How do writers keep going? It's a question that's driven our work for many years.
While motivation might get us off the starting blocks, it doesn't stick around. Behavioural scientist BJ Fogg describes motivation as a "party animal friend. Great for a night out, but not someone you'd rely on to pick you up from the airport."
If you're deep into a lengthy project, you need reliable friends – the habits, routines and systems that support you long term.
When we get stuck, we turn to our bookshelves. Some titles are more well thumbed than others, our most reliable reads - the books that keep us going. Check out our selection of inspiring, practical, research-based books that will help you keep writing.
Want some focussed time to get really stuck into your writing project? Our 7-Day Writing Sprints could be for you! This is how they work:
👀Complete a warm up plan to spot obstacles in your path ✍️Write every day and check in as you do 👋Overcome your blocks with free one-to-one support 👏Join a community of writers and feel supported 📈Complete a cool down review that consolidates your learning
Originally an email course, we set up a community last year to offer shared learning and support. 624 writers have taken part - some join us every month to boost their writing routine.
When we asked participants how likely they are out of 10 to recommend a sprint to a writing buddy - our average score is 9.5.
"Bec and Chris are total experts on all things writing. They are both super encouraging and responsive, and also offer very practical tips about how to set (and meet) goals, and how to keep going, even when it's hard!"
- August 7-Day Sprinter
✍️ Try this: How to avoid the saggy middle
We've all been there. You're half way through your project and something starts to suck your energy. The finishing line is still a long way off, you feel more distracted, other projects seem easier, newer, shinier! You've officially entered the dreaded saggy middle.
But there's nothing inherent about the mid-point that makes the writing harder or makes you lose focus. Saggy middles are only saggy because we mentally frame half-way points as de-motivating.
Turn your sag into a spark
If you feel a bit ‘meh’ at the midpoint it’s time to change your context and shift gear. Whether it’s changing your goal in some way, shaking up how long you write for or quitting before you’re ready, make your mid-point motivating by shaking things up.
✅Change up. Write at a different time or in a different way - this is when spontaneous writing can work. Writing for less time can also be helpful.
✅Stop writing. Instead, dictate your plot, theme or idea. If you had to, how could you explain your project to a toddler? Explain your ideas in an email to a friend (or yourself).
✅Go analogue. Create a mind map, using post its, coloured pens, coloured paper - whatever comes to hand. It will engage another part of your brain and re-engage you in your work.
✅Just do something different. Write using a pomorodo timer. Write in a cafe. Take a break. Write long hand. Go for a long walk. Anything as long as it's NOT what you'd normally do.
"First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice."
When you're new to writing, it's easy to compare yourself to the big name, 'Capital W' writers out there with book deals and back lists and a whole heap of published and polished work.
It's the same with songwriting. You have to start somewhere - with just one song.
Part manifesto, part part personal journey and part 'how to' book, the founder of American rock band Wilco Jeff Tweedy writes about his practice and why he believes it's important to make creativity a regular part of your everyday life.
😍 5 things we love
#1. Supporting writers: Nikesh Shukla, the creative writing teacher, novelist, screenwriter, memoirist and all round inspiration announced a novel writing scholarship for writer of colour from a low income background. Find out more and apply.
#2. Stop being lazy & get more done: We lovethis article by Eric Barker. It covers everything from how to start, handling distractions, improve your work and not give up. Brilliant advice.
#3. Change your brain: The psychological reasons why novelty - from visiting new places to socialising with different people - makes us happier and healthier people.
#4. How to keep going: 12 authors answer the question: "how do you write in tough times?" Read their advice here.
#5. Tchaikovsky or techno?Find out why different kinds of background music make you more prodictive.
🤔 Curious doodles
Pay attention! Austin Kleon draws his ever-curious friend Rob Walker. "Like creativity, curiosity might be better thought of as a verb not a noun," he writes. Keep noticing 👀
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🤷 Reading this for the first time?
Breakthroughs & Blocks is an email newsletter from writing productivity coaches Bec Evans and Chris Smith, co-founders of Prolifiko.