· You need to create and keep a schedule. If you can only write from 6:00 am to 6:45 am on Tuesdays, guess when you're writing? Bingo: 6:00 am to 6:45 am, every Tuesday.
It can be difficult to dedicate time to writing when you feel you have very little of it, since the payoff takes so long to realize. Even writing forty-five minutes a day, however, will get you a first draft of a short novel in about a year (assuming a modest 250 words in 45 minutes x five days per week x 52 weeks per year = 65,000 words).
· You need to be disciplined. Not only do you have to carve out the time to put your butt in the chair, you have to use that time wisely. No checking e-mail, no reading webcomics, no on-line shopping. Write longhand, go somewhere without wi-fi, turn off your router if you have to. When you're writing, you're writing. Period.
This can be difficult if you work long hours or have kids to take care of, but remember: there must be some time in the day, if even only a few minutes, during which you can write. Find it, set it aside, and use it regularly.
· You need to be willing to revise. Virtually nothing comes out perfectly the first time. While it can be frustrating to write that final sentence of a first draft and realize you're not even remotely done, you can't quit and decide your first effort will have to be good enough. Find some trusted readers and get busy cutting, recasting, and expanding.
· You can't give up easily. Every writer's life is full of rejection; I don't need to bust out the tired clichés and examples for you. Your short stories will get rejected, your novels will get rejected, you may have to try a dozen times to find an agent. If you're self-publishing, you may find your first half-dozen attempts sell as many copies before settling to the bottom of Amazon's title list. If you're thin-skinned, build some calluses. If you're prone to giving up easily, this isn't the business for you.
· Maintain your relationships with other writers. If people you know are writing, submitting, and publishing, it'll keep the pressure on you to stay on top of your game. Ultimately, your own expectations and motivations will determine your success, but it helps to have other people pushing you forward, intentionally or not. Plus, as I've said, it never hurts to network. Recommendations and referrals jump-start literary careers all the time.
But! You tell me, folks: what do you do to keep yourselves motivated?