Here’s an ugly truth not everyone likes to talk about: Sometimes is hard to stay motivated to write.

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I hate the feeling of being told what to do. Even if I’m the one doing the telling, more often than not, some part of my brain starts shouting, “You’re not my dad!” (It’s probably part of the reason I have such a hard time outlining.)

stay motivated

It makes a lot of things difficult, but I can deal with it in most cases. What really bothers me is when it interferes with my writing. Things like sticking to a dedicated writing time, keeping to a revision schedule, or even seeing a WIP through to the end become an internal battle.

Am I the only one?

I sure hope, and strongly suspect, I’m not. We writers tend to pride ourselves on our rebellious streak. It what makes us so good at creating worlds and pushing limits.

Based on the number of articles that popped up when I searched for “stay motivated while writing” in Google, I’d say I’m in good company. However, most of those articles suggested motivation tips that are the root of my problem: set deadlines, commit to your writing, etc.

Those are the things that make writing feel like an obligation and trigger my obstinate streak.

So what are we supposed to do?

Take a look at what has been motivating you to write. Most writers, I believe, operate on intrinsic motivation. Just like it sounds, this type of motivation comes from deriving pleasure from the activity itself.

We write because we like writing.

But, intrinsic motivation can be reduced by too much interference from extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is derived from external rewards, like praise or awards. Research has shown that too many external rewards diminish intrinsic motivation, a phenomenon known as the

Research has shown that too many external rewards diminish intrinsic motivation, a phenomenon known as the overjustification effect. Basically, you start to associate your success at an activity with the external reward rather than your own enjoyment of the activity. It makes a play activity start to seem like work.

Types of extrinsic motivation for writers might include:

  • Feedback from a critique group. As weird as it sounds, if the feedback you receive is too positive it could reduce your internal motivation to write.
  • Payment. Getting paid to do anything makes it feel like a job. Job equals work. Work equals extrinsic motivation.

But those sound like really great things!

They do! And they’re the things that most writers are working toward, especially getting paid.

I’m definitely not trying to discourage anyone from seeking these outcomes for their work. However, it’s good to examine how and if they might be affecting your creativity.

I have some ideas for how to tap into your intrinsic motivation.

Join me on Periscope (WhynottEdit) for this week’s #writerlyWednesday chat, and I’ll tell you all about them! If you have ideas of your own, please come ready share them.

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Author: Whynott Edit

Hi, I'm Megan! My mission is to help underrepresented writers refine their words, strengthen their skills, and tell the best possible versions of their stories.

If you have questions/comments/concerns about writing, editing, or publishing, or want to suggest a post topic, feel free to reach out to me! megan[at]

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