Writing Through Your Lack of Motivation

I’ve been putting off this post for days, but I keep coming back to the idea. The irony is strong with this one.

Where do I even begin?

I think it’s with the distinction that Writer’s Block and lack of lotivation are not the same thing. When you have Writer’s Block, you want to get the writing done, but the ideas aren’t flowing (or too many are flowing and you can’t pin down the right idea), but a lack of motivation is worse.

I know how it goes. You’re at work all day, you stare at a computer screen all day, and then you come home to–what–stare at another computer screen? And then you feel guilty because you didn’t write or work on your project at all.

And then just the thought of writing feels awful.

And when writing makes you feel bad, it’s awfully easy not to do it.

The first thing you must do is forgive yourself if you spend time not writing.

I said what I said. Forgive yourself.

Writing is not a chore and it shouldn’t make you dread sitting down to the computer or taking out a notebook.

You are allowed to watch TV when you get home. You are allowed to sleep all Saturday. You are allowed to go out with your friends and family and socialize.

When you focus 100% of yourself on your writing, you set yourself up for burn out. And when you’ve burnt yourself out on writing, it’s harder to get your brain to a place where it can create.

The second thing you must do is expand your definition of writing.

Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t put words down on paper today. Remember that there’s more than just generating prose when you are working on a novel.

Writing is outlining, making notes, drafting light scenes on the back of a napkin, daydreaming and letting your characters run wild, researching weird shit on the internet, drawing maps, making Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists, and building your writing space so you can get your creative juices flowing each time you sit down to magically make words appear on paper.

Give yourself credit for the things that don’t increase your word count. If you drew a map today, good for you. If you just listened to the playlist you made for your world and let your mind wander, great. If you wrote an outline for three chapters but didn’t write anything more, congrats.

These are important steps in creating your world and organizing your thoughts.

And they are as much writing as filling a document with stories.

Allow yourself to go out and be stimulated.

Take that however you want it, but leave your writing space. Don’t bunker down in a corner thinking that a life without distractions is going to miraculously make you finish your work.

Remember that burn out I mentioned? Let’s talk about the science of the brain for a moment: when you get anxious, you’re brain restricts blood flow to non-essential areas of the brain. Basically, it sets you on autopilot and makes sure you eat once a day, breathe, and don’t walk into traffic. Isn’t that fun? Did you also know that the reading and language center of the brain is non-essential? Now imagine getting so stressed out because you aren’t writing that you can’t write.

The more stressed you get about writing the more your brain says you don’t need that part of the brain.

Because the brain is fun like that.

And in all of that is the fact that humans are social on purpose. We need social interaction to relieve our anxiousness and stimulate our minds. We need conversation and physical company, or we will lose our minds.

Which will make it hard to write.

So get up from your desk, or couch, or kitchen table, shut the laptop or put down the pen, and go somewhere. Make plans with friends for lunch, talk their ears off, and then go home and write.

Write as soon as you come home from something fun and/or relaxing. Carry that happy feeling with you to your writing space so that you can associate your writing space with happiness.

Your word count doesn’t need to increase every day.

As I said before, writing includes all sorts of prep work. If all you did was prep work, you still created ideas for your work in progress and that is progress in and of itself.

The words will come to you, which sounds a little mystical, but it is true. They will flow from your fingertips when you are ready to write.

Accept that it takes time to get into the correct headspace to write.

Anxiety and depression aside, it takes time to decompress from the day. If you’re capable of coming home, opening your laptop, and writing 1,000 words–great. If not, don’t force it.

Give yourself a set time and day to do the bulk of your writing. And forgive yourself if you don’t meet your word count goals. There will be other days and other times.

Set flexible limits and goals.

You sit down to write in your designated time and space and allow for an hour to pass to get into your story… but nothing comes. It’s okay. Give yourself one more hour and then move on to something else. Your work in progress will be there when you’re ready.

Reward yourself for working.

Any work that gets done deserves some kind of reward so that you continue to like the work. It sounds a bit like “I lost two pounds I should get a brownie to reward myself,” and it sort of is. But unlike dieting and working out, the reward isn’t going to make you go backwards.

One way to do this is the Pomodoro method, or the tomato method. You write in 25 minute sprints, take 5 minute breaks, and eventually a longer 30 minute break. Each sprint you finish is a pomodoro, or tomato. Set a few goals that cost pomodoros and reward yourself for everything.

And finally, don’t seek motivation, where you should be seeking habits.

It’s easy to say “I don’t have the motivation to do it” when you haven’t been doing it. So start small, with an hour a day, or every other day, and work toward making writing something that feels rewarding.

Originally published on July 5, 2021 @ 12:00 pm


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Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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