When All Else Fails: Writing motivation

As you might be able to tell from the fact that this post is two days late, I’ve been having a little bit of a problem with focus and motivation. My WIP, Sigyn, is actually going well for once, but other writing is proving a little difficult just now.

I’ve been trying to work out ways to beat the Instant Gratification Monkey and get my writing underway. I’m a freelancer now, and I need to make those word counts, get those pitches written and submitted, and keep away from Netflix and Facebook while I’m doing it. For a while, I did consider trying the technique Katherine Rundell described at a talk of hers I went to (write a cheque to an organisation she hated and give it to a trusted family member, with the instruction that if she didn’t make her daily word count, the cheque had to go in the post). But I decided against this in the end, because I was fairly sure I would fail.

So, I’ve come up with other strategies to motivate myself. Some work better than others…


Motivational Music

I have my various writing playlists, and a lot of the time, these do help. I generally need something upbeat and instrumental – film soundtracks, orchestral versions of pop songs, any electro swing that doesn’t have too many distracting lyrics (for some reason, I can’t write words if I’m hearing other words).

Sometimes, though, this music doesn’t do the trick. When this happens, I have to resort to scare tactics:

It isn’t subtle, but it works.



My willpower is strangely variable. It works fine when it comes to long projects – writing a book, doing a PhD – but with moment-to-moment stuff, it’s nonexistent. If I tell myself I’m going to work for an hour, I’ll generally manage about ten minutes before I drift over to Facebook or Twitter for a quick look at whatever’s going on.

I use the extension StayFocusd to, well, stay focused, and limit the amount of time I fritter away on social media. It also has an incredibly useful tool called ‘The Nuclear Option’, where you can completely block all websites for a set amount of time, without being able to change your mind and cancel – just in case you really can’t trust yourself.


Tell and Show

This is a last resort, but sometimes, it’s been necessary. If I really need to do something, and really feel the urge not to do it, I’ll explain the task to my friends and make them promise to mock me mercilessly if I don’t get it done.


Some of my friends enjoy this a bit too much.



About Alice Nuttall

Alice Nuttall is a caffeine-guzzling knitter who divides her time between Oxford and the various worlds in her head. She is the author of a YA fantasy novel, Spider Circus, and three webcomics, Footloose, Cherry, and Black Market Magic, as well as several short stories.
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