6 Motivation Tips for Book Writers

Revive Your Motivation to Finish Your Book

Girls sitting outdoors in a city
Writing can be solitary. Use a community to motivate. Alys Tomlinson / Getty Images

How to you get motivated to write a book? How do you stay motivated to finish the book throughout what might be a long and arduous process?

As with any creative endeavor, when writing a book — whether it is a novel you dream of publishing or a non-fiction volume — there are bound to be both practical and emotional ups and downs. The trick is not to let the "downs" stop you from moving the manuscript forward.

 

Motivation Tips for Writers

Whatever tends to block you, when you feel like you're in a book development or writing slump, here are some suggestions to jumpstart the forward motion and help you get to the finish line and complete your manuscript.

1. Remember Why You're Writing the Book

Why did you start your book in the first place? It helps to keep your eye on the prize. It may be to see your story finished or your non-fiction ideas flowing into a cohesive form in a proposal so you can approach a literary agent.

Sometimes, you have to drill down a bit to see what "prize" you're actually going for. Experts have found that people fall into one of three intrinsic motivational categories; that is, most individuals are motivated more or less by one of three things: challenge, affinity, or power.

If you're an author who's motivated by challenge — going for a tough goal and then nailing it — then finishing a book (a definite challenge for most) might be a no brainer.

However, if you're motivated by affinity, then your motivation is the connection to and bonding with other people. You might be better off framing your "prize" in terms of others: "When I finish this book, my family and friends will be so proud of me!"

Alternatively, if you're motivated by power, then maybe it's, "Having a published book will make it more likely that the media will quote me regarding my business expertise, and that will grow my reputation as a leader in my field."

Write down the reason (or reasons) you're writing the book and keep them in front of you — on your bathroom mirror, on Post-It Notes around your computer — on the television remote, lest you be tempted to watch too much TV instead of writing.

2. Take Your Foot Off the Writerly Gas Pedal, Just a Bit 

Stalled is sometimes just another manifestation of overwhelmed. Let's face it: in addition to writing a book, your life likely includes obligations to your spouse and friends and kids and pets and the job or gigs that pay the rent or mortgage.

Or, maybe your brain is overwhelmed by plot complications and needs to work out a way forward in the background — maybe your creative engine is flooded, so to speak, and won't turn over even though you're diligently at the keyboard.

But whether it’s your desk and life that’s got too much going on or just your brain, get clarity on what you can accomplish next — what chapter, plot point, page, piece of dialogue feels like a no-brainer or at least doesn't feel daunting? Can you start to write the acknowledgments? Name an easy-peasy chunk so small that it feels like it will be easy and write it down. That's your very small, next goal.

3. Take Your Foot Off the Writerly Gas Pedal, A Lot 

Alternately, if you're really stuck, give your brain a break from writing altogether — read around your subject matter, look at the competition, note what they're not doing that you'll do better (this will also help with your query or proposal) to help with your forward motivation.

Or start a meditation practice, or do something physical — it's healthy for writers to get regular exercise and that will bring some regular oxygen to your brain.

4. Don't Cheat on Your Book With Another Writing Project

When you hit a slump, there's often another writing project that calls to you, one that's suddenly more seductively attractive than the one in front of you. That's because it's easier to start something fresh than to stick through the tough parts and slog through to the finish. 

But, as much as we all would like our writing lives to be easy, don't be fooled — having an affair with another creative endeavor is likely to lead to a long string of incomplete projects, broken promises to yourself — and nothing complete to show for your time spent, or (worse) nothing to send to an agent or an editor.

Don't give into the desire to continuously add appealing writing projects to the to-do list before you’ve finished the one you’re working on.  

5. Build Your Motivational Writerly Community — Offline and Online

Writing a book is most often a solitary endeavor. It can be isolating. It can be lonely. And, if you're successful at it, it means you're signing on for more isolation. Most writers are built for this but many of us need at least some camaraderie and commiseration with people who understand what we're going through. (Plus, see intrinsic motivation affinity, above).

Enter: community. Whether it's a random few fellow writers you see at the coffee shop where you like to write or an organized group, it's good to have at least some social outlet.

For new writers, writer’s groups of all sorts help to keep you abreast of developments in the industry, make you part of a community that helps breed networking and getting the contacts to help get you published. And, of course, a good writing community helps encourage you while you’re learning and hoping and helps pick you up when you’ve had the inevitable disappointment.

Even if you haven’t yet published, most associations have provisions — such as an associate membership — for aspiring writers in their respective genres. Here are writer’s associations to consider:

If there are no chapters in your area, you can join these groups — and many others — online. For example, each November, NaNoWriMo encourages its members to finish a short novel. 

All year round, Twitter hashtags like #amwriting can connect you with people who are in the thick of it. For group motivation, you can take turns starting your own #writersprint with those to whom you're connected.

(Note that a secondary and not insubstantial benefit of being an active part of a community of like-minded writers is that when you get published, they can help spread the word, show up to your readings, etc.)

6. Attend a Writer's Conference

For first-time book writers, nothing motivates quite like hearing speakers and meeting people who've been there and done it. For that reason, attending a publishing conference to listen and learn and belong like a pro can offer a great, motivating boost.

The groups named in #4 run annual, national conferences — but there are countless local conferences, as well. Check with your bookstores and libraries and literary groups.

When you're vetting a conference, make sure:

  • That the speakers and/or panelists have experiences or skills and backgrounds that are applicable to you.
  • That the topics covered by the seminars and panels resonate with what you need right now.

Chances are, your writing blahs are temporary and you'll soon be on your way to a finished book manuscript. In the meantime, the tips above should help. 

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