you realise you are writing something which isn’t what the end project will be. However, keep going. Keep writing. Don’t start again when the book is going in a different direction – take notes and keep going, you’ll rewrite anyway. You will find that often much of the manuscript is reusable and can easily be re-worked. Once the initial words are there the task of re-writing and editing is not as intimidating. To start again is very demotivating for anyone.
Completing a novel isn’t easy. You may be tired at the end of the day. There may be some social obligations you can’t push aside. But try, at least to do something to your story every day. Even half an hour a day adds up over time. Set yourself a target and make a start. Now!