You’ve been itching to write forever but between work, school, and other responsibilities it’s hard to find the time. And when you do find the time, all you want to do is collapse in a heap. When your life gets busy it can be hard to stay motivated.
In this article, I am going to give you five tips to help you focus and finish. These tips might not work for everyone, but for someone like me who struggles to focus and gets easily distracted, they are a lifesaver.
Tip #1. Have a Set Time for Writing
I worked a nine-to-five job for eight years and I was pregnant three of those eight years. I’d get home from work, take care of my kids, and by the time they went to bed, I was exhausted. I was constantly frustrated because I wanted to write with every fiber of my being, but finding the time was almost impossible.
Then, one day, I had an idea. If I could get writing in before work each day, I would be a lot happier and would be able to collapse in the evenings.
I started getting up at 5:00 am each morning while my kids were still sleeping. I would start writing at 6:00 and start my day job around 7:00. My mind is always sharper first thing in the morning, so I was able to get a lot done in the hour before work.
I am not a morning person and it took a lot of effort to get up that early, but it paid off tenfold.
Knowing I would almost always have this set writing time kept me sane and made me a much happier person for the rest of the day.
So ask yourself, is there some time each day or each week I can block out for writing? Note a couple of possibilities and try them out.
Tip #2. Eliminate Distractions
When you aren’t feeling motivated, it’s easy to get distracted.
You write a line or two, and then spend ten minutes checking social media. Then another line, then another ten minutes on social media. You are not likely to get much writing done this way.
To help counterbalance this, make sure you eliminate distractions. If social media distracts you, for example, consider taking your laptop to someplace without internet access. You could also turn off your internet, or make a commitment to yourself to only check social media every 30 minutes instead of every ten.
I work from my home office, while my husband watches the kids downstairs. Sometimes, the kids get really noisy which can make it hard to focus. When that happens, I take my laptop to the library and work there. If I can’t do that, I put on noise-canceling headphones and play some quiet classical music.
Lastly, it’s very important to set boundaries with the people in your life so that they know your writing time is reserved. My husband and I made an agreement that when we are working, we don’t interrupt each other. When you create a time box for writing, be sure to communicate it clearly with anyone who might be tempted to interrupt you.
As a mom, sometimes I feel like 90% of my job is helping people find stuff that’s right in front of their faces. We’ve made it clear to the kids that when mommy is working, they have to ask daddy for help with things like that. (If they are over the age of five, the only answer they’d get from me anyway is, “it’s not my job to keep track of your stuff.”)
Tip #3. Be Part of a Writer’s Group
Writer’s groups are excellent not only for getting help and feedback on your work but also for holding you accountable. Find two or three writer friends and meet with them regularly. Before you complete each meeting, agree on what should be done before you meet again. You’re more likely to keep writing when you’ve got friends bugging you for more chapters.
Catholic Author is a great resource for this. You can post chapters of your story for other authors to read, get feedback, and get bugged for more! Just remember a writer’s group is a two-way stream. You need to read the work of other members and bug them too.
A writer’s group can also help with my next tip, which is:
Tip #4. Create Deadlines
You are never going to write a perfect story. Your writing could always be a little bit better. A deadline is the only thing that will empower a perfectionist to call their story complete.
Create deadlines and communicate them to people who will hold you accountable. Writers groups are great for this.
If you promise your group that you will have chapter five complete before the next meetup, then you have to call it done before then even if it isn’t perfect. A group of trusted writer friends will be able to give you empowering feedback even if there are some flaws you could fix.
Set a deadline for your project as a whole, then break down the project into smaller tasks and set mini-deadlines for those tasks. For example, if your goal is to publish your novel by January 25th, then maybe you will need to complete Act One by October 3rd.
What timelines you set will depend on how fast you can work. (I tend to be a slower writer so I give myself extra time.) The most important thing is, whatever deadlines you set, tell people who will hold you accountable.
If you want to make it extra fun and competitive, maybe come up with some harmless penalty for missing a deadline—you have to buy the other group members coffee for example.
Talk to your writer’s group. Figure out what kind of writers you are. How fast do you write? Are you perfectionists? Talk about your unique struggles. Then decide what deadlines are fair and what happens if you miss one.
Tip #5. Just Do It.
I’m about to give you a cranky dad tip. This is the kind of advice your dad gives you after he talks about how, when he was young, he had to walk ten miles uphill barefoot and survive on a diet of stale biscuits.
Man up and just do it. There are lots of tips that can help you focus and encourage you to finish, but at the end of the day, the choice to write or not is yours. My tips might make it easier, but it is still not easy.
When you don’t have any inspiration, sit your butt down at the computer and try anyway. When you don’t feel like it, sit your butt down and do it anyway. When you’ve tried writing, but you aren’t happy with the results, continue anyway.
Inspiration follows effort. You might spend one day staring at a blank Word document. That’s okay! Even in my most uninspired days, I find that if I stare at that blank document long enough, eventually I’ll get so bored I’ll put something down. Maybe it’s terrible, but that’s alright! I’ll keep going out of boredom and desperation and eventually I’ll write something I like. Maybe it’s just a paragraph or an idea but I’ll build on it. Eventually, inspiration will come and I’ll find I’ve created something worth sharing.
So that’s it for this article! What did I miss? What are some tools you use for keeping yourself motivated?
Let me know in the comments and also tell me what you’d like me to talk about next month.