Got a novel idea, but you aren’t sure how to make it happen? Well, it sounds like you just need to sit down and write it. Which is always easier said than done. Let’s talk about how to motivate yourself to write a book.
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There’s a point before I start a big writing project where I procrastinate hard. I can’t open a Word Doc. I do everything else on the to do list. I get really productive in every other area of my life. Or, sometimes, I don’t do anything because I tell myself I can’t do those things until I start working on the writing project. And then I just don’t start the writing project.
Shonda Rimes mentioned this sort of feeling in her book, The Year of Yes. She has a quote in the book about how it’s hard to start writing, and that it feels like, in order to write, she has to run five miles to even get to the writing.
“Writing is the hum. Writing is laying track. Writing is the high. Now imagine that hum, that high, that track to be laid is behind a door. And that door is five miles away. Those five miles are just . . . writing crap and doodling and trying to have an idea and surfing the internet and hoping like hell not to get so distracted that you give up. Worse? Those five miles are lined with brownies and cupcakes and episodes of Game of Thrones and Idris Elba waiting to talk to only you and really good novels to read. Every time I sit down to write, I have to mentally run those five miles past all of that to get to that door. It’s a long, hard five-mile run. Sometimes I am almost dead by the time I reach the door. That’s why I have to keep doing it. The more often I run the five miles, the fitter I become. And the fitter I become, the easier the run begins to feel and the less fresh and exciting all that stuff on the side of the road seems. I mean, how long has it been there? More important, as I get fitter, I can run faster. And the faster I can run, the faster I can get to that door. The faster you can too, writers out there. When you sit down to write every day, it becomes easier and easier to tap into that creative space inside your mind. The faster I can get to that door, the quicker I can get to the good stuff.”
I feel that. I feel it so hard.
Also, if you haven’t read The Year of Yes and wonder if the writers who made it struggle with the balance of everything, then you should read this book. It’s good.
And while I like to know that other, more successful writers work hard to put their butt in the chair and produce words, I find that knowing how to actually sit down and write does more for me.
I assume you’re the same. So, let’s talk about how to motivate yourself to write a book.
How to Motivate Yourself to Write a Book
Okay. So. Before I give you the tips, remember this: Writing is just you at the computer putting words into a document. You have to sit down and do it. Full stop. And as a writer who has sat down at the computer before and done everything but write, I know it can be easier said than done.
So, there’s a big difference between finding motivation and breaking through that little bit of internal resistance that stops you from writing all together. And when I figure out how to break through that resistance, it’s over for you hoes.
001: Mainline writing motivation quotes.
This is a double-edged sword, so tread with caution.
I think there are some great writing motivation quotes out there. Like, I love the one above from Shonda Rimes. It’s real. It’s relatable. It shows you that pushing through that resistance and writing is the only thing that keeps you writing.
But at the same time, there are a ton of writing quotes out there that feel gross. I’m not motivated by shame or guilt, so any quotes that lead that way don’t work for me. And I hate anything about chemical substances being necessary for the creation of art.
So if you choose to go this way, pick a writing quote that means something to you and keep it handy.
002: Create daily writing motivation rituals.
I’m a big fan of habit stacking and putting the harder parts of the day on autopilot. So, getting to my desk and writing? I have to eliminate distractions as much as I can.
In the mornings, I don’t turn on the TV or radio or anything that I will make excuses to keep playing after Chris has left for work. Instead, I get a cup of coffee, and we chat until Chris leaves. Then, I go into my office and turn on the laptop.
I have my laptop set to open Microsoft Word and SelfControl as soon as I start my computer. That way, I can’t open anything else until I’ve looked at those things. I set SelfControl to block what I need it to, and open whatever I’ll be working on that day.
This doesn’t sound like the fun type of motivation that they sell on Pinterest, does it? That’s because it’s the real shit that makes you do work. You can pin as many quotes as you want, but in practice, you need to just work.
003: Habit stack.
So I mentioned habit stacking in the previous tip, but it’s a really easy way to put stuff on autopilot. The basic gist is to add something new to an already ingrained habit.
As a writer, you may decide that after you pour your morning cup of coffee (ingrained habit), you will open a notebook and free write for 15 minutes (new habit) until your coffee is cool enough to drink. It’s that simple. And also hard.
See, if you did choose to do that, I would recommend you put a notebook and pen next to your coffee maker so you remembered you were beginning that habit. Then, as soon as you pour the coffee, grab the notebook and sit down at your kitchen table or counter or whatever setup you have, and write. Don’t count on your brain to remember that you were going to start that habit first thing in the morning, especially if you don’t make it easy on your brain to remember.
Not a coffee drinker? That’s cool. You can pick any habit to stack on. Just make it small at first, then it will become a habit as well, and you’ll be able to build up from there.
004: Make time for it.
I find that most of the time, people have sufficient motivation to write a novel. But what they lack is time.
I know that everyone and their brother will tell you that if you wanted to do something, you’d make time for it. But we’re living in late stage capitalism, and the average person has less free time now than medieval peasants did. So, like, make of that what you will.
The easiest way to motivate yourself to write is to schedule some time for it. I recommend some calendar blocking if that’s your style, or simply setting a reminder on your phone. Basically, integrate this into your planning routine, and then show up for your scheduled writing sessions.
005: Set the mood.
I can’t write in noisy coffee shops. I wish I could. I desperately want to be the girl with pretty scarves and perfect hair and a latte that never goes cold, just writing a beautiful story. I am not that girl.
I’m actually a swamp goblin wearing dirty clothes I slept in, sitting in my home office and chugging coffee. That is the vibe for me. You may be different.
Even so, I set the novel writing mood by pouring myself some coffee, lighting a candle from OK Collective, playing this Ambient Mixer atmosphere, and then going through the routine I mentioned in step 2. That doesn’t necessarily make me in the mood to write, but all the external stimuli is where it needs to be, and I get to work.
If you want to find an Ambient Mixer atmosphere that might work for you, check out this post on Ambient Mixer atmospheres for getting work done.
006: Get your inspiration ready.
I don’t know what inspires you. And if I’m being honest, sometimes the things that inspire me are pure garbage. But that’s cool. Use what works!
But if you’re not sure what inspires you, check out these posts to help you out:
- If you need some help with being more creative, check out these 11 things to try for a more creative lifestyle.
- If you’re struggling to find inspiration, check out this post on how you can find writing inspiration when you need it most.
- I have this post on writing blogs if you need some help finding resources to keep your writing on track.
- And in case you find that inspiration and don’t want to lose it, I have this post on staying inspired with my ideas journal.
Motivation to Finish a Novel
Starting a novel and seeing it through to the end are two completely different things. Just ask anyone who has the first 3-5 chapters of like 80 different novels stored on their hard drives.
Motivation to finish a novel isn’t something that you can easily find in external sources. It’s much more of an internal battle, and you must go alone. There’s no amount of accountability bullshit you can do with a friend or social media posts where you share your progress that will make you finish.
Writing is a very weird, solitary thing. And I’ve found that I never want to quit more than when other people are aware of what I’m working on. So I mostly give big picture information about my projects so no one can ask questions.
The less people know, the more likely I am to finish.
But that may not be true for you.
You already know how to motivate yourself to write a book. If you want the motivation to finish a novel, you need to find out what works for you.