How to Motivate Yourself to Write
If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably had some challenges getting motivated to write and/or sticking with it. Inspiration and motivation can be challenging on a good day, and all the more so during a pandemic.
I get it! When things got tough, I used to hunker down. Try harder. Should myself into being.
Can you relate?
We could do anything, we think, if we only had enough willpower. Determination.
But what if I told you that willpower isn’t the solution? What if relying on our willpower is actually part of the problem?
And what if we’re setting ourselves up by relying on this overly-simplistic equation?
Instead of white-knuckling yourself into submission, what if you could approach your creative work with curiosity and excitement? What if you could approach it with a sense of expansion instead of constriction?
That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Turns out, there’s a much better way to motivate yourself.
And the first step is by starting with a more meaningful goal.
Create More Meaningful Goals
Start by creating a gift-goal for yourself instead of a should-goal. What’s a gift-goal? Something that truly feels like a gift to you—unlike those heavy shoulds.
Let me give you an example. Earlier this year, I found myself buried under a heap of to-dos. There were a lot of moving pieces in my life and somewhere in there my writing time became another “should.” As in: I should write 3-4 times a week, even though I didn’t have the time or the energy. But I’m pretty good at white-knuckling things if I need to, so that’s what I did.
What ended up happening is that I lost some of the joy that comes from my writing process. And that sacred time I’d set aside to work on my story became another chore on an already-long list of to-dos.
For me, that’s one of the quickest roads to burnout. It can lead to resentment if not outright rebellion. And it’s not sustainable in the long run.
Once I could step back and reframe my narrative around my writing as a gift-goal, my energy shifted dramatically. Instead of writing 3-4x/ week to finish this damn project (hear the should and white-knuckling in there?), I chose a gift-goal of using my writing time to explore a family story that I’ve been curious about.
Do you see the difference? The gift-goal is much more spacious and freeing. It allows me to play as well as explore. And it brings me joy during the writing, instead of waiting for some pie-in-the-sky final payoff (i.e.: I’ll be so happy once I finish this dang project! Until then, I suffer. Pain, suffering, repeat. Yuck.).
That’s the power of shifting your should-goal to a gift-goal.* That’s why you want to start by creating more meaningful goals.
Now it’s your turn:
How can you can reframe your writing goal in a way that would feel energizing, nourishing or fulfilling for you? How can you create a writing goal that truly feels like a gift?
Set Yourself Up for Success
Once you’ve identified your gift-goal, create the support and structure you’ll need to succeed.
Without the right structure and support, it’s easy to fall back into the trap of relying on our willpower. Hunkering down, pushing through, yadda yadda.
Instead, let’s consider it from a logistical/ support angle.
Take a few minutes to journal about the questions below. Your answers will help you identify the structure and support you’ll need to succeed.
- What are the strengths you’re bringing to this writing project?
- What other resources can you bring to this writing project? Time, money, relationships?
- Who can be a champion for you around this writing goal?
- Who can be a source of accountability?
- How can you build this writing goal into your life? What in your life/ schedule needs to be adjusted to make room for this writing goal?
- How can you make your writing goal the default? How can you make it so that it’s harder not to write than it is to write?
Last, but certainly not least, plan for the dips. Plan for the times you’ll get stuck and lose motivation. All writers fall off the wagon, and that’s simply a part of the process. It has nothing to do with willpower.
Accept that and build in additional support to help you get back on track. Look at the places you tend to get stuck, and what kind of support you had (or didn’t have) when things got wonky. Consider what your inner critic was saying.
All of this is invaluable information to help you get back on track. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a writer. It simply means that it’s time to tweak and adjust.
Then double-check that you’re working with a gift-goal and not a should-goal. Check that you’ve set yourself up for success.
Writing a memoir can be challenging. But it can also be a deeply meaningful endeavor. And it’s a heck of a lot easier with the right structure and support.
If you’re looking for support writing your memoir, I’d like to invite you to join us for the April cohort of Memoir Mastery.
We start on April 6, 2021.
Memoir Mastery: How to Write a Compelling Memoir
In this comprehensive 9-week course, you’ll go from feeling alone, confused and overwhelmed to feeling excited and supported in the power of your story, clear in its scope, and confident in the craft and technique of creating a compelling memoir.
With 6 online modules, 7 live coaching calls and a private community forum, you’ll get plenty of support and accountability as well as laser-focused coaching within a wonderfully supportive community. You’ll leave this course with a strong foundation for your memoir as well as a clear set of next steps.
How it Works
The keys to writing memoir are getting the right structure, accountability, encouragement and support. That’s why I’ve built the following pieces into this course:
- 2 “on-ramp” bonus trainings to help you get your (mindset) game on and set up a writing schedule you can adhere to.
- 6 online modules covering craft and technique as well as weekly mindset tips. Each module is broken into bite-sized steps, with downloadable video trainings and supporting PDFs accessible to you for the lifetime of the course.
- 7 live group coaching calls (we’ll meet on Zoom, and all calls will be recorded in case you’re unable to make it).
- Support and feedback for your short writing exercises (up to 15 pages total).
- Private forum for Q&A, support and accountability.
- 4 “lift-off” bonus interviews with authors, editors and book reviewers to clarify next steps.
To read a full description of the course, click here.
Here’s what alumni have said about the course:
Thank you! I was so alone as a writer – the community and having a place to ask questions of other writers (not just friends and family) was so helpful. Your input and experience was so valuable. I’m so glad I found the course!
This amazing course has given me the courage and inspiration to get on with my memoir. The whole set up is unique, especially since there are videos for each segment (which you can review for 2 years) and then you get to ask questions in a group setting for each module. The use of wonderful examples from other memoirs, got me steeped in the literature. Tanja is a wonderful teacher! –AMH
I am so grateful that at 8 weeks I am fully organized and have a regular writing routine. At this rate, I will have my first draft of the book completed within 2 months. I am so grateful for the support and help . . . . So thank you, Tanja Pajevic and my fellow writers for helping me get where I am today! And, I am really, really enjoying the writing and feeling quite delighted by how this is turning out. –Elena Davis
Thank you so much for this wonderful class! It has not only helped me shape my story and helped me to see in my mind’s eye how it will unfold, but it has really motivated me to get it written and out there. I really needed both the instruction and the motivational push to do it. Thank you!
For a full course description (as well as to register) please click here.
We start on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
Remember: writing isn’t about willpower. It’s about setting yourself up to succeed.
This week, clarify your gift-goal. Then identify one or two concrete, specific ways you can set yourself up for success. I’d love to hear how it goes!
P.S.: *Some of these ideas have been shared courtesy of Tara Mohr. Much of what I’ve learned from her teaching dovetails nicely with my focus on kindness, compassion and self-care–all essential ingredients when it comes to writing memoir.
P.P.S.: If you know someone would could benefit from these notes, please share this post with them or encourage them to join our community here. I’ll send them a copy of my Story Starter Kit as a thank you.
P.P.S.: As always, please reach out with questions. Hit “reply” or email me directly at tanja [at] tanjapajevic [dot] com.
Thanks for a wonderful piece on gift-goal vs. should-goal. Anita
Thanks, Anita! I’ll be curious to hear how it works for you if you decide to try it —