Staying Motivated and Writing Schedules
Come on, let’s all go ahead and admit it. We’re all guilty of procrastination. We’ve all been in the situation when we know we have to write (or work, or socialise, or eat, or sleep) but for whatever reason, we just can’t seem to sit down and get it done. We all know the usual excuses: “I’m too busy right now”, “I don’t need to get it done now”, “I’ve worked hard enough today already” and so on. Procrastination is the nemesis of every writer and game developer on this planet. Every time we put off that important project until later, we’re just delaying the awesome moment when we finally get to reap the rewards for finishing it.
But hey, when your muse isn’t around, it isn’t around. How can you possibly write when you’re not feeling inspired and motivated?
This week’s blog post is all about coming clean. As writers, we need to learn to defeat procrastination and to not let ourselves get into a slump. For a professional writer, writing isn’t about waiting for your muse to come and whack you over the head with a wonderful spark of inspiration. It isn’t about putting off your work for months at a time because you don’t feel like you’re in the mood to write. This post won’t be a long post, because there isn’t a lot to say on this topic, but I thought it would be important for all aspiring writers to know one small thing that will help them establish a natural rhythm of writing that enables them to write regularly and consistently:
You need to treat writing like your job.
I don’t mean sitting around and talking in front of the water cooler about it, though. I should probably make that clear. What I mean by this statement is that if you intend to make yourself into an accomplished writer, whether you’re trying to make a career out of it or just doing it as a hobby, you need to keep up a constant output of work, and that means you need to learn how to turn writing into something that you do naturally and efficiently.
My Creative Writing professor used to be fond of saying that the writer who sits idly by waiting for their muse to come will never get anything finished. To some degree, I think she’s right. I used to be one of these writers; I’d only write when I felt like I was in the mood to do so and when I was inspired enough. When I got into it, I could get a whole chapter of my novel written in one night, but when I wasn’t quite as inspired, entire months would go by without me adding a single word to it. Sure, it would have gotten finished eventually, but considering that in a period of 12 months, I only wrote 20,000 words, it’d still be at least another year and a half from completion, instead of being all set for its digital and paperback launch in December.
The key to writing efficiently, then, is to establish a schedule for your writing and stick to it as best you can, just as you do for your work, chores and study. After a while, your schedule will (provided you’ve been following it regularly) become second nature to you, and your writing will become habitual. You’ll find yourself sitting down each day and working on your story without the need to be in the mood, and you’ll have a consistent output rate. Since late March, I’ve been in the habit of writing at least 1000 words each day and, while not as much as Stephen King does in a 24 hour period, it’s really helped me generate a lot of writing in a timely manner and keep a steady rate of work going out there to publishers. A friend of mine writes 2000 words a day for his fantasy novel, and it’s progressing very well as a result. At the end of the year, I’ll be joining him, bringing my daily minimum up to 2000 words as well.
This is essentially all there is to it: set a word quota to reach each day, and do your best to achieve it. Start small — to begin, set yourself a quote of 400 words a day. 400 words is not a lot of writing at all, and you’ll find it very easy to “force yourself” to do this amount of work each day. Soon, you’ll be able to write the 400 words without much effort, and they’ll start to flow naturally and freely, just like they do when your muse gives you that spark of creative energy. Now, you increase the word count to 600 words — do your best to achieve this new quota. After a while, you’ll be just like me, and 1000 words a day will become a regular habit.
Combine this writing schedule with sufficient planning and a few periods of proofreading and editing every 10,000 words or so, and you’re setting up a good work ethic for yourself. The average novel is 80,000 words in length. By following a proper writing schedule, you can complete a novel in roughly 80 days. How awesome does that sound? Hey, the bestselling authors you read every day can do it. You can too.