How to write when you have literally no motivation

Do you ever just sit and stare at a blank Google doc, waiting for a bolt inspiration to send your fingers into a typing frenzy?

When the words finally come out, though, do they kind of sound like Miss South Carolina circa 2007?

Writers across the board feel a collective amount of pressure to…you know…write. But some days, getting anything written seems about as likely as becoming America’s Next Top Model. It just isn’t going to happen.

And if you’ve got deadlines, yeah…bad news, bud: they don’t care. They’re sitting there on your calendar, watching your every move, waiting for you to face them.

So what’s a writer to do when it feels like there’s nothing you can do? Conjure up the motivation out of thin air.

Here are 7 ways to wave that magic writer’s wand:

1. Cut the distractions

Every single productivity article known to man will give you this same piece of advice. But no matter how many times we remind ourselves of it, we still get distracted. To be honest, I don’t think we’re trying hard enough.

What we need to do is remove every single point of contact with the outside world. I’m talking site blocking apps, throwing the phone out the window, drawing the blackout curtains, and handcuffing yourself to your desk.

All kidding aside, just limit the number of distractions as much as you can. Set your computer to ‘do not disturb’ mode, put your phone in another room, and put in some noise-canceling headphones.

Then, when lunch hits, you can grab your phone and mindlessly scroll to your heart’s content.

2. Handwrite your thoughts

Don’t let those note-taking apps fool you. Pen and paper are still cool. Those few extra seconds it takes you to write something by hand versus type it out can do wonders.

Physically getting your words out on paper causes you to pay closer attention to your thoughts. You can filter out what’s going on in that big brain of yours, and process things a little more slowly. And if childhood fables taught us anything, it’s that slow and steady wins the race.

Once it’s out on paper, read it out loud. Whisper if you’re feeling spooky. Get a feel for how it sounds and how someone else would read it, and refine it from there.

3. Don’t force it

Now, technically, this goes against the whole “conjuring motivation out of thin air” thing, but let me explain.

If you’ve been sitting at your desk for over an hour and your eyeballs are drying up at the sight of the blank doc, get up and walk away from the work. Can’t write? Don’t write. Forcing yourself just makes it painful.

If you’ve got deadlines, great. Tell them to take a seat. You’ll meet them soon. Get some fresh air, take a shower, meditate, or eat something. Whatever you need to do to clear your head and start from scratch, do it.

4. Swipe through your swipe file

The contents of your swipe file should be collected over time, so it might not help to try to stuff it with copy the day you need to write something.

But, on the chance that you do have a swipe file handy, pop that thing open! This folder is meant to house content that inspires you or makes you think, “damn, that’s good copy.” Scan through the items of your swipe file, and when you find the one that speaks to you, study it. Maybe take it a step further and write a few of your own versions.

There’s something about reading great copy that makes you want to write it yourself.

5. Write up an outline

If there’s anything to thank the 4th grade for, it’s outlines.

Just like you would wireframe a website, it’s wise to write up an outline for your blog, email, or sales page. If this sounds incredibly basic, it’s because it is.

There’s no need to go into great detail with it; just get the gist of what you need to say in the outline. Once you have the skeleton of what you need to write, go through the points one by one, and beef it up with more details.

6. Find your writing time

There’s a certain time of day where your writing ability is at its peak. I’m a food-motivated woman, so my peak writing time is in the afternoon, right after lunch.

Try sitting down to write at different times of the day. Take note of the specific block of time you find yourself in a flow state where your brain is its most buzzed.

Alternatively, keep a running list of ideas as they pop into your head, preferably on your phone as it’s probably already in/near your hands. Then, when your writing time comes around, drop the note onto your computer and get moving.

7. Turn up the hype music

There’s literally nothing quite like good music to get you into maximum hype writer’s mode.

Depending on what I need to write and who I need to write it for, I have a specific selection of albums that supercharge my writing batteries:

Find the music that speaks to you and your creativity. Maybe do a little dance. When you go into your writing with a good attitude, you’ll find the words flowing freely almost automatically.

Final thoughts

Finding the energy to write does not happen instantaneously. Instead of waiting for the most awe-inspiring ideas to hit, we have to help the motivation find us. The good news? It gets easier with more practice.

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