Motivation and Focus

“I have just started writing, and would love any tips that help keep *you* motivated and focused!”

Absolutely! In no particular order:

1. Finish the project you’re working on before starting something else.

Inevitably, part-way through anything I’m writing, I will gain a strong urge to work on another project. If I bowed to this urge I would almost never finish anything. Instead, these days I use it to motivate myself: “When I finish this I can finally work on X!”

Subclause a) Sometimes one will become legitimately stuck on a project, either via inexperience or youth or both. There have been plenty of times where I have stopped work on a piece, picked it up several years later, and turned it into something far better than the original ever could have been. The trick is to know when this applies, rather than when one is simply struggling to get to the end of a piece because writing is hard. Obviously, I believe it is worth persisting when it’s the latter.

2. Know what you want to happen to your project once it’s finished.

Do you want your piece to be published, performed, produced, read by a certain person/organisation, read by x number of people, reviewed, included in a book, etc..? I find having one or more of these goals in mind (the more specific the better) is very motivating.

3. Remember that you’re going to die.

Actually a serious motivator for me. I could die pretty soon, and then all the stories that I want to tell will die with me.

Subclause a) Not an excuse to do unfinished or rushed work. Just a constant reminder to keep working.

4) Make sure the medium is right for the story.

Projects are much more difficult and time-consuming for me the longer they are, and the more words that they involve. Thus, it’s well worth considering if one’s new project could be a shorter piece. Could it be a play/screenplay (and thus less words than a novel/short story even though it contains the same amount of plot?) I’ve had ideas for novels turn themselves into plays (much shorter to write!) and ideas for plays turn themselves into short stories (shorter again!).

I’m also a firm believer in brevity in general, and that something should never be longer than it needs to be.

5) Love what you’re writing about.

Even if your project isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s so much more enjoyable and inspiring to work on something that you love. If I ever start feeling bored with a project of mine these days, I simply turn it into something I would personally be more excited to read. Instant motivation burst.

6) Have a deadline.

If other people expect my work to be finished by a certain time, this is tremendous motivation to actually get it completed by then.

7) Have an outline.

Obviously this doesn’t work for everybody or for every piece, but often having a basic framework for a story will help me feel less ‘stuck’ because I understand where everything is headed. I don’t usually use more than dot points, however, because learning how the specifics unfold as I write is half the fun.

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