10 ideas to help writers get it in gear

If you’re feeling uninspired, lethargic or fresh out of ideas, try these smart tips to shake off the procrastination blues and start pumping out prose.


Some days, even when a deadline is looming and the boss is getting restless, motivation is hard to summon.

It’s simply not there. Ideas don’t arrive, but distractions do. You need a jump-start, and you need it fast. Sound familiar?

Here are 10 tips for getting down to business—even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing:

1. Challenge yourself to beat the clock.

“Often when I struggle with motivation, I use the power of the pendulum,” writes Kevin Daum at Inc. He continues:

I set myself small tasks in specific, small time increments. Getting the first few completions triggers good feelings that make me want more. Set up three or four 10-minute tasks and drive for the finish.

2. Turn solo work into a team effort.

“Flagging motivation can strike at any time, but if you use a ‘buddy system’ while working on your goals, you’ll be able to motivate one another and hold each other accountable,” suggests Mind Fuel Daily. “Your support system can take the form of a co-worker or business partner, a trusted friend, a peer working on something similar, a mastermind group, or even a life coach.”

3. Get out for some green.

“Researchers have found in two studies that surrounding yourself with a bit of green provides a boost in motivation; and also that a glimpse of the color green sparks creativity,” writes Dan Wang at Buffer. He exhorts writers:

Go outside! Are there at least a few patches of grass by your workplace? Go out and walk in these places.

4. Forget the goal, find the fun.

“Put all thought of audience aside for the time being and find something pleasurable about what you’re trying to create,” writes Susan K. Perry at Psychology Today. Perry shares more wisdom:

If it’s not fun, figure out why not and make it more engaging for yourself. There’s nothing trivial about fun. It’s one of the many motivators that bring them back to the work they do, day in and day out.

5. Get moving, then get to work.

Sid Savara suggests:

My work sessions after running, high-energy workout music and a refreshing shower are some of the best work I’ll do all day. You don’t need to understand all the science: what you need to know is if you’re in a funk, and really hitting a wall with your work—you may be better off stepping away for a moment. Take a break and running, walk or stretch for half an hour—you’ll come back refreshed and ready to work.

6. Recognize that you can get stuff done even when you don’t feel like it.

“Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it?” asks psychologist Oliver Burkeman. He continues:

The problem, from this perspective, isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you’re procrastinating on as passing weather, you’ll realize that your reluctance about working isn’t something that needs to be eradicated or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings and work anyway.

If you’re stuck in a project and not quite sure which way to go, here are a few ideas to get back on course:

7. Give yourself permission to write badly (at first).

“At least for the early drafts, you need to just write,” says Courtney Carpenter at Writer’s Digest. “If you stop to judge, edit, delete and rewrite, you will be spending all your time playing reader or critic, not writer. For these early drafts, be gentle with yourself.”

8. Create imaginary, unrealistic deadlines.

“Try pretending you only have one hour to write today and that can be a good incentive to get on with it,” suggests Annabel Candy at WritetoDone. “Or ask yourself what you’d start or finish writing if you only had a month to live. These scare tactics do work and best of all no one has to die in the process.”

9. Write for yourself first.

“I’ve never once heard a successful creative talk about how they made something for someone else,” writes Patrick Armitage at Marketing Land. He goes on:

Authentic interest and enthusiasm from the creator rub off on the reader (or viewer). If you write for SEO, for social shares or for fleeting notoriety, you neglect your most important audience: you. And when you’re not excited about your subject, and you’re not excited to learn, guess what? The reader isn’t either.

10. Try to enjoy the process.

“It’s important to bring your mind into the present moment,” writes editor and blogger Peter Turley. “Enjoy the daily process of being a writer. If you can enjoy the process, then you’ve already achieved your goal. If you focus on the endpoint, you’ll quickly lose writing motivation.”

Kristen Dunleavy is Movable Ink’s senior content marketing manager. A version of this post first appeared on the Movable Ink blog.

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