It is quite common, as I trawl through the seemingly endless writing groups I am a member of on social media, to see people saying things like, 'help, I've lost motivation for this book'. This is normally followed by a plea for advice on how to get motivated again, like there is some drug that can be taken which will instantly fill you with motivation and supercharge your writing.
The simple fact is, there isn't.
Motivation is fickle.
Don't get me wrong, motivation is an excellent way to start a project, and generally is the starting point for anything. You will have had a motivation for writing your next masterpiece, and you should keep that motivation firmly in your mind and heart; however, motivation will not take you to the finish line in an effective manner.
What you really need if you are serious about finishing your book is discipline. If that sounds hard, good. Discipline takes work, but it will put you in far greater standing than relying solely on motivation. Discipline is the key to success in almost any venture. It is how special forces in the military become elite, it is how professional athletes get to the Olympics or break records, and it is how best-selling authors are made.
Have I piqued your interest yet?
Now, you don't need to turn yourself into a commando to have discipline. I am not about to start making you do push-ups or sit-ups, but what I am about to say will hopefully help you build a system of self-discipline that will take your writing game to the next level. It is at this point I would like to caveat this blog post by saying that nothing in here is original. I have taken aspects in here from different areas in my life and from constant study and work on making myself more productive and a better person. If something sounds familiar, its likely because I have read it somewhere else and absorbed it into my own routine on which this post is based.
The key to using discipline is consistency. Therefore, the first thing you are going to do is setup a writing area. This should be an area that is solely used for writing purposes. You can still write in other places, but this space should be reserved for writing only, as this will create a subconscious link in your mind that when you sit down here, it is writing time. Make sure you make it comfortable and it suits your writing style. Do you like music while writing? Make sure you have a radio or headphones at the ready. Are you like me and have a writing buddy (Big Wolf)? Make a comfortable place for them to chill with you. Whatever your style, create a space purely for your writing.
Second, make a time for your writing. Note, that I didn't say make time, but rather 'a time'. This was a deliberate choice of words. Much like creating a space, sitting down to write at the same time every day will create a link inside your brain that says 'it's time to write'. Put this time in your calendar so you don't make other appointments, tell your family so you aren't disturbed, and use the time effectively. Put aside your phone and stay away from social media. This is writing time. It will only be used for writing.
Third is your routine. Familiarity is key in this process. Do you like to have a hot cup of tea while you write? Or maybe some biscuits to nibble on? Whatever it is, make sure you always have it and remain consistent. Use the same tea cup for your writing time, this is now your writing cup. Have the same snack or set of snacks set out on the same plate. Again, we are trying to create a link in your brain that says 'yes, it is time to write'.
This probably seems fairly straight forward and obvious to you at this point, and the truth is, it is. There are no secrets to using discipline while writing. You now have a space, so let’s talk about focus a bit.
I mentioned above about using writing time for writing, and this is critical. But it goes further than that. You need focus in what you are writing every time you sit down and start typing (or handwriting for you masochists). Make sure you go into your writing time knowing what you are going to work on and stick with it. Don't 'get bored' half way through and switch to another work in progress. You need to commit to what you are working on rather than switching half-way through. This is important for a project holistically; however, it is common to be working on multiple things at once so I won't say only work on one thing at a time. What I will say is this, each session should have a focus and ensure you spread your overall focus evenly across your projects.
The same point on focus goes for things such as social media. It is an inescapable fact these days that you need to have a social media presence to build an author platform (see my previous blog post) and conduct effective marketing. However, this is not an excuse to get lost in the bowels of TikTok for hours on end and neglect your work. When you sit down on social media, do so with focus and a plan. What is your purpose for being on social media right now? Are you engaging with author groups or posting an update on your work? Whatever it is, make sure you keep the focus of the social media session in the front of your mind and stick to it. If you are taking a break and scrolling through videos to turn off the brain for a while, then set yourself a timer to make sure you don't overdo it and waste precious writing time.
Hopefully by now, you are getting the point. Self-discipline will help you progress far more consistently than motivation. Motivation is great to get you started, and will give you boosts as you go along, but your self-discipline, based on consistent routines, is what will get your book finished, on book shelves and ultimately, into the hands of waiting fans.
My final point on self-discipline is to acknowledge how hard it can be, especially as you are just starting out and setting your routines. Your greatest asset for this is your friends, family and supporters. Tell them what you are doing and ask them to hold you to account when you waiver, when you want to skip that writing sessions or are sitting on Facebook for too long. They will help keep you on track until the routine is part of your very being.
As always, keep up the hard work.