Category: motivation

5 Ways to Raise the Stakes of Your Writing

Some of us find words flowing easily and readily; others need the extra push of a deadline to complete a scene. By creating pressure and raising the stakes of your writing, you can cross the finish line! Today, writer Erin Townsend shares her tips for putting the heat on your writing: 

Some people thrive under pressure, using the panic of the eleventh hour to propel themselves through their writing. This doesn’t always work as intended; if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to watch December 1 get closer and convince yourself you’ll make up for lost time later on. Sometimes, finding ways to manufacture that kind of last-minute pressure in your everyday writing helps keep your word count on track. Inventing your own stakes can be essential in keeping your writing routine in line; but how do you create that pressure in the first place?

1. Enlist Others

Call over or visit a friend. They can read, work on their own project, or marathon Netflix shows on their laptop with earbuds in. You can even Skype with far-away friends; in either case, they can keep you in line when you get distracted.  If you can’t get together in person, tell a friend or family member the word count you intend to reach by the end of the day. Yell your goal into the void of Facebook. Getting other people involved fosters a sense of obligation—use it to your advantage.

2. Make the “Write” Environment

Instead of writing in isolation, branch out to a cafe, or better yet, a library. Chances are, you’ll be surrounded by a bunch of people furiously typing on their MacBooks, looking studious and productive. Even if they’re just scrolling through Facebook, the atmosphere of quiet concentration can push you buckle down on your own work.  

3. Use Technology

The most dangerous writing app will delete your words if you stop writing for too long. You can set a time limit or word goal—good for sprints and writing through a block. And don’t forget about browser extensions! Try a website blocker to restrict everything for an hour on your lunch break or before bed, and write as much as you can before your access comes back. You can even set up restrictions ahead of time, leaving less of a chance for you to weasel out of your own plans.

4. Invent Time Restraints

Hit up a cafe an hour before it closes, and use that pressure to get as much work done as you can before they kick you out. Bring your laptop somewhere without a charger, like the library, a park, or even a different room in your apartment, and write against the clock (remember to save your work!). Make a conditional agreement to attend an event or social gathering, with the caveat that you’ll write a page or two before you go. Even if you don’t hit your goal, the illusion of a time constraint gives you motivation to concentrate.

5. Add Challenges to Routine Activities

Cooking something for 45 minutes? Challenge yourself to write a certain number of words in that time. On hold with Comcast again? Write for three hours until you reach a live person. Pop your tea into the microwave and try a 200 or 300-word sprint. If you’re ordering food, bang out a few pages before the delivery driver calls. Throw in a load of laundry and write until it’s done—bonus points if you’re writing in an actual laundromat. Open-ended, personal challenges often result in more work than you think they will, and can be more interesting than trudging up to a word count.  


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Erin Townsend writes from New Haven, Connecticut, where she co-organizes a writing and audience feedback series entitled Local Lit @ Lotta.  Her work has received the Jennie Hackman Award for Short Fiction and has been published in the Long River Review.  Currently she is working on her first short story collection.  In her spare time, when she isn’t traveling around with her partner, Erin reads books about space and drinks weird beer.

Top photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Hey all, it’s Rebekah. No, I have not stepped off the face of the earth. Things have been weird…

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Hey all, it’s Rebekah. No, I have not stepped off the face of the earth. Things have been weird lately, and to be honest, I was a little afraid to come back. I thought there’d be resentment that I disappeared. But I’m still here, still plugging away.

Over the summer, I took a big step and left my full-time job at the library to pursue freelance writing. I’d already picked up work before quitting, and I was preparing for the big move, saving up money and working out how I’d cut down on expenses to make it work. This meant months of writing around my day job, getting up earlier than usual and staying up until all hours of the night to meet deadlines. Now that I’ve committed to it 100%, it’s changed the way I view writing and as a result, it’s changed my writing habits in regard to fiction. 

But I promise, my first post in months is not going to be a self indulgent tell-all of how I got here. I’m going to share some lessons I’ve learned so far in writing for work and adapt those lessons into building better writing habits.

Building Writing Habits

1. When you have the opportunity to write something nonfiction, write it.

I’m not talking about whole nonfiction books, but anything really. Blogging, work emails, instruction manuals, technical reports, book reviews…write. Especially if you are going through a hellish time of writer’s block with your fiction. Find a way to put pen to paper in some way. Even if it’s only for your eyes, it’s good practice.

When you get yourself into a writing mindset, it becomes difficult to turn it off. You finish writing a note to somebody and you think, “Okay, I need to write something else.”

If you don’t have opportunities to write things like this, or you’re just not sure how to even go about it, then sit down and recap your day before you go to bed. You can’t get writer’s block when you know exactly what happened, and the act of stringing together words will become a habit that’s tough to break.

2. Always have a book in-progress.

I’m talking about reading, not writing. Whether it takes you months to get through it, have a book somewhere in your home with a bookmark in it. If it’s been a struggle getting it read, it might be time to bail on it and find a new book. Or else your brain has forgotten what’s it like to always be reading something. If that’s the case, work on reading a page every day and build up the habit.

I’ll admit, in recent years I let life keep me from being a good reader. But when I think back to all the times I got excited about writing fiction, it was around the time I’d just finished an amazing book. You’ll probably go through some books that don’t thrill you, but it’s not difficult to move on from a bad book. Anything else will be amazing in comparison.

I’m reading much more than I was before. What I’ve discovered is that constantly escaping into fictional worlds gets me even more excited to escape into my own.

Writing while uninspired is a chore. Sometimes it has to be done, but when you can, work yourself up to inspiration. Reading a book is an efficient way to do that.

3. Understand your writing associations.

When we write, we often form associations with the exact place we were or what we were doing in life when we wrote it. I can think back to scenes I wrote over a decade ago and remember exactly where I was when I wrote that scene. Whether or not the scene was any good doesn’t matter. It’s a time when I was writing and enjoying it. So when I think of that particular place and time, I feel warm and nostalgic. It’s a positive association.

If you’re like me, your bed is a place of introspection. You think about everything you’ve done wrong, and you make plans to change. Though change is good, the beneficial realization that things need to change is often tainted by doubt and insecurity. I’ve noticed that when I write in bed, I don’t usually get very far. My brain is used to overthinking things in bed, which means every word I write is up for judgement. Do you have a place like this? If so, stop trying to write under those conditions. Unless you can change the association, you have to avoid it.

Try to evaluate your moods and attitudes towards different places and times of the day. Write when and where you feel your best. Before long, you’ll start making associations between feeling good and writing. It’ll then be easier to write in new places. You can build on this foundation so you’re able to write anytime, anywhere.

Examine where and when you’re writing and how you feel when doing it. These associations can be key in helping you develop better writing habits.


It’s possible I could go on for days and days, but I’ll wrap things up and come back around to similar topics later on. I need to address a few blog related things:

1. I’ve got a couple guest posts in the queue that I’ll be posting over the weekend. I was a terrible, terrible person who accepted work from someone and then never did anything with it.

2. I don’t even know what’s in the inbox right now. I need to look and assess where we’re at.

3. I need to get in touch with the admins, and we need to make some decisions.

4. Above all, I need to post! We missed camp nano, but November will be here before you know it guys. I want us all to be ready.

But anyways, I’m back. I’m ready. Let’s do this!

-Rebekah

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