Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Three Secrets To Power Charge Your Writing Motivation

by James L. Rubart

This past weekend I did a Skype seminar with a group of writers back east and the question of motivation came up. One of the attendees wanted to know if I had any tips on how to keep writing when she didn't feel like it.

I love the question, because it's easy to say, "You just put your butt in the chair and do it!" but that's never worked for me. Here are three things that have:

Twenty Minutes A Day
Back in 2002 when I finally decided I had to attempt a novel, I was working full time in my ad agency, had two young sons, and still wanted to have time with my wife in the evenings. So instead of promising myself I'd write for some grandiose goal like two hours a day, I committed to writing for twenty minutes, six days a week.


It worked because I knew I could do anything twenty minutes a day. I could cut one TV show a week. I could get up twenty minutes earlier. I could take a ten minute lunch instead of half an hour. If I'd promised myself an hour of writing time, I probably would have looked at the time and caved. But twenty? Done. I ended up writing a good bit of my first novel, ROOMS, twenty minutes at a time.

Realize Your Willpower Bucket Has Only So Much Juice Inside
Even if you're not a morning person, that's when your willpower is the strongest. (You ever wonder why nighttime is the hardest part of the day to resist packing in those extra calories?)


As the day progresses, we use up the willpower in our buckets. There's only so much, and if you've used it up on everything else, it's going to be tough to crank out the words. So write in the morning. If possible, first thing. Get to the big rock first, right?

Create So Much Pain You Can't Say No
One of my motivators these days is my contract with Thomas Nelson. That deadline motivates me. But when I was pre-published, I had a critique group of four other writers who agreed to help me create great pain for myself (and for themselves as well) to make sure I got my words in.

The rules were simple. We met every other week on the phone. During our meeting we committed to a certain word count before we met again. If we didn't meet our goal, we had to send each of the other members $50. (For those of you who are math challenged like me, that was $250 reasons for me to crank out my words.)


And I confess, there were weeks where I was in my writing room at 11:30 pm, whacking away at my laptop because I didn't want to write those checks.

Your turn, 'cause we all of us face the Motivation Wall of Doom from time to time. What do you do to stay motivated? Inquiring writers would love to know.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling and Christy award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, THE CHAIR, SOUL’S GATE, MEMORY’S DOOR, and SPIRIT BRIDGE (May ’14). During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at http://jameslrubart.com/

22 comments:

Edie Melson said...

Jim, such a great post! Love your thoughts on our willpower bucket. I'm not a morning person, but I've learned I HAVE to guard that morning time as writing time. Now I know why!

Ane Mulligan said...

I've never been good at the short spurts of writing time, but I've learned to be out of necessity. Good suggestions. My favorite is the crit partners being accountability partners. Besides, I could use the money. LOL

Jennifer said...

I remind myself constantly that this is what I wanted. :) I also watch "Facing the Giants" and other inspiring movies when I'm down...

Nicole said...

Jim, I know this will sound like the typical "Christian" answer, but, honestly, prayer is the only thing that works for me. And not necessarily my own. I've found that I can resist anything and anyone that tells me I must or Have To do something. It's like a challenge. But when prayer warriors pray for my writing to start, continue, amp up, things change. Really change. Motivation regains its foothold, and words congregate in chapters. And this is due to them (whoever they are and have been) asking the Father to help me. I treasure them and their prayers. It's all about Him.

(Not that I can't or don't appreciate what others seek for motivation. This is just me.)

Michael Ehret said...

20 minutes? I ... I ... I think I could do 20 minutes.

Rachel Hauck said...

Good post, Jim!

Susan Cronk said...

Good ideas, except that whole morning thing. I'm going to bed when most people are dreading the ringing of their alarms I actually like the night. It's quiet. I can focus better. No distractions. Setting down a few thousand words a day isn't difficult, but it is sometimes challenging to shut my mind off so I can sleep. When I need to be motivated I play some '80s rock to get my mind energized.

Jim Rubart said...

We non morning people must stick together. :)

Jim Rubart said...

Pretty funny, Ane. There were times when we teased each other, encouraging each other NOT to get our word count in.

Jim Rubart said...

Great idea, Jennifer. Remember the Titans is one that does it for me.

Jim Rubart said...

Love that, Nicole.

Jim Rubart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Rubart said...

:) Thanks, Rachel.

Jim Rubart said...

I'm going to push you a bit, M.E. and say I know you can do 21 ...

Jim Rubart said...

I hear you, Susan. I'm a night person too.

Ron Estrada said...

Just staying connected to other writers keeps me motivated. Blogs like this, the MBT Monday night chats, etc. do wonders to keep me on task. Of course, nothing beats a crit partner or group. $50 is a bit too rich for my blood, though. My monthly allowance would have to increase by $49.

Jim Rubart said...

Love it, Ron!

Michael Ehret said...

Don't get all crazy on me ...

Michael Ehret said...

You get an allowance, Ron? How'd you wrangle that?

Margo Carmichael said...

Oh, gosh, I was just telling my husband that now that the creative part is done, I'm having a hard time finishing the work. I'll start with 20 minutes--tonight! Thanks, all, for the encouragement. And, Ron Estrada, I'll lend you $1 if it will help! Haha

Jim Rubart said...

Way to go, Margo!

Ellen Andersen said...

I'm part of that group. Meeting with a fellow writer for breakfast at 8am in the next town will force me to write more tonight before I head to bed!