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. 

Get support! 

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. 

Spoil Yourself!

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.

19 Responses

  1. Great job Mandy. I’m not much of a writer.. but I definitely need to find something to do for “me time”.

  2. I’m gonna have to agree that a Gateway computer was more trouble than it was worth, but the cow print box it came in… now that’s a different story. ❤This first entry and I can’t wait to read your book.

  3. I can’t wait to read more of your writing!! This has already inspired me to want to get motivated and maybe even find my own hobby. Mostly so I can treat myself.

  4. Hey Mandy, excellent motivational talk, and thank you for sharing so much insight to your personal processes! If I may offer a couple of comments: I think you are being a bit to hard on yourself on the coming home from work and not being motivated to work on your book. This entire 8 to 5 grind has been a social construct for us for a long time, so it is a natural feeling to just want to turn the world off. Also, part of your job is that you do, at times, have to bring home ‘work’, like grading papers, writing curriculum etc., so I think some emotional co-mingling of being home from work, having to work at home and flogging yourself a bit for not giving yourself time after work, to your book. It’s all good honey bear! Your book is a creative process and I would caution you on putting that creative process in the work “productivity and efficiency” lane. My feeling is that your creative process should be an organic one and your soul felt stuff will flow through your fingers to the keyboard effortlessly! Also, if I recall, your book is a work of non-fiction, so being factually correct etc., can keep you in work mode mentality. Your childhood stories were works of active imagination and wonderment of the world and the universe and an exciting creative process. Perhaps writing something entirely out of your dreams and imagination alongside your non-fiction work, would get even more of the juices flowing. I would be very curious to know what planet you had to write about and I’ll bet, you were “Akasha” in the story, great name too, I agree!

    Your sign has 2 ruling planets and that can be difficult. The ruling planets for Aquarius are Uranus and Saturn. Uranus is the planet of freedom and revolutionary vision, the urge for change and the ability to visualize new possibilities. Uranus rules Aquarius, and is exalted in Scorpio. It is also associated with mental studies, electricity and astrology. Saturn is the planet of orthodoxy and tradition. He’s cold, selfish, conservative and fearful of change. Uranus is the planet of ultra-progressive thinking. He’s original, inventive and an advocate of change and reform..Saturn fears change. He has conservative values and a preference for tradition. So internally, there could be many wars going on, with discipline raging against free thought.

    One last thing on this long ass post, sorry if I have bored the crap out of everyone, but I think we all make our hobbies work sometime. Weight lifting is my hobby and way to often, I make it a road block during the day and have to really push to do it. And sometimes, it is a real joy to do, wish it would stay in the latter frame of mind! Playing guitar is another one for me, I bought new gear and have barely touched it, so you have hit on a great topic and we all learn from hearing things like this form our peeps! So thank you!

    1. Aw, thanks Ron! I just remember having been assigned two planets. I don’t believe I was the main character, though.

      Yeah, the current story I’m writing did start out at nonfiction, but I have incorporated some old-time superstition with it that takes it away from nonfiction. I like it better this way! 🙂

      I love your astrology updates; you take care of all of us! Can’t wait to see pics of your new guitar!

  5. Good advice! You’re way more disciplined than me. It’s tough for the non-writers to understand my need to write when inspiration calls, which doesn’t always have convenient, nicely scheduled moments. Nor is it easy for others to understand that I write better at home on paid assignments. I’m less distracted in my home office w/ my cats around. I love the 7th grade planets stories!

    1. I’m just NOW seeing this post. I hit in my “pending post” section. I wouldn’t call myself disciplined. I have days where I know I should be writing but I just can’t find the motivation. I’m also less distracted when I go somewhere on my own like Coffee Zone. 🙂

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