4 Ways to Stay Motivated During a Hectic Life (Second Draft Journal #3)

Second Draft Journal is a series of posts in which I randomly discuss things that occur to me during my process of writing my second draft of my WIP. Today I’m tackling how I make sure I stay motivated.

Staying motivated. It’s a broad topic. Everyone has their own tips. Here are some ways that I’m kept myself feeling good about writing and itching to sit down and write, even if my hectic school schedule doesn’t allow me the time.

SDJ staying motivated

1. “High Scores”

So I talked a while back about the spreadsheet I keep in which I track how many words I write per day. The spreadsheet itself is a useful motivation tool–it gives me a kick in the pants when I haven’t written in a while, and it challenges me to sit back down and write more when I realize that I only added 900-ish words in a day.

Recently, I took it a step further and decided to keep track of my “high score”–the most words I’ve written in a day, to date. Right now my high score is 4,071 words. I know that’s pretty low in the grand scheme of things, but if I write that many words (or get close) I’m proud of myself.

What I specifically like about the high score motivation tactic is that it is a pleasing balance of motivating without being a lot of pressure. I know that not every day that I sit down to write will be a high score-setting day, but when I can tell that I’m on a role and the words are flowing well, the high score pushes me to stay in the chair for a little while longer and hit a new “best.”

2. Monthly Word Count Goals

I’ve also set myself a goal of adding at least 10,000 words to my WIP a month. For August, I’ve already achieved this (13,000, like what?!), but I know I’ll still keep writing. I like that the goal is low enough that if I have a rough month, I can still accomplish it, but that I still want to keep writing after I achieve it. The goal of getting higher and higher above that baseline monthly target will keep me motivated.

3. Reading Just Enough Writing Advice to Keep My Head in the Game

I wrote a post a little while ago about the debilitating effect that reading other people’s writing advice can have on my self-confidence. While this can still trip me up, I make sure that I expose myself to writing advice fairly regularly. Whether it is a random pin that comes up in my Pinterest feed or a Chuck Wendig post, I make sure to check out writing advice blog posts when they cross my path. I tend not to spend a lot of time reading them–just glancing at the main headings and skimming the paragraphs. This way, I get a dose of writing advice that keeps me thinking about writing and that points me in the right direction, but I don’t get bogged down in specifics or self-doubt. Other times, when I have more downtime, I’ll go back and really focus on the writing advice that I found, sometimes taking notes or bookmarking especially great pieces.

Reading other people’s writing advice gives me confidence (if I’m already doing what was suggested), makes me think (in a good way), or helps me find my way through a rough patch (like a scene or a relationship that I can’t quite make work). Making sure I read posts like that regularly keeps my head in the writing game.

4. Fall Asleep Thinking About My Story

I find it is much easier to sit down and write a scene that I have already run through in my head a few times. I usually do this while I’m falling asleep, playing out different ways a scene could happen, playing with character reactions and personalities. It gives me something to think about, and distracts me from anything that is stressing me out–my WIP is kind of a happy place for me. Making sure that I think about what is coming up next in my story (or just a part of the plot that I need to develop further) when I’m falling asleep also connects my WIP to my daily life, even if I didn’t write that day. Often, if a writer goes a long time without writing, it is hard to come back to the story; I’ve found that keeping the story close by when I’m not writing makes it easier to come back. 

How do you stay motivated? Have you tried any of these methods?

Why Do I Write?

This week’s Flash Fiction Contest is not about fiction. Author and fountain of writing advice Chuck Wendig has challenged us this week to write 1000 words about what drives us to write. 

I’ve been writing forever. I was writing novels in fourth grade, cringing and rewriting them in fifth grade. Sharing chapters with my friends in middle school and wishing I hadn’t in the first months of high school. I don’t have any memory of choosing to write–it just happened. Someone put a laptop in front of me, I got a crazy idea about fairies and dragons, and everything else enfolded from there.

My first novel was called After We Waited for Ever, and I thought the title was the cleverest pun in the world. To be honest, I’m still really proud of it, and the story that it created. I stopped writing it when it became clear that it was no longer the story I needed to write, but I still remember those characters.

Looking back on my writing career since I started high school, it can charitably be described as stop-and-start. I’ve been working on my current WIP (Devil May Care–another title I’m rather fond of) since freshman year. My writing productivity is lackluster. Inertia is my byword. Everything gets in the way, and on bad days, the urge to write feels more like a guilt trip than a friendly reminder.

But even when I’m not writing, because of school’s stress or summer’s laziness, I always have an itch to sit down and write. I always open the Word Document again, put my hands back on the keyboard, and find my characters’ voices again.

I cannot imagine a world in which I don’t identify as a writer. I have my characters inside of me, my themes and plots always buzzing around in my mind. I keep a notebook by the side of my bed to jot down late night inspirations. I leave myself electronic sticky notes on my phone and my laptop’s desktop with plot notes and reminders to write. My Devil May Care (secret) Pinterest board is one of my most commonly used boards. I always come back to my story, even if it takes a few months without it to remember why I need it.

