inspiration, process

How to (stay motivated to) Write (consistently)

TLDR: Don’t set arbitrary goals. Use music to find a flow. Ignore my advice and find what works best for you.

It’s hard to write with the constant barrage of horrifying news: protesters disappearing in Hong Kong, protesters attacked by police in the US, a rash of lynchings dismissed as suicide, politicization of a deadly virus, negligence at the highest level of government.

And let’s face it, it’s hard to write in better times.

I can’t tell you what will work for you. I can tell you what’s worked for me.

First of all, word count targets have never worked for me. I inevitably inflate my prose and that just makes revision worse. I recently found a disgusting density of “suddenly” per sentence in a work in progress of mine. Fewer, better words are always better than more, inferior words.

Something that has worked for me is the X-effect.

This is a habit-building technique in which a record of daily successes builds upon itself, becoming its own motivation. However, there are important details to consider. When I first started the X-effect, I gave myself an X for each day that I did any writing, but eventually I found myself judging certain days of writing as insufficient to earn an X. Other days I set arbitrary requirements like finishing a chapter as necessary for earning an X.

What worked much better was this: If I begin writing, then I get an X.

For me, starting is the hardest part. I needed a catalyst to lower the activation energy and that is what the X-effect could be for me. Beginning writing simply meant I sat in front of an open document with the intent to write.

With this mindset, I ended up writing more, and with higher quality, than before.

Lastly and largest on my mind right now is flow. Getting into a flow is the best experience there is, but there are a million distractions. Supposedly George RR Martin writes on a computer that isn’t connected to the internet. That’s actually so someone doesn’t hack him and leak Game of Thrones content, but I imagine it’s also for limiting distractions.

I find that the best way to induce flow even when I’m not really feeling it is music and movement.

I play one of those multi-hour epic music mixes on youtube, sway to the music, punch keys in double-time to the music. I use this for writing, reading what I’ve written, and as I revise. Yes, even for revision.

And I have to change up the music. I eventually get too used to one mix and move on to another.

Some days I have to pick music with no lyrics, but usually all I need is a good beat, something that can move me. I discovered Meg Myers recently and I’ve been writing to mixes of her music and my current opinion is that she’s the dopest singer-songwriter I’ve ever heard.

Hopefully you’ve come away from this with something that can work for you. Share a comment on how you get into that writing state of mind if you’d like. Forgive yourself if you need to take some time off. Keep fighting for a better future for everyone. Black Lives Matter. Support a free Hong Kong. Vote in November. Wear a mask.


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