Let’s start with numbers.
A majority of the population (81% in the US) wants to write a book. I can’t remember where I heard the next statistics, but it sounds right: less than 3% of people who start to write a novel never type the final dot.
Why? Well, for multiple reasons — one of which certainly has to deal with motivation.
Truth is, writing day after day after day can be daunting. So how do writers do it? Divine inspiration? No. And yes (see Four Ways to Find Inspiration for your Writing). The answer is much drier: discipline.
1. Fight Off Distractions
Writing can often feel like an internal war.
The first step to take is to stop feeding the enemies!
Here’s the Top Wanted list: emails, Facebook (the whole Internet for that matter), the phone, food, TV, games. You know them.
When you choose to write, it helps to raise the flood gate and ignore the constant blabbering that’s going on outside your fortress of solitude. How is that accomplished? I usually go to the library (avoiding looking at the Web daily passcode as if it was some giant hairy tarantula) or anywhere else where I can remain disconnected. I recently started writing on paper again, just in case.
To sum up:
Turn off the phone.
Ditch it in a sock drawer.
Get out of the house.
Find a safe haven.
Smash your wireless port with a hammer.
And your good to go.
2. Build Your Willpower Muscle
You’ve just read the first tip, and you’re still thinking: “Yeah, whatever, Dexter’s on.”
Please continue reading.
Roy F. Baumeister knew all about willpower. He taught us that if we do not train our self-control muscles by restraining ourselves, we progressively lose that crucial ability.
He put it this way: “Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs or illicit sex”. Now we know why its so hard!
The good news is, writers can cultivate willpower by controlling their own behavior and exercising their willpower “muscle” little by little.
Developing this mental discipline can help writers — especially beginners — overcome procrastination, bring discipline into their lives and help them persevere in mastering their craft.
Just like at the gym, its recommended to grab the light weights first. For example, when you get back home, you can decide to store your shoes side by side in the closet instead of throwing them anywhere, and to do your dishes right away. Oh, and put those dirty clothes in the basket, avoid the “half-clean” pile.
Yeah, I know. Our mothers were right all along.
3. Try Mornings
I’m conscious that some people prefer to write in the evening (or even at night). But if you are struggling and can’t say no to friends or TV, why not try mornings?
The nice thing with the early hours is that nobody will ask you to go grab a beer or two (hopefully).
Most of us perform best in the late morning. If you don’t want to wait that long, taking a warm shower helps jump start the process.
You’ve tried and still can’t wake up with the birds? Another option would be to find the best spots during your day when you will be able to write. And block your agenda. It is that sacred.
4. Start Small
This is probably the best of the four.
I recently spent three months recovering from a concussion and for those who don’t know what this means, I can sum it up in two words: extreme boredom.
During that time, I stopped writing. To help me build my discipline back again, I had to trick my mind.
I decided to start real small. Like 100 words per day (you could probably go for 50 even). My old goal used to be 1,000 to 1,500 words. Writing only seven lines seemed like a joke, and so I sat down with a confident smile on my face.
Funny thing is: once you start, you never stop at 100. In the beginning, it came down to 200-250. Then 460, and 680. Last Monday, I wrote a “Stephen King like” 2,000 words!
(By the way, if you’ve always wanted a six-pack, this method works like magic. Just start with 8 to 12 sit-ups!)