What to do When the Writing Motivation Isn’t There

We all have a love/hate relationship with writing. I think it’s in the job description. Some days you literally can’t stop your fingers from typing or the pen from flowing, yet other days your hands refuse to press buttons and the page remains blank.

Motivation sometimes isn’t enough. We can’t rely solely on our motivation to get us across the finish line. Sometimes, we need to write whether we want to or not. What we can do is make that writing process a little easier on ourselves.

It’s common to hear about writing rituals and routines. I’m not talking about spinning three times in a circle and chanting to the writing gods for inspiration; I’m talking about schedules and environments that help trigger the right things in a writer’s mind.

My writing process is this: I do better in the mornings, typically in my own home where I can control the noise and distractions. I don’t have an office so I sit at the kitchen table with good light. Sometimes I have light music on in the background, but usually I just like to hear the sound of my keyboard and a cat purring in my lap.

Think about your own writing process. Do you have a certain time of day where you work best? Can you work anywhere? What about the noise in the background? How long can you go before the quality of your work starts to diminish?

All of these factors can affect a writer, and having a specific combination that you routinely go back to can actually enable you to write. The great thing is, there is no one correct answer to get the magic flowing. Everything is relational to you.

Research shows that intellectual work done in the morning increases productivity while tasks related to motor skills are better done in the afternoon. Still, some people can’t get themselves up early in the morning. While I can sit down at 6 A.M. or earlier and get writing, others may need to start their writing at 11 A.M. or later.

Environment can make a big difference as well. Some writers have dedicated space to write, such as an office, a desk, or a meditation nook. Others find any place to write and make it their own, such as a coffee shop, library, or kitchen table. The key is returning to that location to create a habit. If you make that space your own and continually show up to write there, your body and mind will soon associate that location with writing. Boom, train your brain to start thinking about writing as soon as you enter that space.

Noise can also affect how we write. Intellectual tasks (writing, thinking, creating) can be disrupted by certain noises or noise levels. For those of us who can’t concentrate with a lot of background noise, maybe a quiet location works better for our process. If we have to write on the go, noise cancelling headphones might do the trick. Others have the ability to tune out that noise, or use it to their advantage. They can write anywhere and any time — in a plane, train, bus, or car. I am envious of these people.

Obviously, humans can think in any environment, but we have the ability to train our brains toward associating certain spaces and rituals with the magic writing process. The more we dedicate thinking and writing to a certain space, the more likely we can bypass motivational factors. As soon as we enter that environment or perform our ritual, our brains begin to think creatively. That sort of habit can help us create through the days where we just don’t have the motivation to write.

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