As far back as I can remember, I have always had the personal life goal to write a novel that I’m proud of. As 6th graders, my friends and I divided up the planets and agreed to write stories about life on those planets. Jenny, friend and Wheatland R-II survivor, recalls writing about made-up life on Neptune. I forget which planets I was assigned, but I do remember the main character of one of my stories was named “Akasha”. Which, considering the story took place in outer space and on different planets, that name was pretty clever for an eleven-year-old.
Back then, I wrote on a boxy Gateway 2000 desktop. My mom recalls paying a few thousand for that computer, and it turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth. I remember fighting with that computer to just get Microsoft Word to open, and I can’t tell you how many times I cried trying to get The Sims to load. Despite the constant frustration with our family computer, I could not wait for my school day to end so I could rush home and begin writing.
During my free time in Ms. Cheek’s 6th grade class (which took place in a trailer), I would scribble and draft notes about Akasha and her adventures on the planet-I-don’t-remember. My friends and I always had such a long bus ride home. We lived in a rural area, so the ride consisted of gravel roads which caused dusty faux leather seats. On that ride home, we would share our progress on the planet-stories. No matter what went on at school, I was always willing to come home and write my story. It was relaxing. It was fun. It was a good excuse to avoid my outside farm chores.
Now that I am older, I still consider writing to be one of my main hobbies. And, just like in 6th grade, I go to school each day (I am a high school English teacher) with my current story on my mind. But, unlike my 6th-grade self, I’m not as eager to begin writing as soon as I get home from work. When I step through my garage door and am immediately greeted by my energetic dog and oversized cat, the last thing on my mind is to continue working.
When did writing a story become “work” for me? I’m currently writing an interesting story, it’s completely outlined with quite a few chapters already written, and I’m very excited for others to read it one day! But, it has become a drag to come home from work and write my book. Don’t get me wrong. I am very motivated to write on weekends and on holidays when I can mosey around and begin writing at my own pace. But, there’s something about those weekdays that make it hard to find my motivation.
I can’t use the “life is stressful and busy” excuse to my lack of motivation. Life was stressful and busy when I was in middle school, and I still found the time and motivation to go home and write every single night. After reflection, I realized that my lack of motivation can be contributed to how I have been internalizing my stress and business. Using “being home from work” as an excuse to be unproductive is also one reason it’s been hard for me to get going on my writing.
If you have a similar struggle with finding your motivation, check out these three steps I took to make writing at home feel more like a hobby again and less of a chore.
Designate a Space.
What kind of spot do you find promotes productivity? Some people can be productive anywhere at any time. All they need is their laptop, or crochet hooks, or sketch pad, or whatever is needed for their hobby. That’s not me. I quickly figured out, when I became serious about my writing, that I needed a designated spot to focus. For awhile, I sat at the dining room table. I found this spot, at the core of the house, to be too distracting. I was too tempted to take pictures of my cat or even start doing the dishes when I was supposed to be typing.
I’m also not the best at writing in public. So many writers post pictures on Instagram of their favorite coffee shop spots. Writing dates with one of my closest friends turned into “brainstorming” dates, because we just couldn’t stop gabbing long enough to get much writing done. On a side note, those brainstorming dates were beneficial. We would meet up, read each other’s progress, and provide feedback and praise. If you love writing, get yourself a writing friend. They’re good for the soul.
After testing out many different writing spots, I decided to convert a small bedroom in my house to a personal office. This spot in the house proved to be the perfect place for me to be the most productive. It is isolated from the rest of the house and, since I only write/read in there, the room stays clean and clear from distractions.
Let anyone in the household know how important it is to you to have that uninterrupted alone time to work. Let them know that for the next hour or two you’ll be hiding away to improve your craft. If they see how happy and fulfilled your hobby makes you feel, they’ll be glad to support your alone time.
It isn’t as simple as just letting your family know you need alone time, though. You have to consciously make some changes. Do text messages or Snapchats lead you down the rabbit hole of unproductive behavior? Turn off your phone. Does hearing the TV in the other room tempt you to go watch? Ask those in the house to turn down the volume. Does the dog like to bring you toys to throw? Lock him out. For just that one-two hours, reduce the likelihood of someone pulling you away from what you love to do.
I don’t mean each time you want to sit down to work on your personal hobby you have to go out and grab Starbucks. But, treating yourself every so often definitely wouldn’t hurt.
When I head to my little office to write I like to make myself a cup of coffee. I now associate the scent of coffee with being productive and efficient. I make sure the heat is turned up to a nice and cozy temperature. And, sometimes, I bring a blanket for extra comfort. Depending on the day and the chapter I’m writing, I’ll turn on Spotify to get me in the mood to write. This all may seem extra to just sit down and type out a few words, but this little ritual does it for me when motivation is hard to come by.