7 Ways to Boost Your Creative Motivation

Filed in Boost Creativity, Productivity and Time Management by on November 13, 2017 • views: 2795

Congratulations Mel and Celia! You are the winners of Jadie’s giveaway. Watch your email for details and thank you to all who entered!

by Jadie Jones

When Colleen asked me if I would write a post for her about time management…

I laughed at the idea that I—a mom of three small kids, sole operator of a horse farm, and a writer who bounces back and forth between these areas of my life like a ping pong ball in a washing machine, who forgets what day it is, where I put things, that I’m supposed to cook dinner, that I was supposed to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer last night—had anything useful to say on the subject.

Life interrupted me before I could respond to her, and then I forgot that I hadn’t responded… for nine days.

That’s when I realized I do have something to say about time management, but not because I’m any good at it. I tend to procrastinate like I’m getting paid to wait.

I have something to say about time management because when it comes to time management, I quit.

It’s Not About Time—It’s About Motivation

For many of us, there are more things that need doing in a day than there are hours to do them. So how do you make time management work when there is literally no possible way to cram it all in and live to tell about it?

I have come to realize it isn’t about time. I don’t have time. It is about desire. Either I want it or I don’t. It really is that simple. So I have stopped managing my time. Instead, I now manage my motivation.

So what is motivation management, and how does it differ from time management?

When I was trying to manage my time, I was living for the windows of freedom I would try desperately to carve into my day. This tactic failed typically for one of two reasons:

  1. With three kids and seven animals to care for, somebody is going to decide that my schedule is for the birds, and that window I’ve worked all morning to set myself up for vanishes when naps are skipped somebody is sick, or a horse needs medical attention.
  2. I would be so distracted and irritated once the window actually arrived that I’d waste half my time scrolling through social media feeds trying to switch my brain from mom mode to writer mode.

With motivation management, my goal is to steep myself in the present, refrain from multi-tasking, and concentrate on what I can do well in the circumstance that I am in so that the goal in front of me—be it helping my daughter with her homework, working with one of the horses, laundry, or writing—can receive my undivided motivation and attention.

7 Ways to Manage Your Motivation

Motivation is a habit. Thoughts are patterns. If I’m constantly splitting them between two parts of my life, it’s no wonder I can’t stay motivated and focused when an opportunity comes where the best use of my time is to write.

1. Make deliberate choices.

The heart of the motivation management puzzle is to be absolutely present in whatever it is you’re doing: coloring with the kids, cleaning the house, walking the dog, talking to your significant other, eating a snack. Be in it. Experience it. See it, smell it, taste it, hear it.

We are writers. Our job is to make the reader feel something. But if we’re checked out of our own lives because we’re trying to cram in productivity by multi-tasking and splitting attention, how are we going to immerse our characters into their worlds when we refuse to tether ourselves to our own?

Just say no to multi-tasking (when you can help it.) I swear you’ll get more done and you’ll feel better doing it if you focus on one task at a time.

2. Put down the phone.

An easy way to be more immediately present in your daily life is to put down your phone. Don’t just put it down, put it away.

Even when we “just check something really quick” on our phones, it’s like inviting the person/article/meme/feed to the table with you and whoever you’re interacting with. Can you imagine inviting every Facebook friend stopping by “real quick” every evening? Or during every conversation you’re having with a friend or family?

If they’re in your mind, they’re at your table, and they’re definitely sitting with you at your desk while you’re trying to find the motivation to finish your story. More often than not, they’re not helping you add words to your manuscript, they’re just helping you talk about how you’re going to add words to your manuscript, and it’s been statistically proven the more you talk to others about a goal, the less likely you are to accomplish it

3. Find some activity to work as a counterbalance to writing.

I’m just going to say it: writing can be horrible, especially when it isn’t going well.

With so little time to devote to writing, when I feel like I’ve used a block of time badly, I can barely stand myself.

Having a counter-balance activity to writing saves my sanity, and helps me feel like I’ve accomplished a goal. A counter-balance activity works best when it is fairly mindless, but lets you see what you’ve accomplished as immediately as possible.

I clean stalls, rake the pasture, clean tack, walk a dog, scrub buckets, groom a horse; something where I take a mess and make it neat and tidy, and all the while my brain is doing the same thing: stacking pieces, tossing out trash, turning over little gems I’d forgotten about it, and more often than not, a door generally appears in whatever corner I’d written myself into, or a larger scale problem in a story comes into focus, and I can think my way through it.

4. Take care of yourself.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. This works two ways.

First: literally fill your cup. Drink water, and eat three meals a day. When I’m on deadline and trying to make it all work, the first thing to go is taking breaks to eat real food. This might work for a day, but the next day I’ll be battling headaches and feeling grumpy, exhausted, and scatter-brained, and all the corners I cut in self-care have now cost me a lot in the next day’s motivation.

