Let’s face it: writing is hard. The bigger the project, the more onerous it can feel to get our butt in the chair and write that research paper or book manuscript. Motivation lags, momentum slows, and we start to wonder why we even chose this dratted topic in the first place.
If your academic or career path involves writing down your thoughts, you will invariably hit a wall at some point. If you can relate, read on!
In honour of February being the month of love, let’s explore five strategies to rekindle our love affair with our topic, rouse our motivation, and get back on track.
1. Reconnect with your why
What a simple and powerful word.
Midway through a degree program or book manuscript, we can start to think we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Will there ever be an end to all this work? How are we going to get it all done in time? We get mired in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
When you catch yourself thinking only about the what and the how, it’s time to reconnect with the why.
He who has a why to live with can bear almost any how.
You’ve likely seen Nietzsche’s quote before, but have you internalized it? When you are connected to the big picture you first dreamed of, the meaningful larger impetus behind your small steps, your steps become more purposeful. Lighter. It becomes easier to summon your motivation when you need it.
Remember where you’re going and why it matters. When you do, the chair looks more inviting and the writing seems less tedious.
2. Imagine you’re already there
We say we want to write a book or complete a graduate degree program, but often what we really want is to have written the book or have completed the program. Right? Won’t it feel good to be DONE?
Well, nothing is preventing you from tapping into that good feeling today. You can do it now. Close your eyes and imagine that you have already finished.
You’re done! You did it! Your writing project is complete, you’ve aced it, everyone is happy dancing. (We do a lot of happy dancing here at Editarians on behalf of our clients.)
Sit with that feeling of completion and satisfaction for a few moments. How do you feel as the person who has already achieved the goal? I’ll bet it sparked some good feelings.
Take that sense of inspiration and accomplishment and turn it into motivation to fuel your next writing session.
3. Nail down your decisive moment
In Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses the power of decisive moments, which he describes as the choices “that deliver an outsized impact.” We get out of bed and work out … or we hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. We sit down at our desk to write and open up our word processor … or we open up a browser tab and scroll through social media. That one moment of decision is a fork in the road that sets the trajectory for how we spend our next block of time.
What is your decisive moment for writing? Get clear about it. Pinpoint the choice that determines the cascade of next actions, then set your intention to nail that moment.
4. Acknowledge the struggle
We tend to compare our messy middle to somebody else’s finish. “She’s already done her dissertation, and I still have two chapters.”
Because we’re looking at that person’s success, we don’t see the struggle. Soon we’re convinced that it’s somehow easier for everyone else. As a result, our motivation ebbs.
Sorry to burst your balloon, but those people struggled too. Go back up and re-read the first line of this article: writing is hard.
Can you do it? Yes, of course you can! Are you supposed to be able to do it effortlessly? Free from distraction and procrastination? No!
Cut yourself some slack and stop comparing your messy middle to somebody else’s finish. To that end …
5. Mind the gap
This final tip is a beauty from Dan Sullivan, who noticed that talented, high-performing, and ambitious individuals tend to live in what he calls “the gap.” No matter how much progress they are making, they are perpetually dissatisfied because they measure where they are against the ideal they have set for themselves.
In other words, they keep looking at their goal, seemingly so far away, and noticing only how much more of a gap there is to reach it. The key, says Sullivan, is to measure “by looking from where you are back to where you started and seeing all the progress you’ve made.”
You may have far to go, but how far have you come? If you’re feeling discouraged, are you living in the gap? If so, the simple remedy is to start measuring what you’ve accomplished.
Don’t lose sight of your goal, but don’t measure forward, either. Mind the gap and measure backwards.
Pick one of these strategies to try today. Did it help you sit down and write? Do you have a go-to strategy for getting words on the page? We’d love to have your feedback in the comments below.