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  • Writer's pictureJ J Hanna

Gaining the Motivation to Accomplish Step Two

Last November, I took part in a world-wide writing challenge called NaNoWriMo. In what writers fondly call Nano, we attempt the seemingly impossible: we try to write a novel in a month. For many writers, this is going too fast. The minimum word length for a novel is 50,000 words. That’s around 12,500 words a week!

In the aftermath of this focused writing, I now have a story that is nearing 75,000 words long. (Might this become my first series? That would be fun!) However, before I can even think about having this become a series, I have to finish writing the story. After the writing part, which can take a few months to a few years, comes the editing part. This is the part of writing no one tells aspiring writers about. It’s tirelessly pouring over the words you thought were masterpieces when you wrote them in the heat of the moment and crossing half of them out, realizing you could say what you said in six words in two, or adding in scenes you didn’t realize weren’t “official” yet. Regardless, the editing process seems to take at least three times longer than the initial writing process. Aspiring writers, be warned.

No matter what it is I’m doing, whether I'm moving from writing to editing, moving from writing the “to do” list to actually doing what’s on the “to do” list, or making the switch from waking up to actually getting out of bed, I find that step two tends to take much more focus and determination than step one did. So, for the people procrastinating homework, or trying to buckle down and get focused, here are some practical things to do in order to get started.

1. Do something with a time limit.

One of the times I’m most productive is when I’m doing laundry. I set a timer on my phone for when it’ll be ready to be moved, and in the following two half hour segments my mind is clear enough to get stuff done. That way, not only am I done with most of my homework, but I’ve also finished my laundry! It’s like killing two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.

2. Meet your physical needs.

I often forget to eat because I’m focused, but this works both ways. Your body and brain require nutrients to function properly, and without taking a short break from productive behavior, you’re more likely to burn out and not feel motivated to keep on working. Hemingway gave this advice to writers, "The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.” By following this advice, the theory is that you’ll always have something to come back to and know what you’re going to do next. So, stop halfway through, get a healthy snack and a glass of water, or maybe a cup of tea or coffee if you’re feeling a little drowsy, and then return to the tasks at hand.

3. Do something drastically different.

If you’ve been sitting at a desk all day, go for a walk. If you’ve been unfocused all day, hopping from thing to thing, sit down and doodle something in a sketch book (it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be completed in one sitting), or maybe sit down and play an instrument for a short amount of time. Put effort into it and use your brain to its fullest advantage. Changing it up can help to jump start your focus when you return to what it is you’ve been working on or trying to work on.

Hopefully, as I continue working on my novels and keeping up with school, you’ll also feel motivated to do something productive. Hold onto that feeling and follow it. Go enjoy yourself!

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