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  • Natasha Boydell

How to stay motivated to write

Writing a novel is like running a marathon. I’ve done both. They have the capacity to fill you with such pride, joy and adrenaline that you can’t imagine any better feeling in the world. But at some point, they can also make you feel like you’ll never make it to the end.

That finish line just seems too far away, an unattainable goal. The doubt starts to seep in. You begin to believe that you were too naïve or optimistic to even think that you could achieve this goal. The metaphorical wall becomes insurmountable. And, finally, you stop prioritising your writing and start letting other, day to day responsibilities distract you.

Before you know it, it’s been six months and you haven’t written as much as a comma.

For me it was a year actually. I had an idea for a novel back in January 2019, bashed out a few thousand words and then the heady mix of self-doubt and day to day life got in the way and I didn’t so much as look at it again until the following January.

However, the second time round went a lot better. I finished the first draft in June, finished editing in July and started pitching to agents in August.

The main difference was that this time I was more focused and more determined, so I took measures to make sure that I kept the motivation going.

It was worth the effort. In October I signed a publishing deal and my novel is being released in May next year. I’m currently working on my next book and while I still have those familiar fears and doubts, I’m getting better at batting them away and hunkering down to write.

Here are my tips on how to stay motivated to write:

1/ Sign up to a writing course

It’s easy to allow yourself to become distracted or demotivated when the only person you’re accountable to is you. For early writers who don’t have agents or publishing companies on standby, waiting with bated breath for your next manuscript, this is even harder.

Because, fundamentally, who is going to care about whether you actually write this book or not? Only you. And this lack of accountability makes it all too easy to give up. Just like a diet.

A good way to make yourself more accountable is to sign up to a writing course. Doing this can ensure that not only is writing on the forefront of your mind for at least a few hours a week, you have the opportunity to talk with others and share your progress.

I did a six week prioritise your writing course with the Collage Writing Room and it really helped me to get the momentum going in the early stages of writing my novel.

And of course there’s safety in numbers, and sharing your journey with others can help you feel less lonely and overwhelmed. Plus, you’ll get some great tips, advice and feedback on your writing which can improve your skills and boost your confidence.

2/ Find a writing buddy

As part of my writing course, we were each teamed up with a buddy. We had to set a writing goal each week and check in with each other regularly to see how we were getting on.

At each weekly session, the course tutor asked us for an update, which we had to give in front of everyone. They were all lovely and non-judgemental, but it was still the kick up the proverbial backside I needed. I didn’t want to be the one who hadn’t done their homework.

My buddy and I set a goal of writing 3,000 words a week and checked in with each other once or twice a week so see how we were getting on. It’s amazing how motivated I felt to achieve this when I had to report back to her – and the rest of the course participants.

This goal encouraged me to allocate specific times to write each week, which then became a habit so that even when my buddy and I lost touch, I kept this going.

If you’d like to find a writing buddy but you’re not sure where to go about getting yourself one, a good place to start is the lovely #writingcommunity on Twitter.

If the idea of having a writing buddy brings you out in hives, then set yourself your own weekly target and measure your progress each week. Being accountable is key here.

3/ Set daily times to write – and do other things

Getting into the habit of writing daily is half the battle. Once you’re in the routine, you’ll find that it comes a lot more easily. On the days that it doesn’t, do a brain dump or spend some time editing what you’ve written already to get yourself back into the zone.

Either way, set yourself daily (or as many as you can per week) times to write and allocate other times of day to doing daily chores so that they don’t encroach on your writing time. No you do not need to put the washing on during writing time. It can wait.

Life is unpredictable so you may not get a 100% record of achieving this, and that’s okay. But by sticking to it as much as you can, you’re creating a habit and breaking down your writing project into small, bite-sized and achievable chunks.

4/ Ban distractions

Who doesn’t love a bit of Facebook? Or Insta? Or Twitter? Whichever your poison is. Oh look, it’s your mate on Whatsapp and she’s having men trouble. And jeez, there’s an email from a client, better answer that now.

Distractions, distractions, distractions. They are everywhere and they are the writer’s enemy. But they can be overcome. During your writing times, turn off emails on your computer, put your phone on to silent and whatever you do, don’t go near social media.

For an hour, two hours, even 20 minutes – however long you’ve got – lose yourself in your book and your characters. Real life can wait. It’s not going anywhere.

Good luck writers! Let me know how you get on. And if you’re feeling stuck, read my tips on how to overcome writer’s block.

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