Aka How to Keep Writing When Your Motivation Stinks
Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I receive compensation if you purchase through this link, and I fully appreciate your support.
Logically, freelance writing should be quite easy. You land an assignment, write the assignment, turn in the assignment, and repeat. If you love to write or have a lot to say, it should be easy to throw words down on paper, right? Don’t we all wish?
Freelance writing can take a lot of motivation, self-discipline, and creativity. Most writers will agree that they have a love-hate relationship with writing, even though they would never trade freelancing for any other career. Sometimes you just hit a burn out and other times the pressures of life make it hard for you to write that article.
You Are Not the Only One
I have written a lot of articles for publication—over a few thousand easily. You would think I would be a machine at this point and never struggle with motivation. If only! It is a natural feeling that both new writers and experienced freelancers face because we are human. We aren’t robots, and the pandemic was a good reminder for me that what is happening in the world can easily affect my mental health.
If you think lack of motivation is a sign that freelancing isn’t for you, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Yes, your feelings might have some validation if you truly hate writing and never feel satisfied with finishing your piece. BUT if you love writing once you get into the groove and love the thrill of pitching ideas to see what gets accepted, then it sounds like you are a normal freelancer to me.
If that’s the case, steal some of my motivation-boosting tips whether you need help finding the desire to pitch new clients or you’re on a tight deadline. You don’t have time to wait for the muse to strike.
Train Yourself to Get in the Groove
Yes, you can actually train your mind to get in the writer’s flow faster. I have done it several times for different seasons of my life—in seasons of writing at the noisy coffee shop, to seasons of writing at 4 a.m., and seasons of working at night after the kids go to bed. Here are a few things that help train the mind:
- Same spot: Pick a spot in your home, preferably not a spot you use for sleeping or TV watching, and sit there each time you need to write.
- Signal music: One indie author had a quick playlist he would play each time he wanted to write. He only listened to it before he was going to write. I have tried this before with a certain song, and I think it worked. I prefer to do a little routine before my writing, which I’ll share shortly.
- Signal scents: Another successful indie author, Sarra Cannon, buys a new candle for each book she is writing. I sometimes also diffused one of those MLM essential oil company’s “brain power” oils while working and enjoy it.
- Flow time: There are some hours in the day that you are just in a better writing zone than others. I write optimally between 9 to 11 a.m. I also take care of my three kids all day, so that optimal time only happens if my husband is home. If you have the flexibility to try out different time chunks, go for it. If not, don’t fret. Picking a time chunk that you can repeat constantly is equally as helpful.
Timed Cleaning/Exercise Switch Offs
On days I don’t want to write, I will also set a timer and try to tackle 15 minutes of focused writing. I will then switch to five to 10 minutes of cleaning. Exercise would also work, and I should probably try that sometime — my glutes would thank me. I had tried to reward my focus time with Youtube time, but it was too hard to switch back over to focusing. The cleaning breaks help me get some energy/anxiety out as well as get a few chores tackled.
Save It for the Morning
On nights you are trying to muster writing motivation but feel like your tank is empty, save it for the morning. I am a much better writer when I admit my limits for the night, get a full night’s rest and wake up early the next morning to work. Sometimes the brain just needs to recharge and having a midnight cup of coffee is not going to help you power through (ask me how I know).
In order to help myself wake up ready to tackle an assignment, I go to bed with it in my brain. I will read my content brief or assignment, and maybe even do light research on the topic if needed. I only want to spend 20 minutes reviewing before I start my bedtime routine to help me unwind at the end of the day. This way I won’t overstimulate my brain and keep myself awake.
Sometimes I will think about the assignment as I drift off to sleep, but many times I don’t. Just starting my day early with the assignment’s details fresh in my brain is enough to help me get a jump start on the piece when I wake up.
Motivate Yourself with 15-Minute Increments
If something can be gamified in my life, you better believe I will gamify it. I am the type of person that will challenge myself to finish folding a pile of laundry before a song is up or will try to create unique recipes from random stuff found in my fridge and pantry.
Before I start an article, I will sometimes write out a goal schedule for myself. I will have a goal or a certain word count for each 15-minute increment. Of course, if I meet my goal, I will highlight it in green or put a smiley face next to it. This process seems too simple-minded and juvenile as I describe it, but it has helped me countless times to focus and get moving. Here’s what it might look like on top of the Google doc I’m working on:
- 9:30-9:45- 150 words – 54 words ahead
- 9:45-10:00- 200 words
- 10:00-10:15 – 250 words
- 10:15-10:30 – catch up on words