You’re probably supposed to be writing right now. Trust me, I get it. Whether you’re gunning for a deadline or trying to meet a page count, motivating yourself to actually start and keep writing can be difficult. You might be doubting yourself. You might just feel tired. Unlike other jobs, writing can frequently be self-motivated or spec work. There’s no team to let down, there’s just you. Things can get in the way if we let them. Especially when you have access to all of the news, media, and information you want through a small plastic brick. So I’ll promise two things. One, I’ll keep this short. And two, all of the advice below has worked for people in the past. If you want to write, and you’re not writing, these tips are for you.
1. Put your phone in a drawer.
Don’t leave it on the table (or bed, or lap desk, or café counter). Get it out of your pocket and put it in a different room to the room you’ll be writing in. This is the simplest and maybe most effective tip on here. I do the same thing for when I really want to focus on something I’m about to watch. For a host of reasons, it’s easy to check your phone instead of giving your full attention to something. Remove the temptation. Put your phone somewhere out of reach.
2. Designate a writing space.
Essentially, pick a place where writing feels ‘right’. This could be a desk where you keep your story outlines, or maybe you write better outside the house. I personally take my laptop to a Starbucks and mainline caffeine while I draft. Original, right? But it works, because I can avoid the temptation to start talking to someone in my apartment or to turn on the TV or do chores. The only thing I can comfortably do in this place is write. So pick your spot and start typing.
3. Hard reset your sleep, especially if you work from home and tend to sleep in.
If it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, then create more. Many writers have jobs that lack a 9-5 structure. Instead of sleeping in, figure out when you write best and coordinate your sleep schedule around that. This might involve a couple nights where you don’t get the sleep you’re used to, but it’s an effective way of taking control of your time. If you don’t rise until 10am, start getting up at 8am and writing. If you do have a day job with regular hours, consider getting up a few hours early and writing beforehand. Take control of your nights to take control of your days.
4. Create a schedule and put it on paper or in your e-calendar.
Routine aids productivity, even in a creative field. Set an appointment with yourself, and don’t be late. Treat writing as a job (because it is) even if you’re not getting paid for it yet. Meet your pages and/or hours.
5. Cancel one thing.
Just one thing, whether it’s a social event or a tv show you watch every week or even a single gym visit. If you’re not writing, give yourself a day off in one other area. A good start is half the work, and if you give yourself a break in one area it creates time to write. Don’t do this too much, or your quality of life can suffer. And your friends could get super annoyed, tbh.
6. Experiment with time.
Are you about full days of writing? Or do you need two hours in the morning? On Friday will you write into the night and sleep in for Saturday? If you have trouble getting into a groove, then get a new groove.
7. Make a bet with a friend.
Whether you’re both writers or they’re just someone that will hold you to it, make a bet that you’ll write X number of pages in a set amount of time. Punishments for losing will compel you to write, and incentives can be motivating too. Money works, but so does embarrassment.
8. Create a real deadline, by entering a competition or by doing a reading of your work.
If you can’t hold yourself to a self-imposed deadline, an external one might give you the goal you need to motivate yourself.
9. Join a writing group.
There are a variety of benefits to finding peer readers for your work, and one of them is that you will write more. For yourself, and for them. I personally get competitive when I’m in a group of peers, so I tend to work harder. Others might be propelled by a warm and fuzzy feeling of working with a group to improve each other.
10. Hack your habits with an app that monitors your usage.
There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing how much time you spend using scriptwriting software compared with how much time you spend on Twitter. If writing is a priority, then the data should back that up. Find a way to measure your habits and use that data to change them.
Even if you do write frequently, these tips will hopefully help you write more. If these tips don’t work for you, maybe this extra special bonus motivator will: nobody’s going to do it for you. Writing is what makes you a writer. If you don’t write, what are you? There are a lot of great reasons to do something other than writing, but procrastinating isn’t one of them. Take control.
Shaun Leonard is an experienced writer, editor, and assistant. He is available for story consultation and script editing. Follow Shaun on Twitter @shaun_leonard