Yesterday, I sent off my first short story submission since November 2017 (and my first rejection in about the same time some few hours later). Mostly that’s because I’ve been working on novels between then and now. A lot of it was also just, Clarion. Trying to write five stories in five weeks (our class skipped the story and the critique during the first week) while also reading and writing 17 critiques every week really just kind of broke me, even if we did have the option of working on the beginning of our novels during the last week. It took me a long while after Clarion to even want to work on short stories again.

But in the grand scheme of things, that year and a half is very small. Even in the scale of what could laughably be called my writing career, that year and a half is comparatively small. I started writing seriously in the fall of 2009. That is almost ten years ago. Fuck. Anyway. It’s a long time to work on pretty much anything, let alone something that mostly goes unnoticed by everyone. So sending that story out got me thinking about motivation. Because while there’s something uniquely gratifying about the act of storytelling, there are still things about it that I don’t inherently love. Editing will be the death of me someday and even while drafting, there are days when it all just needs to be thrown in a lake.

Intrinsic motivation is great and embarking on a long project, you basically need some, desperately. But sometimes you just need the extrinsic stuff to help you get through the difficult days. Here are things I’ve found work for me.


Honestly, some day I’m going to have to stop singing the praises of Habitica, but today is not that day. Nothing is better for my motivation than checking stuff off a list. Why, yes, I am a Type A personality, what makes you ask?


Especially when I’m drafting, pomodoros tend to make me stay focused on what I’m doing. If I’m on a roll, I can write about 500-800 words in a pomodoro and that’s great for getting some good word count in.


I especially tend toward Diablo III as a reward system. Hell, that’s what I’m doing as soon as I finish writing this blog post. The earlier I’m done with all the tasks on my todo list, the earlier I get to go Diablo. And if that’s not enough and I’m drafting, I’ll compete against myself. 500 words broken down to 25 minutes is 100 words every five minutes. So I keep my tomato timer on the screen to my left and my draft on the screen in front of me and try to get to the next hundred words before that five minutes is up. And if I get at least 500 words during my sprint, I take a little victory lap around the apartment during the break.

Varying the work

I hate editing. I don’t want to, but I do. So what I’ve found is that not doing the sensible thing of taking care of all of a particular problem type in one pass is even harder. It’s easier for me to do one page than it is for me to do the same amount of work on one topic. Unless that work is the full re-imagining of a scene. It’s weird and inefficient, but there you go.


Listen. I’m Type A. I can’t help it. I LIKE lists. I LOVE my Bullet Journal. A combination of these things means that having trackers of various kinds helps me focus on the stuff I need to get done. Online class that gives me a check mark when I’m done? I AM THERE! Can’t stop, won’t stop till I’m done. Pacemaker? Let me at it! Cool mortgage tracker? My naturally spendy self will find any and all ways to save money so that I can make it go down faster. Trackers do a body good.

But most of all, I don’t make myself work on projects I don’t have an interest in. Or if I need to do it for some reason, I try to find something about the project that makes me excited and then write it down by hand somewhere I can find it. Life’s too short for shitty projects.

What do you use for motivation on those long projects?