Nine Powerful Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write
This post was first published in 2012 and updated in March 2021.
All writers struggle with motivation at times. Whether you’re writing freelance pieces, content for your blog, a novel, short stories, poetry, or even an essay, thesis, or dissertation … it can be really tough to stay motivated to write.
Even after 12+ years of writing full-time, I still have days when I don’t feel motivated at all. (My freelance work pays all the bills though, so that definitely helps me stick with it. ;-))
Staying motivated can be particularly hard for novelists and short story writers. You might be working on a book for months, even years, without knowing whether it’ll find a publisher or an audience.
A lack of motivation doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out to be a writer. It usually just means you need a little boost to help you feel engaged with your writing again.
These nine motivational writing tips have helped me and plenty of other writers. I hope one (or more!) of them is just what you need to motivate yourself, too.
#1: Have a (Firm) Deadline
Deadlines have a wonderful way of concentrating the mind. As soon as your writing has a deadline attached, there’s a sense of urgency about it. I wouldn’t have finished many essays in school or at university without the power of a deadline (and the fear of missing it).
Many fiction writers, especially first-time novelists, don’t have an agent, publisher, or readership waiting eagerly for them to finish. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the power of deadlines to motivate yourself. You could promise yourself a reward for meeting a self-imposed deadline. You can also make deadlines more “real” in a couple of key ways:
- Get someone else involved: a friend, a writing buddy, a teacher or coach. Promise that you’ll send them your blog post / scene / short story by a particular date.
- Enter a short story competition. These have very real deadlines, plus wordcounts; they’re great for writing discipline. (You can also find competitions for novels and other types of writing, but short story competitions are the most common.)
#2: Take a Writing Class or Course
Every time I go to a writing class, course, or lecture, I end up feeling inspired to write. Way back in 2008, when I started my creative writing degree at Goldsmiths, I was worried I’d lost my motivation for fiction – I was enjoying blogging and freelancing too much. After a single class, though, I was raring to get started on my novel, Lycopolis, which eventually became the first installment in a trilogy.
Of course, you don’t have to take a creative writing degree to get motivated to write. You could go to a local workshop or class, attend an online class, or take a whole online course.
To get the most from a class:
- Be prepared to participate. Usually, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. Make an effort to speak up – and don’t shy away from sharing or even reading out your work, if there’s an opportunity for that.
- Try something different. If you’re a novelist, take a class on screenwriting or poetry: you might not choose to try out a new medium, but you may well find yourself re-inspired for your novel.
#3: Listen to Music That Fits Your Writing Mood
Is there a particular type of music that you enjoy? Maybe it appeals to your creative side or helps you to focus. You might not like to listen to music while you write (some writers find it too distracting) – but you could play a favourite track or album before a writing session.
With most of my novels, I’ve had a particular album that I played over and over while writing them. Occasionally, I had a specific song that I’d play on repeat dozens of times. I found I didn’t really “listen” to the music, but that it helped me to be in the mood to write.
You might like to try:
- Picking a specific album (or even one track) as “writing” music. Listen to it when you want to get into the writing frame of mind, and not at any other time.
- Using a particular song as the basis for a new scene. You could simply take the general mood of the piece as the starting point, or work particular lyrics into the dialogue or narrative (even if you take them out later).
#4: Imagine Yourself Writing
In all sorts of fields, people use visualisation to help them reach their goals. Top athletes, for instance, might imagine going through a particular set of moves again and again. Public speakers may picture themselves walking onto the stage, delivering a great speech, and receiving the applause of a thrilled audience.
Some writers like to daydream about their finished book on the shelves … and while there’s nothing wrong with that, visualisation tends to be more effective when you see yourself doing the actual writing.
When you want to feel more motivated to write:
- Sit with your eyes closed and imagine yourself writing. Hear the click of the keyboard, see the words appearing in front of you on the screen.
- Don’t be afraid to visualise problems. Imagine getting stuck, feeling tempted to check emails. Then imagine yourself saying “no” to that impulse, and sticking with the task at hand.
#5: Set Aside Time for Your Writing
You’re never going to stumble across a “perfect” time to write. Other commitments in your life – school, work, family, friends, different hobbies – could easily fill every day, if you let them.
You need to fit writing into your week in a way that suits you and your circumstances. Before I had kids, I often wrote fiction on Saturdays. Over the past eight years, I’ve done most of my fiction writing in the late afternoon or early evening, squeezing it in around family life.
To really make time for your writing:
- Block out several hours, if you can; perhaps even a whole day. Even if you can only do this once a month, it’s a great way to relax into your writing and make serious progress.
- Stick to your writing appointments. If you’ve promised yourself that you’ll work on your novel on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, turn down social events or Zoom calls on those nights. (You don’t need to explain why if you don’t want to: “I’ve got another commitment” is all anyone needs to know.) And when you’re writing, make the most of your time.
#6: Picture the Scene in Progress
In #4, I suggested visualising yourself writing. If you’re a fiction writer, another great use of your imagination is to picture the scene that you want to write.