When I’m writing, I know I’m a writer. There is no feeling like hitting a groove and letting the words tumble out of you and onto the paper. Writing is the best outlet for emotion I know, the best therapy money can buy, the best escape I can find. To write fiction is to play a game of cat and mouse with the ideas trapped inside of you–and I crave the satisfaction of winning.

I write to meet the people inside of me. The rebellious girl, the flirtatious guy, the bully, the power-hungry ruler, the scared teenager, the fighter, the best friend, the older brother, the ex. To watch people fight and fall in love and do stupid things and find friendship and rise to the challenge of being themselves.

I write to figure out what I think about the world, to have the voices inside of me debate the issues of politics and feminism and the American school system on paper.

I write to explore the things that terrify me and challenge the assumptions that ground me.

I write because how else would I know what I’m thinking?

I write because I can’t stop reading.

I write because when I’m falling asleep, my thoughts trip on themselves and become poetry. I write because words can’t stop rearranging themselves in my mind.

I write because if I get the words in the right order, sometimes people shut up and listen.

I write because people tell me I’m good at it. I write because writing a novel seems like something that could get me into college.

I write because I want someone someday to read my books and understand something about themselves that they’d never realized before.

I write because it is the hardest thing that I’ve ever tried to do.

I write because I am a writer, and I’m not ready to give up.

Beautiful People — Author Edition

I just found this link-up and decided to take part. It’s about writing, not reading, and I’ve been meaning to draw more of my writing life into this blog, so this was a fortunate find!

Beautiful People is a monthly linkup hosted by Paper Fury (details here) that helps writers get to know their characters and their writing. This month is a special Author edition focusing on the writer instead of the writing.

beautiful people

1. How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a ‘writer’?

Though it sounds cheesy, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I think I officially identified as a writer when I started my first novel WIP, which was fourth grade? Ish?

2. How/why did you start writing?

I’ve always been a reader, so I think being a writer was a natural transition. My mom also writes so I had that as a model. Once I started, I never really stopped.

3. What’s your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is when I start a scene and I don’t really know what is going to happen and then the characters just kind of take over and awesomeness ensues. Some of the best things I’ve ever written have happened accidentally.

Building off of that, I love meeting the characters I create. I usually have an idea of who they will be when I start to write, but they evolve into their own people as the WIP progresses.

4. What’s your biggest writing struggle?

Finding time and energy to write. I’m a high school student, and when I do have free time, I’m usually too tired to sit down and commit myself to writing. It sucks and I’m trying to fix it.

5. Do you write best at night or day?

Late at night or early in the morning. I really love writing at night when everyone else is in bed and it’s just me and my laptop.

6. What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!)

Anywhere my laptop is? On my couch. I don’t know. I write everywhere.

7. How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft?

Wow, I have no idea. I can’t even answer this question. I’ve finished drafts of novels, but I have no idea how long it takes me. My writing process is extremely drawn out because of school.

8. How many projects do you work on at once?

I’m writing one novel right now. I have other ideas but I can’t imagine trying to split my limited time between two WIPs. I write short stories that sometimes become novel-esque, but I usually drop them (to come back to at a later time) when they get that long so I can go back to my current project.

9. Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between?

Again, I have no idea. Overly happy endings bother me, as do overly sad ones. When I write an ending, I just want it to tie up the story, and if that happens in a happy or a sad way, then that’s what I’ll write I guess.

10. List a few authors who’ve influenced your writing journey.

From Ally Carter I get a love of ridiculous plot lines. From Libba Bray I get the bravery to write candidly about sensitive societal subjects. From Megan Whalen Turner I get a love of intricate details that you only notice the third time you read a book.

I get a slightly new writing style from every book I read, I think. Sometimes, I just pick up a turn of phrase or a cool way to describe something, other times I come up with a whole new way to write character voice or structure a plot. It depends.

11. Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not?

Only my sister (if it comes to my WIP).

For lesser stuff (poems, short stories) I’ll have either my sister or my mom read it, and then I’ll post it to my blog.

12. What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream?

To be published. And to have my book be successful, but really that’s less important to me. I’d love to be published before I leave high school, or right as that happens–but there is probably no way that happens.

13. If you didn’t write, what would you want to do?

Um…I have no idea? Probably I’d learn to draw. Or paint, or something artsy.  And I’d cook more.

14. Do you have a book you’d like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it yet?

Probably. I have a lot of ideas for other novels, but I definitely think I’d write them better if I were older. Basically, I need to actually life a little before I write about it–you know?

15. Which story has your heart and won’t let go?

My old WIP After We Waited for Ever. It was middle grade fantasy and I dropped it when I started reading YA and wanted to write something in that age range. I still love the characters and the story and plan to come back to it someday.

What about you? Are you a writer? What is your approach to writing?