Motivation vs. Habit

On the door at my gym, someone hung a sign that says, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit keeps you going.”

I began working out regularly over 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve dropped about 75 pounds, and I’ve run or walked something in neighborhood of 22,000 miles. I can’t even imagine how much I’ve lifted in weights. But think about it, if someone had said to me, “Hey, Dave, why don’t you go run 22,000 miles?” it would have taken an awful lot of motivation to get me going.

However, it only took a tiny bit of habit.

Writing is much the same way. A lot of us try hard to get motivated to write a novel. But writing a novel is a lengthy process. Being motivated doesn’t help much, but developing good writing habits helps a lot.

I learned long ago that exercise is hard when you’re starting out. If you run three days, you’ll want to quit at the end of them. That’s when muscle aches and fatigue are the strongest. But if you run for a week, you’ll begin to notice that you feel better on the days that you’ve run. Soon, the day won’t feel complete without some exercise.

Writing is much the same. Jumping into a project is hard. Working on a novel for one day doesn’t really get you very far into it. But if you try making it a habit—if you bundle all of that motivation up and say to yourself, “I’m going to write for one hour a day this week,” you’ll find at the end of the week that you just don’t really feel that your day is complete if you haven’t spent some time engaged in creative recreation.

With my writing workshops, I generally hold them for a week. I try to motivate my students to write daily during that time, if only for a couple of hours. The goal in part is to teach the writers and get them to develop new skills, but just as importantly, I’m trying to get them into the habit of writing.

Quite often it works. I’ve gotten many letters from writers where the writer has said, “Hey, Dave, I got into the habit of writing at your workshop last year, and I’ve just finished my first/second/third/fourth novel!” Whenever I see that, I always feel as if the mission has been accomplished.

So here’s the key to become a writer: Use your motivation to create a writing habit. Long after you have run out of motivation, you’ll still be writing.


When you take David Farland’s Advanced Story Puzzle or Writing Enchanted Prose, how does it work?

  1. It starts with a video lecture that you can watch at your own convenience. Most of these lectures run about an hour.
  2. We then have a Question and Answer session—these take place on Saturday afternoon and are videotaped so that if you can’t be there live, you can watch it later. Of course, if you can’t make it to the Q&A, Dave also takes questions through the email (or even by phone).
  3. You complete an assignment. Most assignments take a couple of hours, but if you want to spend more time doing brainstorming or perfecting new skills, that’s great.  The goal is to have you consistently internalizing new writing skills.
  4. You turn in the assignment and wait for feedback. Dave will normally return your critiqued assignment and give feedback within three days.

Dave’s goal is to keep you progressing with your writing with assignments that might take you four or five hours per week. This should leave you extra time for your own writing, and all assignments are designed so that they can help you with your novels in progress. In other words, this won’t derail you, simply help make your current novel better.

If for any reason you fall behind, that really isn’t a problem. Life happens, so there are no “deadlines,” exactly, only goals. You have a year to complete the course, so if your family will all be coming for the holidays, no problem. Take the week for family. You simply work at a pace that is right for you!

Find out more about both here: http://mystorydoctor.com/online-workshops/


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