I'm a huge Tony Robbins fan. (Based on his books, not his conferences, which are a bit too pricey for me.)
One distinction Robbins makes that's key to writing is commitment versus interest.
Being Interested v. Being Committed
If you're interested in doing something, you probably admire or envy other people who've achieved that goal or engaged in that activity. You believe you'd enjoy it, and you feel it's something you'd be proud of.
But if you don't do it, while you might feel a little regret, it won't seriously upset you.
For example, maybe you took piano lessons as a kid. As an adult, you might like to play better than you do, and you might include “play piano more often” as one of your New Year's resolutions or goals.
If despite that resolution, during the next twelve months your piano is mostly used to display family photos (or your favorite tea sets, not that that's what I use mine for), you're interested in playing piano, but you're not committed to it.
On the other hand, if you're committed, playing piano and playing it well matters to you more than almost anything else.
If life gets busy, you'll push aside another task to make time to play. If you feel sick, short of actually collapsing, you'll sit at the keyboard even if it's for five minutes or practice your fingering in your mind or listen to music you can learn from.
As it is with piano playing, so it is with writing.
How You Become Committed To Writing A Novel
If despite your best laid plans, month after month you never get more than a few sentences written, what you need most may not be more time but to shift from being interested in writing to being committed to it.
How do you do that?
- Set a deadline.
If you don't choose a timeframe, it's too easy to imagine you'll get to writing your book next week or next month. Then you turn around a year later and you've still not finished your novel.
So choose a date by which you'll finish your book that's reasonable but a little ambitious so you'll need to make an effort to find the time. It could be six months, a year, or two years.
- Write down all the reasons you want to finish a novel.
Maybe you've had an idea forever that you believe is perfect, and you so want to see how it plays out. Maybe you love immersing yourself in a fictional world once you finally do it, and you want that feeling more often. Maybe you imagine being interviewed on a podcast or television show, speaking at a conference, or reading at a launch party from your novel.
Whatever your reasons are, write them down. Now imagine how you'll feel if all of that comes true. Pretty great, right?
- Imagine yourself a year down the road and you haven't written word.
How will you feel? Write that down along with the other downsides of not writing.
- Tell other people about your goal.
Tell three people that you will finish a novel within six months, a year, two years, whatever your timeline is.
Just saying it strengthens your commitment, because now you've said it aloud to witnesses. Even if you never speak of it again and all three people forget about it, you'll know that if they do happen to ask and you haven't written a word, you'll have to admit that. (Or lie, but you wouldn't do that, right? And, anyway, you'll know the truth no matter what you say.)
- Ask for help.
This point is one step beyond telling people, it's enlisting them in your goal.
Ask a friend or family member to check in with you once a month and ask how the novel is going. Or, if you don't want to put that obligation on anyone, ask if they are willing to receive an email, text, or voicemail from you once a week about your progress.
The person doesn't need to respond.
Simply knowing you'll be reporting what you did or didn't do will add to your commitment to have something positive to say, even if it's only “wrote a hundred words” or “figured out who my antagonist is.”
P.S. If you're looking to learn more on this distinction between commitment and interest or how to motivate yourself, I recommend you go right to the source and read Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins.