Want to know the secret to becoming an unstoppable writer?
To become a writer who, literally, DOES NOT STOP writing in spite of a crazy busy schedule, niggling self-doubt, physical exhaustion, or any of a myriad of cheap distractions threatening to derail you?
Well, you can.
In this lesson, you will learn three basic motivational strategies (which I call the Major Motivators) that will propel you into becoming a prolific and consistent writer.
Each one alone is powerful enough to motivate you, but put them together and you’ll be virtually unstoppable. We’ll go over each one of the three in its turn and show you a few ways to implement them in your own writing life.
Ready to start? Let’s get this show on the road:
People like to play. We always have. The child inside us never quite leaves us, which is why things like Escape Rooms and amusement parks still appeals to adults.
The sad thing is, as we grow up, we have fewer and fewer opportunities to play. People look at you askance if you go swinging on the local playground monkey bars (without bringing a kid along for cover).
But play is highly motivating for us all — the more so when we don’t get enough of it. So if you want to write more, find a way to turn it into play. Find a way to gamify the process.
How do you do that?
You will need 3 things:
Here’s how they work:
You can’t play a game without rules. If there were no baskets in basketball or home base in baseball, you wouldn’t have a game at all.
The key to gamification begins with setting up rules. As a writer, you can create rules for your game, such as “I will write 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for 4 weeks in a row before I stop and reassess.” Or “I’m going to finish a chapter of my book per week, before I allow myself to watch TV.”
Whatever you decide, it has to be reasonable and point you toward your ultimate goal: finishing your writing project.
Games are no fun unless there’s a reward at the end. And the reward can be just about anything. Things like food, fun experiences, and gift cards are great, but even non-intrinsically-valuable rewards like sticker charts can work.
(Why else do companies hand out things like certificates and plaques? Those things are a dime a dozen, but it’s the “REWARD for a job well done” aspect that makes them desirable)
The power of rewards is compounded when you make it variable. Animal trainers have found that the best way to enforce a behavior is to NOT reward the animal every time it performs the desired behavior, but to reward it sporadically, unexpectedly.
If you can find someone to reward you unexpectedly when you do what you’re supposed to be doing (writing), that will reinforce you much better than giving yourself a sticker every single time you hit your daily word count.
The brain loves new things, so change it up! Don’t always write the same things or in the same ways.
Once in a while: write a song instead of a nonfiction article. Write by hand instead of on your computer. Write in your car instead of at your desk. Write using voice dictation software while you’re doing pilates.
Change up your reward as well. Sometimes use symbolic rewards like stickers, other times use intrinsic rewards like a favorite food.
Be careful: Don’t overdo the novelty, so that you’re more distracted by dreaming up new things to try than actually getting your writing done. You still need to have a habit framework set in place, something familiar that repeats to keep you on track.
Those are the basics of gamification. Moving on to the second of the three Major Motivators to getting your writing DONE:
2. Social Support
There are two ways to bring social support into play to make you a stronger writer: Public Promises and Accountability Partners. Let’s briefly go over both:
There are two reasons why public promises are so powerful:
One, you don’t want to lose face in front of people you respect.
Two, you will do things for other people you’re not willing to do for yourself.
For example: One of my writing mentors once told the story of a friend of his who had bone cancer. The doctors told him he had a slim chance of surviving, if he was willing to take on a grueling chemotherapy regimen.
The man, who was exhausted and in pain from the disease, opted to die quietly rather than go through more chemical torture. But when his young daughter begged him in tears not to give up, he grit his teeth and gave the chemo the green light.
He ended up recovering from his cancer.
This may be a somewhat over-dramatic illustration of this concept, but the core principle is that we would rather lie to ourselves, break promises to ourselves, cheat ourselves, deceive ourselves, than do those things to someone else.
So make a promise, publicly, to people you care about, and you just might be amazed how much more committed you are to your writing.
The second type of social support, Accountability Partners, can be just as potent.
Accountability partners are people who are not walking behind you or in front of you, but right alongside you. They are also working on their own projects, so they understand where you are. They can keep you on task by sharing pointers from their own experiences, and encouraging you when you feel discouraged.
A good accountability partner is worth his/her weight in gold.
The key to finding and/or creating a great accountability partner is to find someone you trust and communicate well with, then set some basic ground rules for the relationship: like how often to check in with each other, how to check in with each other, etc., and let the relationship evolve as needed.
3. Loss Aversion
Now we come to the final Major Motivator:
Psychiatrists have discovered that people are more motivated to NOT LOSE something they value than to gain something else they want.
Some people use this psychological fact to push themselves (For example, by writing a check to their least favorite politician, and giving it to a friend with the instructions to mail it off should they fail to complete their writing goal).
Other people buy courses and hire instructors and trainers because of the potential loss of their investment if they don’t make good on their promises to themselves.
This is the scariest yet most effective of the three Major Motivator strategies, and if you use it wisely you can seriously propel yourself WAY ahead of other writers who are too terrified to try.
Becoming a Triple Threat
Gamification, social support, and loss aversion tap into the deepest aspects of the human psyche, motivating you through the push-pull model of helping you get what you want and avoid what you DON’T want.
Use one or two of these strategies, and you will find your productivity levels double or triple. Use all three, wisely, and you will 10x your writing prolificacy.
Now, it can be tricky to implement all three strategies, consistently, all by yourself.
It’s hard to design rules and parameters for your self-motivation game, it can be tricky to find an accountability partner as dedicated as you are, and it’s impossible to constantly come up with rewards that surprise and delight you when you’re tired from the hard work of writing.
So if you want a bit of help implementing these strategies, or unsure about what steps to take going forward, check this out 🙂