Starting writing, that’s easy. It’s the continuing that’s the hard part. And yet if you’re not writing consistently you can’t really call yourself a writer – a dreamer, maybe but not a writer. So what makes it so hard to continue writing?

The first piece of the puzzle we’re going to have to look at is called the hot-cold empathy gap. What is the hot-cold empathy gap? It’s where you can’t understand how it feels to feel a certain way when you’re not feeling that way. That might be a bit confusing. Let’s look at a few examples:

• It’s why when you’re not angry, you can’t really grasp why people act the way they do when they’re enraged.

• It’s why when you’re not hungry you can’t quite grasp why you’d eat junk food.

• It’s why you set your alarm on a Friday night, convinced you’ll be able to get up early on the Saturday morning and then sleep in till twelve.

• And it’s why so many good intentions never turn into habits – and that includes the writing.

Because how you feel will change. Yes, today you’re full of enthusiasm, but as you get into the project and certain expectations are not met, or you struggle to overcome a problem, or you get sick, or you fall in love, or a dozen other reasons start competing for your time that enthusiasm will wane. That always happens.
You can’t ignore it, because if you do then you will doom your project. Instead, you’ve got to realize.

‘Want’ alone is not enough

You’ve got to find other emotions to motivate yourself. I myself have used a whole host of emotions, from ‘need’, ‘guilt’ and even ‘shame’.

Need is the one I rely on today. It’s quite straightforward. If I don’t write, I don’t get paid. So, if I want to keep living in my apartment, if I want to keep eating, if I want to keep the power on, I’ve got to keep writing and that gets me going even when I don’t really want to.
Do that long enough and you can’t help but have a habit form. Of course, for people just starting off that might not possible. People will only start paying you once you’ve got a level of expertise and work you can show and by that time chances are you’ve generally already got a habit going. So let’s look at some other emotions.

Guilt was what I used to write my first book. I realized that for the longest time I’d called myself a writer but I didn’t really have anything to show for it. Time was moving on. I had to either get serious or accept that I wasn’t a writer after all and find some other way to give meaning to my life. That was not something I wanted to accept.
And so every time I didn’t feel like it, I just asked myself ‘are you a writer or aren’t you?’ ‘Are you going to find meaning somewhere else?’ and ‘are you ready to redefine who you are?’ Invariably I would answer those questions with a resounding ‘no’ and then, with a groan, I’d sit down and pick up my pen.

Shame was what kept me going after that book. You see, I’d told everybody I was writing a book, but when I was done with it I wasn’t at all happy with it. But everybody was expecting to read something. And so, rather than admit that my first book was rubbish, I sat down and wrote another. And that one I was willing to share! The fear of public disapproval can be a phenomenal motivator. Just make certain that you’ll be more ashamed of not having written anything than of what you’ve written and you’ll be fine.

Write (nearly) every day but manage your expectations

Today I’m a prolific writer. I create several thousand words of content most days, sometimes up to seven days a week. I write professionally and I write for my enjoyment. That wasn’t always the case, however. When I was younger I would sometimes struggle to write even a page a day, as I second guessed myself and threw out paragraph after paragraph. Many days I’d start off, work for several hours and have just as many words at the end of it as I did at the beginning.

At the time I hated those days. I now realize that was all part of the process. Writing is a skill and though you might have a natural aptitude, you can’t just expect to be great at it right off the bat. When people sit down at the piano for the first time, they’ll be happy if they can play chopsticks. So how come they expect to be able to write like Shakespeare when they sit down at the keyboard?
So write every day, even if it’s just half an hour, but manage your expectations. Don’t count the words, don’t expect the language to flow, just be proud of the fact that you’re doing it. All that other stuff will come with time and feedback.

Why do you write?

There’s a final point to consider. Why do you write? Yes, it’s very good for you. It makes you a better communicator and improves memory. It helps you become a better leader. It prevents anxiety and rumination. It even helps you heal faster. But is that why you write?

Or is it because it gives you meaning?

That’s what it does for me. I can’t imagine who I’d be without the words that spill from my fingertips. It doesn’t matter that sometimes they’re meaningless drivel. It doesn’t matter that sometimes they’re more muggle than magic. It’s the act of writing that continues to hold my attention and inspire my passion.

And that will be my final but possibly most important point. You’ve got to write for the right reason. For even if you write to pay the bills, there has to be a part of you that writes because you love writing. Only if the motivation for writing is intrinsic can you find the enthusiasm to keep going. Because let’s be clear about it, writing won’t make you rich. But if you do it right, it can make you happy.

And if you can keep a hold of that, if you can remember that it’s the act that gives you pleasure rather than the consequences thereof, then you can keep going and ultimately develop a writing habit. So do you have what it takes?

Author's Bio: 

Dante Munnis is a blogger and idea maker from Stockholm who is interested in self-development, web related topics and success issues. He shares ideas for students living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance.