Writing is hard. As Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Keeping up your motivation and momentum on a writing project or dissertation can be challenging when you have other obligations like work or family, but the fact remains that at the end of the day, the work has to get done. Here are some ways to help you get there.
- Commit to a daily time goal for writing or a daily word/page count. When you do this, it’s important to commit to something reasonable and doable, especially at first. If you set your goal too high, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up or slack off. You might want to set a range; for instance, instead of saying you’ll write 1k words a day, you might aim for 600-1000. This way, if you’re having a slower day, meeting the lower end of the range still means you hit your goal. If you set a daily time goal, it’s important to give yourself enough time to do a significant amount of work; aim for hours rather than minutes, since you may need some warm-up time.
- Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect, or even good, when you first get it on the page. Good writing involves rewriting, more rewriting, and yet more rewriting. You’re going to have multiple drafts of each chapter, and editing, and feedback from professors and readers – but you won’t have any of that if you don’t get anything on the page to begin with. So when you first write, it’s important to get it on the page. You will come back to it and improve it, but first just get it down.
- Keep writing accessible. You’ll have ideas or brainstorming at times when you’re not writing, so you might want to either keep a small notebook with you or near you at all times or use the Notes app on your cellphone. Just jotting down notes here and there can help you with the next day’s work. Which leads us to the next tip…
- Plan ahead. At the end of each day’s writing, you might want to leave little notes for the next day’s writing with themes or ideas you want to get to or explore in the future, so that you’re never without a prompt or food for thought, even if you don’t end up writing about it that day.
- Take a break. This seems counterintuitive, right? You need to hit a word goal and yet we’re telling you to take a break? What? Yes! No one does well with a constant daily grind. Give yourself a day (preferably two) off each week (but make sure that you’re still meeting your goals otherwise) to recharge and get away from the subject matter. You’ll find that time away keeps it fresh and your brain needs that break.
- Unplug. Sometimes we don’t even realize just how distracted we are and how it impacts our work. When you sit down to write, close your other tabs, sign out of your email and social media (Facebook, Slack, twitter), and turn your phone on silent – or better yet, put it away completely. Utilize website/internet blocking apps like FocusMe or Freedom so that you’re not tempted by distraction.
- Use positive reinforcement. Reward yourself for goals met. Set some word count goals and each time you meet them, give yourself a little treat. This can be going to a movie, splurging on a really nice dinner, or something as simple as ordering your favorite coffee drink or spending the afternoon watching movies or television. Whatever keeps you moving forward.
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