A hydrated brain is a happy brain. Take care of your mind; there are stories in there depending on you.

Second: while writing can be horrible, it can also be awesome, especially when you know you’re getting somewhere with your work in progress.

We are writers because not writing is far more torturous than the worst day spent staring at a blinking cursor when the words won’t come. Writing can drain the cup, but it can also fill it. I am a better mother when I feel satisfied in the creative and professional areas of my life. Having my own interests makes me better for myself and better for my children.

Another aspect of self-care is to find ways to be physically active. It’s not good for anyone’s health to sit for extended periods of time. Writing is a stationary exercise. Get up and go do something—anything—that gets your heart rate up, even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes. My go-to quick workout is to jump on my kids’ trampoline for 10 minutes straight. It kicks my butt, clears my head, and helps my motivation bounce back.

5. Identify your procrastination pattern.

One Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in our oversized chair by the bay window in our living room. I was staring at the yard, lost in thought. My husband walked up to me and told me to get up and go write. I gave him an excuse.

He said: okay, you don’t have to go write, but you can’t sit here. You sit here when you want to do something and you want to avoid it at the same time. Get up. Go do something else. Anything else.

He was right. I sit in that chair when I want to ride but I’m worried about riding because as a mom of three I really, really don’t want to fall off. I sit in that chair when I want to write but I’d feel guilty for leaving my family to hide away in the barn loft and stare at a computer screen, especially if I’ve been slogging through a rough patch in my manuscript.

So now, if I catch myself sitting in that chair, staring at the yard, I make myself get up and go do anything: water the garden, pick up fallen limbs, mow the grass, and more often than not, it leads me back to the saddle or my desk, and I’m ready and motivated to ride or write.

It’s very likely that you have a proverbial chair by the window, too. If you can identify it, you can break the pattern as soon as you see it, and spend your time in a way that motivates you to keep going instead of encourages you into avoidance.

6. Know when to “walk out” of a scene.

Sometimes I’m so stuck in a scene I can’t manage to find my way out, and I stare at my screen with my fingertips jammed into my cheeks and glare. And feel guilty. And agitated. And then distracted, and sometimes I want to throw my hands in the air and declare I never wanted to be a writer anyway and whose idea was this?

If you find yourself in a black hole in your story and it’s killing your motivation, consider these two choices:

a) Evaluate the block in your story for size. If it’s a little hill between where you are and what you’re excited to write about, soldier on and get to that fun part. You’re coming to come back through and edit anyway, so who cares if it isn’t your best work?

Sometimes I’ll even put in a detailed outline or a note reminding myself of anything that needs to happen, or just do a rough text-sketch of the scene, and move on.

If it’s a mountain and you can’t see a way over, chances are there is something about the story you don’t fully understand yet. The good news: that’s okay. Leave this piece behind with a marker so you know you left a gap, and come back to it once you find the piece you were missing.

Your stories cannot be written in a single shot or a single day. So take that pressure off yourself and let something really stink if that’s what it is in the right-here-right-now.

b) If you can’t leave the scene, leave your desk. Go for a walk. Get some water. Go out to lunch with a friend. During some major revisions last year, I was struggling with my dialogue. I canned edits and went out to dinner with a couple friends, which is where I realized I hadn’t really spoken in natural conversation to another adult aside from my husband, my daughters’ teachers, and cashiers at the grocery store in weeks.

No wonder I couldn’t draft meaningful dialogue. I was literally out of practice. We write to capture and explore fragments of life, but to know what they look and sound like you have to be out there living and experiencing the world around you.

7. Know how to push yourself beyond your limits.

Here’s the thing about opportunities: more often than not, they don’t come on their own.

I have spent many nights at my desk when deadlines won’t wait and my days don’t afford me the time I need to get work done. So I make the conscious choice to prepare for an all-night writing session. I go back to basics: drink plenty of water all day long, and make sure I eat meals with low processed foods, protein, and veggies.

I try to stay away from salt and high sugar—mostly because they usually just make me crash, but also because I will probably binge on peanut M&Ms at some point during the night. I try to pick nights to work when I will have some form of help with my kids the next day—either through school hours or if my husband will be home the following morning.

I also try to be more physically active than usual during the day. This helps me keep a clear head, and I won’t get so stiff and sore in my chair. Then once my kids are asleep, I brew a pot of coffee, gather the snacks I avoided during the day, grab a flashlight, and head up to the loft once all my kids are asleep.

Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s hard. But when you’re racing a deadline, there’s something thrilling about writing ‘til the sun comes up.

Practice Being Present with Your Writing

I cannot predict the windows of time I will have to write, and no matter how hard I try to wrangle my schedule into something predictable, something always manages to get loose and wreak havoc on my carefully laid plans.

I can’t control that. I can’t live for those windows. So now, I live for where I am in the moment, for who I’m with in the moment, so that when I sit down to write, I’ve practiced being present, committed, and motivated in every other situation.

* * *

Congratulations Mel and Celia! You are the winners of Jadie’s giveaway. Watch your email for details and thank you to all who entered!

JadieYoung-adult author. Equine professional. Southern gal. Especially fond of family, sunlight, and cookie dough. Jadie Jones wrote her first book in seventh grade, filling one hundred and four pages of a black and white Mead notebook. Back then she lived for two things: horses and R.L. Stine books. Fast forward nearly twenty years, and she still work with horses, and hoard books like most women her age collect shoes. Its amazing how much changes… and how much stays the same.

The dream of publishing a novel has hitch-hiked with her down every other path she’s taken (and there have been many.) Waitress, farm manager, road manager, bank teller, speech writer, retail, and more. But that need to bring pen to paper refused to quiet. Finally, in 2009, she sat down, pulled out a brand new notebook, and once again let the pictures in her head become words on paper.

Find out more about Jadie and her wok at her website, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Wildwood—Book #1 in the Hightower Trilogy: Tanzy Hightower is not crazy. At least, that’s what she tells herself. Crazy looks more like her mother, who studies each sunrise with the same fascination other women give tabloid magazines in the grocery store checkout line. Crazy sounds like the woman on the radio claiming there’s a whole separate world existing parallel to our own. Still, Tanzy can’t deny the tingle of recognition she feels each time she sees her mother standing at the kitchen window, or hears the panic in the woman’s voice coming through the speakers of her father’s truck.

Tanzy intends to follow her father’s footsteps into the professional horse world. But the moment she watches him die on the back of a horse in an accident she feels responsible for, everything changes.

On the first anniversary of his death, a fight with her mother drives her back to her father’s farm in the middle of a stormy night. Neither Tanzy nor life as she knows it escapes unchanged when she is struck by lightning and introduced to a world… unseen, and receives proof her father’s death was no accident.

Two strangers seem too willing to help her navigate her new reality: Vanessa Andrews, a psychiatrist who believes lightning chooses who it strikes, and Lucas, a quiet, scarred stable hand with timing that borders on either perfect or suspect. But Tanzy has secrets of her own. Desperate for answers and revenge, Tanzy must put her faith in their hands as her past comes calling, and her father’s killer closes in.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.

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Comments (31)

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  1. Cathy Mealey says:

    Great tips! Sharing with my writer’s group. From one pitfall to the next, we may bounce around or get stuck with one particular weakness. Good advice to shake it off and work through it to better focused, quality writing time. Thanks!

  2. Virginia Turner says:

    Thank you. All good advice, I just have to put it into practice.

  3. Lynnette says:

    Great article. I loved the part about taking care of yourself since this is an area I haven’t thought about.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      Thank you! I realize the consequences of not taking care of myself time and time again. I’ll sit down to start writing at 10pm and have absolutely no fuel in the tank. We can’t make more hours in the day, but we can burn the midnight oil a little stronger if we’ve been adding oil all day when/where possible.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I adore this… one of the most helpful writing articles I’ve read in quite some time. Thank you!

  5. Merissa Racine says:

    I think all your points are good ones. I often tell myself, I’d write more but my day job gets in the way. Though I do have a day job, I think I use it sometimes as an excuse when I feel stuck in my writing, which is how I feel right now. I have a story idea but having a hard time where to start the story, so instead I spend more time than I should reading about the craft.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      I find that if I’m at all concerned good writing isn’t going to come easy, I divert to daydreaming about the plot or reading. Sometimes this is necessary! Your brain needs to exercise other areas within the same scope of skills. Sometimes though, it’s time to face that fear and write just to put something down on paper. I have found I learn more about my characters and my story as I go, and sometimes something as simple as a little phrase the character likes to use, or a reaction to something ordinary, helps me paint more of the “important” pieces of the manuscript in a more vibrant color. Now, I try really hard to not worry about the quality of my first/second drafts, and more about slogging through them so that I can wrap my mind around the path start to finish. It’s like stumbling around in a dark, unfamiliar room, feeling things with your fingertips and guessing what they are. Once you get into edits, you turn the lights on, so to speak.

  6. Mary Preston says:

    I find that if I write out a plan I waste time less. Of course writing out the plan is another way to delay.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      I used to be a diehard pantster when it came to drafting. Drafting the third book in the Hightower Trilogy forced that to change. It’s told from 5 different POVs in 2 different worlds. I quickly realized if I didn’t have a road map, I was going to write everyone in circles. What works best for me (and DOES save time) is to “forecast” 2-3 chapters ahead in an outline form so I know where I’m going for the next few proverbial turns. This makes my writing tighter and helps me focus.

