Staying Motivated while Writing Papers Remotely

Posted on: August 10, 2020 | By: Julia Bleakney | Filed under: The Writing Center, Writing Process

Hi, I’m Bridget Foehl. I’m a Writing Center consultant, the class of 2022, majoring in Economics and minoring in Philosophy. I’m also a disciplinary writing consultant for an Econ 101 course.


As we get started on our fall 2020 classes, many of our classes will have more online components than before as we strive to stay safe and physically distanced. It can be hard to stay motivated when we are working on online modules and at our own pace. In addition, uncertainty about what the future will look like, or whether the Covid-19 virus will spread, might impact our motivation. Such uncertainty might cause us to wonder “what’s the point?” You’re not lazy or a bad student for this drop in motivation; however, your coursework is still important and papers still have to be written.

I know what this is like; I experienced a drop in motivation in the spring when classes went online. I love writing, don’t get me wrong, but I struggled to stay driven. As a Writing Center consultant, I also observed a drop in students’ passion and drive for their writing. To help spark your motivation during these uncertain times, here are five tips that help me stay motivated and focused. I hope they work for you too!

1. Designate Time 

Set aside a time everyday for creative thought and writing. What time are you more productive? First thing in the morning? Last thing before bed? Right after your morning workout? If there’s a time when writing will come more easily, make a date and show up on time.

2. Find a Quiet Writing Spot

Find a quiet place to work. Maybe it’s a nice day and you could go outside or you’d prefer a table in the corner. Your writing spot should make you feel comfortable and content. Once you have your spot, remove all distractions. You know what they are: power off your phone, turn off the TV, and mute laptop notifications. Clearing the space will give your mind a space to focus on writing.

3. Set Deadlines 

It’s easy to push off writing when you feel that you have all the time in the world. Instead, try setting page goals and dates for your first and final drafts. The deadlines only work if you find a reason to believe in the importance of sticking to them. If you create a deadline, but you internally believe that it’s flexible, you won’t stay motivated by it. So find a reason that makes your deadline important. Care for your tomorrow self. When you’re tempted to extend your deadline, think of all the work you will have to do tomorrow if you skip today. You could also bribe yourself with a small reward to keep you motivated to meet your deadline goal.

4. Stay Connected

Formerly busy spaces on campus–like Belk Library and Moseley Center–will feel quieter than usual as everyone stays physically distant. It might feel hard to stay connected to friends, but it is even more important. Call a friend and discuss your topic or reach out to a professor to discuss your paper via WebEx, Facetime, or even the phone. You will be able to bounce ideas off one another and use that person as an accountability buddy.

5. Think of your “Why”

I know you may not like the topic you are writing on or feel that there’s no point, but remind yourself why you care to write the paper and why you want to succeed. Maybe it’s because you want to improve your writing or you have plans to attend graduate school or you genuinely care about the topic. Thinking of the “why” will keep you hopeful and prepare you for when we do return to our normal lives.

I hope those tips help jump-start your process! And remember, the Elon Writing Center is available for both online and in-person consultations at any point in your process!


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