10 Tricks to Motivate Your Writing When Things Get Tough

Hey! Guess what time it is? You know, that time of year where writers everywhere take on an extra measure of absurdity and attempt to write a novel in one month. That’s fifty-thousand words, folks. In thirty days. Sound like a challenge?


I’m actually not doing NaNoWriMo. Shocker, huh? But I do have a few tips for those of you who’ve decided to take the plunge. Even if you’re not doing NaNo, sometimes it’s nice to have some tricks up your sleeve when it comes to lack of motivation.


 After some time struggling, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things (sort of) with my novel, Project RENO. I needed motivation, and sometimes that doesn’t come for the asking. More often than not, it must be sought out. As Jack London put it, “You can’t just wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.” 

 So what are you waiting for? Here are ten tricks I’ve used to motivate myself to keep writing through the grind.

1. Rewards

It might sound silly, but it works. When I’m really struggling, I tell myself that if I reach a certain goal, I’ll have some chocolate. And then I don’t eat any chocolate until I hit my goal.

2. Think Positively

It’s easy to bash your own writing and think, “This first draft is a piece of crap. I could do better.” Don’t think about the fact that this is a first draft you’re writing. Just write. Instead, think about how excited you were for the idea. Give yourself kudos for coming up with it in the first place.

3. Visualize the Finish Project

Take a moment and think about what your story would look like as a finished, edited, and published manuscript. Picture it on the shelf in a bookstore. Use your imagination and jump into the future for a bit. Sometimes it’s just the thing you need to jumpstart your writer brain. Get excited about it and make it happen.

4. Change the Font

I don’t know about you, but I get sick of looking at Courier New every time I open up my novel. I’ve found it amazing what a simple change of font can do for my motivation. For me, the more a font looks like something you might see in a printed manuscript, the more it makes me want to write.

5. Journaling

If you’re struggling to write, take a few minutes, open up a blank document, and start typing out your thoughts. Type out everything that comes to mind. Even the stuff you think sounds dumb. Ramble if you have to. It’s surprised me the things I’ve managed to work through and come up with just by splattering thoughts onto a blank page.

6. Invent a Plot Twist

Sometimes the motivation you need is found by throwing a wrench into your story that sends it spiraling in a totally different direction. Maybe something that even you didn’t expect. Allow yourself the freedom to deviate from your outline. Look at your story from a different angle and consider new possibilities. I didn’t end up doing it, but toying with the idea of changing the genre of Project RENO to steampunk is what triggered my most recent breakthrough. Nothing is too out-there. Leave everything up for grabs.

7. Competition

Competition can be a very strong motivator. If you’re like me, it might be just the thing for you. So if you have a friend who’s a writer, challenge them to a duel – a word war. Set a time limit and compare word counts. This is a great exercise because it forces you to forget that internal editor and concentrate on reaching that word count. Not to mention that you both get the benefits. But if you don’t have an author friend handy to war with, you could check out Write or Die, a program I discovered for tracking and timing your writing.

8. Listen to Music

I often give my novels themes. I pick a soundtrack that fits with the world of that particular story and play it while I write. Other times, I play a track that evokes a certain type of emotion that I want to convey. Listening to music helps you to see a story in your head, which helps motivate the writing process.

9. Get Outside

When you’re really struggling, sometimes the best thing to do is get up and walk away. “But what if I’m on a deadline?” you ask. Taking a few minutes and getting outside for a walk doesn’t steal that much. In fact, if you come back fresh and with a desire to write, it only adds to the time you spend being productive. Sometimes I even like to combine this with listening to music. Being outside with soundtracks playing through your earbuds is a great motivator when you just let your imagination go.

10. Tell Someone About Your Goals

This one is the scariest for me. I don’t like to put that kind of pressure on myself, because if you tell someone about your goals, they might – gasp – expect you to meet them! But it works. When I tell someone that I hope to reach 1,000 words by the end of the day, I generally try twice as hard to make it happen.

Well, there you have it! My ten tricks for tracking down motivation. And now for some chocolate. 😉

What are some things you do to motivate yourself? How have they helped?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 thoughts on “10 Tricks to Motivate Your Writing When Things Get Tough

  1. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

    One thing I’m doing differently with this novel than my previous ones is I’m not reading back over my work. I’m a major perfectionist, and I tend to edit a lot /while/ I’m writing, which usually results in less words than I’m capable of achieving. And I’ve found that sometimes, reading back over previously-written scenes can produce a sense of frustration… you know, like, “This wasn’t as good as I thought it was. :mellow:” And then I end using my writing time to edit those scenes (or being hesitant to write anything more). So anyways, working straight through my NaNo has helped me to accomplish more.

    Also, each day, I choose a different font (and stay with it all day). That helps me to keep track of how much I’ve written per day.

    I love listening to soundtracks while I write. What are some of your favorites?

    • Hi, Lindsay! That’s some good advice. I too am a perfectionist, and it’s sometimes hard for me to avoid reading back through my novel and “fixing” things when I should be writing. In fact, I’ve considered dedicating a whole post to that. 😛 It’s very important, especially for people with strong internal editors.

      Hmm, some of my favorite soundtracks… That’s a tough one. 😉 I like LotR (but I’m sure you couldn’t guess), How To Train Your Dragon, Batman, The Postman, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Crysis, and Black Hawk Down. I could go on and on, but those are just a few of my favorites that I’ve been listening to lately.

      • Well, let me know if you do (dedicate a post to that). 😉

        I haven’t listened to any of the LotR soundtracks yet. Which ones do you enjoy most?
        A couple months ago, I was listening to the HTTYD soundtrack (the first one), and it inspired me to write a short story in one sitting. XD
        Love the Narnia soundtracks. B)