  7. Kathy says:

    I needed to read this as my writing has been in a state of stagnation. I find the dialogue and even the characters need refinement and I have been reluctant to sit down to rewrite most of the chapters. I see that it is a matter of making time to recharge myself by doing something else other than writing that will kick-start me into a creative mode. Multi-tasking is a downer for me as I get too bogged down by giving my best to other household duties. Thanks for the great tips. I want to give my full attention to writing that will give the reader something worthwhile.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      It’s been a learning process for me, too. In the horse world, we say we learn most from our mistakes/bad rounds/epic fails. Winning generally doesn’t teach you anything. But losing… there’s a lot to learn in a loss. Making small changes can waterfall into bigger, sweeping new habits.

  8. ps says:

    This is a great article, and the hints are helpful. But when you have an intellectually draining full-time job, it’s a lot harder to be motivated after 12+ hours of the brain drain, meetings, commuting, etc. I wish I could take care of kids and critters (and I have to do that as well as a day job, plus find time to write). My days begin at 4am, and they end at 10pm, with one hour from 8 to 9 squeezed in for writing. It’s exhausting. When I have a week’s vacation, I work on my own writing for 4 to 6 hours per day, then do chores and clean the house, and to me that is absolute heaven. So if you don’t have to work outside the home, be grateful, and use your time wisely. Too many of us have a full time job + home/family + trying to write/produce art.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      I totally get it! I have worked both in and out of the home, and they both have pros and cons. For 3 years, my annual beach trips with my family were spend with me inside the hotel cramming in every possible word while my family played on the beach. It led to tension with my spouse and my extended family, and it wasn’t easy to defend my work or my choices. Mom-guilt was raging but so was the writer inside. A keynote speaker at UTopYA said: it is better to feel selfish than to feel unfulfilled, and I try to keep that in mind when the walls feel like they’re closing in.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      I was just reminiscing about earlier days when I worked 60-80 hrs a week out of the home, and I would keep an index card or a stickynote pad in my pocket. If an idea came, whatever it was, no matter how small, I would jot it down, and then when i got home I would force myself to draft that scene, even if it was just 2-3 pages.

  9. Mel says:

    Wow Jadie this just resonated with me so much. So well written and so on point. I’m glad I took the time to read it!

  10. Celia Lewis says:

    Ohhh, I have so few reasons not to be writing!! Kids grown-up, grandkids too, and living further away so not in my space often, and I’m retired. I came late to writing, and although I love writing the stories, I suck big-time at the re-write/editing to make the stories actually work! And because of my poverty status [long story], I can’t pay people to help me, etc. I will say that your points here are absolutely spot-on. I’ll be moving “that chair” so it isn’t as easy/seductive as a distraction. Cheers. Today is another day.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      Celia – have you thought of finding an online writing group? Some of them have “swap” days, so you have a deadline in your mind to meet, and then you have free eyes on your work, and the added benefit of editing someone else’s.

  11. Ellen says:

    This is so “spot on” for me. I cried reading “when I feel like I’ve used a block of time badly, I can barely stand myself”. So true! Self care and being present…so easy to forget when we feel like we’re being pulled apart in so many directions. Wonderful article. Taken to heart.

  12. SuzanneG says:

    On top of these do-able motivations, we could add reward motivations. If I write for two hours today, even though I don’t feel like doing anything, I get to…. Fill in the blank with a meal at your favorite restaurant, a bowl of ice cream, a two-hour massage, or whatever makes your heart race with anticipation. Now I need to decide on my motivation for today. Thanks for the jump-start, Jadie.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      ohhh I like reward motivations! I do that sometimes: if i get through this scene, i can take the night off and do a netflix binder with the husband, etc. Rewarding yourself is so important!

  13. Lauren Seaton says:

    Your comments are all too real. We all try to multi task – sometimes it works but most times it doesn’t. You give practical advice.

    • Jadie Jones says:

      Thanks, Lauren! The hardest thing for me is putting my phone down. When nickelodeon is playing all day and I’m negotiating with 3 small kids, it can be easy to scroll through a feed or two in search of a funny meme or an interesting article, but then i find myself doing the same thing once i have time to write.

  14. Anna says:

    Jadie, these guidelines are excellent. You approach the obstacles to writing from every angle, and each one is valuable. I’ll look forward to reading Wildwood!

    • Jadie Jones says:

      Thank you, Anna! I’ve learned a lot in the 5 years since signing my first contact, but I know it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I learned a lot by reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Ann Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” I highly recommend them both.