Remember in high school when you found it so hard to start that long essay, so you kept on procrastinating? Then, once you actually started writing, it became much easier? Guess what? That feeling doesn’t end with high school.
Lack of motivation is the ugly cousin of writer’s block. With writer’s block, you feel like you could sit down and write for hours on end, but you’re stumped as to what to write about. On the other hand, lack of motivation is when you have a ton of ideas bouncing around in your mind, but you just can’t find yourself sitting down and putting them to paper. Like many other writers before me, I’ve suffered through both of these plagues, and if you’re serious about writing, you’re bound to face the same obstacles.
It’s a bit of a paradox, isn’t it? If you’re a writer, you’re obviously very passionate about bringing your ideas to life. But if that’s the case, why is it often so hard to crack open the laptop and begin writing out of the blue? Don’t worry – it doesn’t mean you’ve lost your passion. It’s still there. You’re just experiencing a terrible yet common illness: being human.
No matter how much you enjoy a hobby, there may come a time when you struggle to find motivation. It can happen for a variety of reasons: stress, boredom, lack of support, lack of ideas, etc. We’re not machines; we can’t work non-stop. We need motivation in our lives to keep us going. Eventually, you might start to lose that motivation, but if you’re lucky, it will only be temporary. You just need to know the right tricks to get you back on track.
This may seem like the most obvious solution, but one of the best ways to get motivated is to completely distance from all distractions. We live in an age of Netflix, smartphones, social media, and countless other forms of distraction, so it’s understandable that your mind wanders when you’re supposed to be writing. I remember once trying to write an article at my old job but I couldn’t get those first couple of words out because I had The Office playing on my TV, my iTunes playlist going at full volume, and my phone constantly buzzing with texts from friends trying to plan a bar trip for that night. My mind was in multiple places at once, but it wasn’t where it needed to be: on the writing itself.
If you’re like me and you have a compulsory need to keep the TV on at all times, then your best bet is to change your location. I found that I was able to focus on my writing when I distanced myself from all the tech in my room. Nowadays, I spend most of my time writing at the coffee shop, the library, or even outside on the porch. I also turn off my phone, plug my headphones into my laptop, throw on some soothing instrumental music, and begin typing away. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make for your motivation when you get up and move somewhere with less distractions.
Another distraction for me is the Internet itself. I don’t need to tell you how easy it is to get lost in the depths of the Web, especially when trying to finish an essay or article. The worst is when I have to look up information about something pertaining to my writing, and the next thing I know, I’m on the Wikipedia page for the second season of Lost or I’m watching a funny animal fail videos on YouTube. It’s even worse when I get sucked into the voids of social media and news stories. Why does it seem like all the interesting stuff happens when I’m busy?
Anyway, it’s easy to get distracted by the Internet, and what’s worse is that you can’t exactly get away from it because you might need it for writing research. That’s why I recommend a temporary site blocker, such as StayFocusd or SelfControl. With these apps, you can create and customize a special blacklist of sites, and then you can block those sites for a set length of time. My blacklist includes all the time-wasters like social media, gaming sites, and comic forums, and it’s done wonders for my productivity and motivation so far. It may take time getting used to the blocking, but once you condition yourself not to check these sites every five minutes, you should notice an increase in your focus.
So we’ve covered the obvious causes for lack of motivation. Let’s look at the deeper factors for this phenomenon. After all, it’s not just about distractions; it’s also about your attitude and your overall outlook.
When you’re passionate about your work, it’s easy to dive into a new project. You tell me to write a five-hundred-word essay on hedge funds, and I’ll be dragging my feet the entire time. If you tell me to write a thousand-word analysis of Fight Club, I’ll churn it out in a half-hour with double the word count.
You should never force yourself to write about something you don’t find interesting. Do you think all those successful authors out there are writing about things that aren’t appealing to them? No. They’re writing about what they find intriguing, and because of that, they’re motivated to create pieces that are insightful, entertaining, and successful with the public.
You don’t have to force yourself down a narrow route and write stories based solely on what’s popular or what will sell. If it’s not your taste, don’t write it. You’re tired of all these dystopian teen novels like Hunger Games and Divergent? Write a spy thriller action story. Hate A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings? Write a romantic comedy. Do what you want to do. Don’t try to force yourself to write something out of your zone. Not only will it be extremely difficult to stay motivated, but the lack of interest will also show in the writing itself.
There may come a time when you hit a slump in your writing and start to lose motivation. Don’t assume that this means you’ve lost your passion. Instead, take a break to clear your head. Go for a run. Watch a movie. Read a book. Hang out with friends. Do something to jumpstart your motivation. In due time, you’ll find yourself ready to write once again
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