Tactics to Keep Up Your Motivation

Last week, I decided to use November and its NaNoWriMo as an excuse to challenge myself to publish some writing every day. Today is day 9 and this is my 9th blog post this month. I can feel my energy and motivation starting to flag.

I’m reminded of this article I read a few days back (and which, sadly, I can’t find right now) , by a NaNoWriMo veteran, where she talked about understanding and being prepared for what she called “the rhythm” of the challenge. We start energized, but about 10 days in or so things start to look worse — we’re tired and maybe even really disliking our writing. I am at the point where I can feel the doubts creeping in: “is this any good?” “what’s the point of doing this?”.

But I’m trying to push through, so I thought I would share some of the tactics I’m using to keep myself chugging along. These are some of the weapons in my inventory, perhaps some of them will work for you.

Note to self: +10 motivation and +5 energy

When this all started, I knew that maintaining momentum would be hard. So I wrote down a note for myself with detailing why I had decided to take up the challenge. Now, when I start thinking I should give up, I go and read my note and see if those motivations still hold. Turns out, they do. (It is interesting to note that some days some of my motives resonate more than others, and on the next day it will be the other way around. So it helps to have more than one reason.)

A buddy or two: +20 accountability and +10 energy

I shared my intention to write every day with some of my friends, and with my partner. Their encouragement and affirmation is very helpful. Yesterday I found myself saying “I haven’t written yet, I think maybe I’ll skip today”, but someone reminded me that it is about keeping momentum, not about producing something perfect. And that was enough to get me to write just one day more.

A timer with a short interval: +15 energy

I’ve been setting myself a 25-minute timer, calling it a “writing sprint” and typing away without editing. I’m willing to commit to 25 minutes to most things; 25 minutes doesn’t feel so hard. Once I’ve started, the energy and the words start flowing. Like now. (I wrote about my experiments working with a timer here.)

Light at the end of the tunnel: +20 motivation

I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow evening. I’ll be away for most of the week at a retreat center. I tell myself that, if it doesn’t feel right, I don’t need to be publishing anything while I’m on retreat. The retreat itself is about introspective writing, so I know I’ll be writing anyway (just not necessarily publishing). I can decide once I’m back if I want to pick up the challenge again or not. It helps to know that it is just a couple more days, that this daily challenge is not forever.

Community: +15 energy and +20 joy

One unexpected thing that’s been really helpful is the engagement of the dev.to community (where I’ve been cross-posting my writing). My original intent was to reach a broader audience (as far as I know, only my brother-in-law reads my blog; thanks Abe!). But the response on dev.to has been very supportive. Just having one or two thoughtful comments on a post make me feel like it is worthwhile to do this. (It is also, frankly, a little scary! Who am I to be having Opinions in Public? I might be wrong!) The responses have also helped me keep the conversation going, thinking and writing about more topics.