how to stay motivated when working on a long term creative project

Creativity and Motivation

September 7, 2018Susan

Creativity and Motivation, or the longer title; How to Stay Motivated When Working on a Long Term Creative Project.
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During any creative project, especially a longer one motivation is key to success.

How do you stay motivated? How do you keep going?

These are the questions I get asked most often about my writing process.

Whatever your creative project is, there will be times when you can’t be bothered showing up to it.

It’s important to understand that this doesn’t mean you’re a failure. That only happens if you totally give up 😉 when you stop trying.

I’m going to share some of the ways I stay motivated when wrangling with my writing. These methods could be applied to anything long-term and creative endeavour; home renovations, writing a book, building a beautiful website, developing a photography portfolio you are proud of.

how to stay motivated as a creative
Photo by Alexander Ward

First of all, I wanted to take a look at the hurdles that can be part of a long-term creative project;

  1. When you are playing the long game with something creative, it’s hard to keep up the momentum because you don’t have that feel good feedback, that we get with mini projects. That instant “like” that we are so used to on social media gives us a mini shot of dopamine.
  2. When you are playing the long game it is often a solitary pursuit, with no one getting to see it until its “finished”. You have only yourself to answer to.
  3. When you are creating something bigger (not always in size, but in scope, depth, or meaning) than you’ve ever done before there is a distinct swing between the feelings of invincibility and of fear. Both of these are extremes and can be exhausting.
  4. Distractions and procrastinating are rife in creative pursuits. We can be Kings and Queens of procrastination and have a sparkling kitchen and bathroom. pushing our creative project further down the priority list.
  5. We all know, comparison is the thief of joy, but also of time and brain power. Looking at other peoples success can sometimes take away your focus and momentum

“The compelling thing about making art- or making anything, I suppose- is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances.” Clare in the novel The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audry Niffenegger

So what to do?

How do you get over these hurdles?

This is easier said than done, but my advice on staying motivated is;

  1. Join a group, find some buddies that are doing similar things and share with them. Just small snippets, segments or mockups. Whatever your *thing* is. The right people will encourage you, will give you strong, constructive feedback.
  2. If there are times when you can’t face working on your creative project, then listen to your body and have a break. Go for a walk, visit a museum or simply take yourself for a coffee somewhere new. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just try to make a deal with yourself that you’ll be back at it again tomorrow.
  3. Reward yourself. I never used to do this, just moved on to my next project. But for long-term goals, this really works. They don’t have to be expensive things, but something you’ll feel is a treat. For example, at 40,000 words I bought Fleetwood Mac Rumours on vinyl, and when I reached 80,000 I booked a spa day with a good friend. I really felt I’d deserved that spa day by then!
  4. Be accountable. Whether it’s joining in a hashtag project to keep track, or sharing your weekly targets online, there’s nothing quite like having to live up to your own hype to keep you working.
  5. Visualise you achieving your goal. How does it feel? This is another great way of staying motivated. It pushes you on so you can feel those feelings for real when you finally complete, or surmount a hurdle on the way to levelling up.

Are you working on any long-term creative projects?

What keeps you going? How do you stay motivated?

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Comments (20)

  • Lucy

    September 7, 2018 at 7:08 am

    This is very useful as I am working on something and also just finished a course that needed all that advice.
    Having breaks is so important. Great post x

    1. Susie

      September 7, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Thankyou Lucy! It’s so easy to get caught up in the goal that we can sometimes lose our balance x

  • Kathryn

    September 7, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Great advice Sue. I find setting achievable daily goals are helpful and recording them somewhere like a notebook or spreadsheet so you can see your progress, even if it is small. Love the idea of a spa day. Might do that if I ever finish my latest wip!

    1. Susie

      September 7, 2018 at 10:22 am

      That’s a good idea, I added my word count on the calendar each week! A spa day is a great incentive!

  • Kirsty

    September 7, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    IM such a procrastinator!!! I feel like if I’m sat at my desk I’m ‘working’ even if I’m actually just scrolling my phone! Silly me! Thank you for this post

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Hehe thanks, Kirsty!

  • Lisa

    September 7, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I needed to read this, great tips! I’ve got a plan, writing wise, but I know what I’m like with my work/life commitments. P.S loving your brand revamp

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Pace yourself lovely, little and often and you’ll get there xx

  • Michelle loves to eat

    September 8, 2018 at 12:07 am

    This was so useful! I never really reward myself but I think I should start. It would be nice to have something ‘to look up for’

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      It is great to have an incentive!

  • Oliver

    September 8, 2018 at 12:15 am

    These tips are brilliant, and I definitely think meeting like-minded people and exchanging ideas help a lot with creativity!

    Oliver x

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      Oliver, it is key isn’t it!

  • Bec – views from my garden bench

    September 9, 2018 at 11:46 am

    very wise advice here Susan – I’ve got a couple of big projects on at the moment so this is very helpful. I use pomodoro technique to focus on what I need to do – especially as a long time
    I’ve shared, including to 2 people I know writing books 🙂 Hope all going smoothly with your writing.
    Love Bec xx

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      That’s so kind of you thanks Bec!

  • farmerswifeandmummy

    September 9, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    Great tips Susan. I love the new look of the blog 🙂

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Thanks so much Emma x

  • Kirsty

    September 9, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Thank you for this! Such an inspirational post and im for ever impressed at your dedication this year xxx

    1. Susie

      September 10, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Aw thanks for your support Kirsty!

  • Elaine Fitzpatrick

    September 25, 2018 at 7:38 am

    These are great tips I get so easily distracted and bored. I agree with setting rewards for yourself at certain points along the way is so valuable

    1. Susie

      September 26, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Thanks so much!

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