Where are your story’s characters located? What are they saying or doing? Are they moving around? How are they reacting to events or to one another? Try to see the scene unfold in front of you.
This can feel a bit odd at first, so:
- Don’t worry if you can’t “see” the scene in glorious technicolour and surround-sound. When I imagine my characters, they’re often small (like dolls), as if I’m looking down from a height, and I can’t hear them. Other times, I can imagine what they’re saying, but I don’t have a clear picture of the location.
- Write down notes to capture what you imagine: these can just be brief bullet points about things that need to occur in the scene. Often, the act of writing will spark off new ideas.
#7: Remind Yourself Why Your Writing Is Important
One of the reasons why writers grind to a halt and eventually give up is because the rest of life seems somehow “more important” than writing . When you’ve got bills to pay, dishes to wash, family to care for, friends to see, writing a novel or publishing regularly on a personal blog can seem like a big waste of time or a huge indulgence.
It’s not. Your writing is important. Even if you never publish a single word of it, and even if it never makes any money, you’ll still have gained a huge amount through the writing itself.
So that you remember that fiction matters:
- Record your reasons for writing, and don’t be afraid to say why it matters to you. If writing fiction makes you feel happy and grounded, that’s important and valid.
- Talk with other writers. That could mean meeting up for coffee with a writing friend, joining a local group, or hanging out on Twitter or in writing forums online.
#8: Share Your Work with Other Writers
Sharing your writing means you get insightful feedback on your work-in-progress, plus you get the buzz of having people read and discuss your writing. Often, they’ll be keen to know what happens next – which can encourage you to get on with the next chapter.
Seeing other people’s work in progress can also be motivating: you’re around other people who value writing and who take it seriously. You may also find that spotting the rough spots and mistakes in other writers’ work helps you be more alert to those in your own writing.
When you’re looking for a writing workshop group:
- Ideally, find a group that meets regularly. To really keep up the momentum, meeting weekly or twice a month is best. Lots of groups only meet monthly, though, and that’s still great.
- Consider online groups and forums too. I run the Aliventures Club for anyone who’s bought from or worked with me in the past: it’s a free private Facebook group where you can share your work in a friendly and supportive environment.
#9: Just Write the First Few Sentences
This tip might look deceptively simple. It’s also very effective. When you’re not feeling motivated, just sit down and get started. Write just a few sentences.
You don’t need to be in the right mood before you’re allowed to start getting words down. You don’t need to wait until the muse descends. You don’t need to feel like every word flowing from your fingers is gold.
You just need to write. (And when you do, you’ll often find that the act of writing helps you feel more motivated to write.)
If you need some help getting those first few sentences down:
- Give yourself a time limit. Write for, say, ten minutes. However unmotivated you’re feeling, you can manage ten minutes.
- Start half-way through a scene or chapter. Jump in with a line of dialogue or a sudden action, and go from there. Begin with the first key point of your blog post. You can always go back and start things off more smoothly later (and you might even find that midway is the best place to begin).
Next time you want to write but feel unmotivated, give one or two of these tips a try. And if you’re still stuck, go for my ultimate motivation tool: I’m either going to write or clean the house. That usually helps focus my mind. 😉
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I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
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Thank you for this list – tremendously helpful! Pinning them to my wall as we speak!
#s 4 and 6 are especially good. Especially when I’m going to sleep at night or waking up in the morning, I find visualizing myself writing or picturing the scene either cements a few phrases in my mind or gives me the motivation to get up and have at it. Thanks for sharing!
Yay, glad to help! And I agree with you on times of day for visualisation — late at night or first thing in the morning works really well.
I have the hardest time taking what I see in my mind to paper. It ALWAYS is flat and dull. I look forward to trying your tips from #6! Also, I have spent much time waiting for the MOOD to strike. #9 has inspired to just write NOW!
Hurrah! Hope you get some good writing done. 🙂
I find that things are *never* as good on the page as they are in my mind … but editing at least helps.
I really like tip number 8. I can’t wait to be around a group of writers.
Bridges Stevenson’s last blog post ..Assassin Part 2*
Thanks, Bridges — hope you can find a good group.
Some excellent ideas that you have shared – I find it helpful to close my eyes and type – visulaizing the action in my minds eye. My biggest problem is doing the revisions – I know that they are needed and I can identify areas that I want to improve it is just sitting down and doing it. Seems to take forever and requires more patience than I have.
Thanks, Larry. I agree that visualising the action really helps. Revisions can be tough … for me, the main motivation is knowing that I’m finally turning the piece into what I *wanted* to write rather than my clumsy first draft attempt.
I’ve always been a slacker when it comes to writing and I believe that setting a deadline would really push you to make an output. How long does it take for you to write a particular topic?
Thanks for sharing this. I’m more motivated to write now!
Sheila B.’s last blog post ..how to pick up girls
My writing speed varies quite a bit depending on what I’m working on. Usually, though, I reckon on a comfortable 1,000 words in an hour. (It’s taken me a while to get up to that speed, though!)
As usual, some key points here. Just as no two snowfakes are exactly alike, human beings also tend to be unique. I am a restless spirit, so it is particularly challenging for me to sit down and write. And just writing is sound advice, but in my case I need to meditate, enjoy a stroll and take a long shower before I can muster up the motivation to write. I also need a quiet and peaceful environment, so late at night or very early morning…that works for me. I cannot write when there are too many distractions hovering over my head like a helicopter; nor am I good at multi-tasking. One thing, one at a time is my motto in life. So when I write, that is all that I do. Cheerio.
Thanks, Archan. I agree with you about peaceful, and first thing in the morning works well for me … though if the lure of the writing is strong enough, I can get on with it regardless of the time of day.
I am aspiring to be a writer and I already enrolled for a class. I have the passion yet I don’t have the confidence. Learning the right skills is one of the steps I need to pursue my dream.
Laura’s last blog post ..DTS Home
Hope the class goes really well, Laura, and that it gives you lots of confidence about your writing. 🙂
Sadly, I can even be distracted by cleaning my bathroom or raking leaves. Sigh. Now that I’ve established firm cleaning and yard work parameters, I’m much more productive. And the great thing is, my husband doesn’t notice if the house is clean or dirty anyway.
Heather Harshman’s last blog post ..You know you are sleep deprived when you
Parameters and boundaries are often helpful! And my husband never seems to notice either — I guess it’s a guy thing. 😉
Best thing for procrastination for me is Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die. http://writeordie.com/
When all else fails, it succeeds. And it’s so cheap. I recommend it highly for first drafts. If you stop typing, it makes horrid sounds at you. If nothing else, the fear of badly played violins or screaming children will keep your fingers flying.
No, not paid to promote – just a devoted and enslaved fan. 😉
Dorothyanne Brown’s last blog post ..Writing and waiting, writing and waiting
Great addition, Dorothyanne — thanks! I’ve recommended Write or Die to a fair few fellow writers; I agree with you that it’s a great way to crack on with first drafts.
I seem to have the opposite problem. I am spending so much time on writing or re- writing that my house looks like a tip. I guess I will get quicker at writing.
My motivation tip is go on vacation. I am going next week. I will be raring to go when I get back. Be in touch then.
Carole Lyden’s last blog post ..Dip into your depression and find some answers. 4 ways to problem solve your depression.
Have a great vacation, Carole! And that’s a fantastic tip — I always come back from a break with tons of renewed energy and enthusiasm too. 🙂
These are great, especially the last one. Sometimes I find I just have to fake it till I make it. I find if I take my writing time seriously I’m more inclined to give it the attention it needs. Happy to have found your blog!
Welcome, Pam! I’m happy to have you here. 🙂 And yes, I think taking writing seriously is hugely important, whatever stage you’re at. It’s the only real way to get to the next level up…
The last one is really great!
Many times I find myself lacking the ideas, and by that the motive really. However when I start writing even just for couple of sentences, thoughts start to form more and more, and many ideas are starting to come up. Looking back in retrospect many of my posts originated this way.
Great article 🙂
Thanks, Slavko, glad you enjoyed the piece! 🙂
Man, I really love your blog! Keep ’em coming!
I came back to this article to help out a friend I’m beta-reading for, and as I reread it I realized I did #1 on this list and it worked beautifully. Sort of.
April is Script Frenzy month: http://www.scriptfrenzy.org
As my sophomore year attempting this event, I did everything I could to avoid distractions and use the “Have a (Firm) Deadline” – which would be 100 pages of script by April 30th. Well, that I failed miserably and finished the month with just 40 pages to my script.
However, also during April, I was determined to finally post a chapter to a fanfic I hadn’t updated since last June. I contacted my script co-writer from my freshmen try at Script Frenzy – who is also a big fan of my fanfic – and I asked if she wouldn’t mind beta-reading for me. The chapter was broken down in to about a dozen mini-scenes and we set forth for me to send her a new scene at least once every three days (which ended up being faster turn-arounds now that I had the thrill of feedback nearly daily), and the “(Firm) Deadline” of wanting the chapter posted by “Tax Day” so I at least had the 2nd half of April to work on my script.
Having that beta involved and feeling the need to write and send her something new nearly daily to “not waste her time” really helped. She’s working on her master’s right now, it’s the end of the school year, and she is mad-busy. Unfortunately, that meant I had no one involved in my script, which is probably why that tanked.
So I completely see the truth in advice #1 and I thank you for it. Now to be that “person involved” for others so they can be motivated. ^_^
LycoRogue’s last blog post ..Liebster Award
Congrats on the fanfic writing. 🙂 And sorry the script didn’t go so well, but 40 pages is still fantastic progress — far better (infinitely better) than zero. I think we’re sometimes too hard on ourselves when it comes to output.
Hope you get to read some great works-in-progress in return… 🙂
These are great!
Also, I write chapter by chapter, and end up doing a chapter every 1-3 days. When I actually get the dang thing done, I let myself have some kind of Swiss chocolate (it’s my weakness), but I only have it when I finish a chapter.
Thank you for the great tips!
I think chocolate is a great motivator, definitely one of my favourites. 🙂 (And wow, it sounds like you write fast — good stuff!)