Why can't I writeeeeeeee? Whhhyyyyy? Make me write.
My author friend, Mia, and I send DMs like this regularly. (Hey, texts don't need correct grammar, that's what our books are for).
Sometimes, you want to create, to feel the words flowing from your fingers like the wind through an open car window on a hot day.
But you just can't force yourself to open your laptop and start.
This is especially true of ADHD and neurodivergent (ND) writers like myself and most of the Scribe Forge team. Even if you're not ND, you probably have days where you want to write but can't due to exhaustion, overwhelm, or lack of motivation.
It's okay to take days off when you need it and when life becomes too hectic. But if you're struggling to find the motivation to start on most days, something needs to change.
Here are three tricks I've learned to reduce the number of days I struggle to start writing (and the number of times I bug my writer friends to somehow magically make my fingers move across the keyboard).
Remember your why
Okay, that sounds kind of woo-woo but hear me out.
When unmotivated or struggling, we tend to focus on what we should be doing. I should write. I should edit the next chapter. I should stop scrolling through social media.
And this makes us focus on the negative. We're thinking about how we're failing. We're low-key shaming ourselves.
Instead, try thinking about why you want to write. Get specific. Why do you want to write this particular story with these particular characters? Why not another project? Why does this one matter to you right now?
Maybe you love the characters, you have a message you want to share, or you thought of a really kick-ass scene and want to write the story that leads to it. Maybe there's a novel you want to see in the world but that doesn't currently exist.
Whatever your reason for choosing this book at this time, focus on it instead. Write it down somewhere so you can refer back to it when motivation is hard to find or when you're looking at the mess of your first draft and wondering why you're doing this.
Make a list of don't dos
Life's demands often get in the way of being creative, so even if you have the time to write you don't always have the energy after a long day of responsibilities.
Here's what I learned the hard way and you probably have too: Those demands never stop.
If you get ahead on work tasks, they give you more tasks tomorrow. If you wash the dishes, there's more an hour later. If you answer that email to get it out of the way, it turns into three more emails.
It. Never. Ends.
So, if you want to write (or make any art), you have to decide to skip some things.
That doesn't mean you never do those tasks (unfortunately we can't avoid the dishes forever). It means you accept that life's demands will never go away.
It means you accept that you can't do everything (nobody can). Some things have to fall to the side, either permanently if they're not that important to you or temporarily like leaving the laundry for another day.
It means setting boundaries so you can preserve your time and energy to create. This might mean deciding that you will not check your work email after hours or you will not start a new work project at the end of the day.
In short, to write, you need to decide to not do other things or to put them off for a bit.
Of course, whatever this looks like for you will depend on your situation. If you have multiple jobs and kids, putting things off might be impossible. That means you have to carve out time to write when you can and be ruthless about defending it.
(Psst.. The daily spreads in The Essential Life Planner for Writers include a section for Don't Dos, the tasks you'll say no to each day so you can find time and energy to write.)
Use the Pawn Stars Self Motivation Bargaining method
I'm taking the name of this method from cogey over on Instagram. But I've used a version of it for years. Basically when you're struggling to do something important, say, "The best I can do is..." And then name whatever is the most you can manage at that time.
(If you've never seen Pawn Stars, it's a reality show about a busy pawn shop. People come in to sell valuables, which leads to bargaining with the pawn shop owner, who often says, "Best I can do is $500" or "Best I can do is $1600" or whatever.)
So, you might think, "The best I can do is to write one page (or one paragraph or one sentence)." On some days, you might think, "The best I can do today is to dream about the next scene."
And that's enough.
You see, an object in motion stays in motion and that's true of people as well as planets and asteroids. The more you write, the easier it is to be motivated to write.
The catch-22 is that actually getting that movement started is hard as hell.
So, start with the best you can do at the time, which might only be a sentence. That's okay! If you write a sentence a day, you'll soon find that writing becomes easier, and your motivation increases. Small wins are still wins and that encourages us to keep going.
This is why The Essential Life Planner for Writers has room to break down your project into small steps and track your progress on those steps--even if a step is writing one paragraph.