Staying motivated on long-term writing projects

It’s the start of a new month. By this time in the year, many people have dropped their New Year’s resolutions. Even though it takes an average of 32 days to develop a new habit, many people give up on their goal before that. Staying motivated on long-term projects in particular is hard. A combination of busy schedules not knowing where to start are usually the reasons people don’t reach their goals. Still, you can start fresh on the first day of any month.

For writers, some common writing goals for the year include finishing a draft, completing revisions, or meeting a daily word count. These goals seem huge. How can you complete a novel-length draft in a year, let alone revise one? Here are some easy tips to stay motivated on long-term writing projects.

Make an outline. Check on it.

Did you make an outline of your story at the beginning of the year? Check in with yourself. What part of the story are you at? Are you stuck on the first chapter? The middle section? If you outlined a schedule, have you been keeping to it? Where are you finding it difficult to stick to your outline?

Being honest with yourself and your schedule is essential for staying motivated. It’s okay to adjust your outlines based on where your writing project takes you. If you’re only able to write for two hours a day instead of three, change your outline. If you can write 1,000 words on the weekends, but only 300 words during the week, make that your new goal for the rest of the year. Reward yourself for what you can accomplish.

Keep a calendar or to-do list to stay motivated

Physically crossing off the items on your to-do list trains your brain to be more productive. It feels good. It’s an accomplishment. It motivates you to do more. It’s a relief that it’s done. When we experience any of these feelings, our brain releases dopamine.

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Staying motivated on long-term writing projects requires some kind of system. Some writers write scenes or plot points on index cards and rearrange them as they write. This keeps the momentum of their novel going. Others make checklists of what needs to happen in each chapter. Once you’ve found a way to track your progress, it’ll be easier to fall into a routine and stay motivated writing. For 18 varied and helpful writing tips to motivate you to write, take a look at Become a Writer Today’s blog post.

Use your project as a way to relax

Life is busy, especially as we all settle into remote work. Jobs, families, and everyday errands seem to eat up any free time in our day. Try to use your project as a way to relax. Think of it as something to look forward to at the end of the day.

We loved reading this Trello article on why it’s important to keep your passion projects. Not only have studies shown that we’re more authentic outside of the workspace, but taking time for the things we love can improve productivity at work. Staying motivated to write is a way to refuel our brain and body. Look at your writing project as a break from classwork and your job. As the article points out, “If it makes you happy, make the time.”

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