Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Motivation Station

It took me a year, but I wrote an entire book on my schedule. No one told me to write it. No one gave me an advance and, therefore, pressure to complete. I had no editor or agent checking up on me to make sure I was writing a certain amount of words a day. But even without any outside accountability, I wrote a freaking book. And now that I’ve written it, I just don’t feel like writing another. That’s going to be a problem considering Anne the Agent is out there pitching A FEARFUL THING, which cannot stand alone. I sealed my own fate with a cliffhanger.
Alec says you should always be closing. But it's not that easy, Alec!

My hard drive will show you how bad I am at finishing what I’ve started, writing wise. I am the opposite of a closer.  Write a poem a day for a year. I have a file folder devoted to this project. It has four poems in it. Write a novel reworking a fairy tale. One doc. that has a rough outline. You get the picture.

Before A FEARFUL THING, I’d never really completed a writing project on my own without an outside deadline. Writing on a real deadline with a potential angry person (a newspaper editor, a professor, an agent) on the other side of that deadline is a completely different experience than writing without an official timeline. I need those angry people sending me terse emails, rolling their eyes at me during their office hours, and threatening to dissolve our contract if I don’t get my proverbial mess together. Those deadlines I abhorred when working for my university newspaper or writing for my coursework are part of what I miss the most in my writing life. So what do you do if you don’t have a fearsome authority figure pushing you to meet your potential?

Larry the Cable Guy's pretty sure you can do it, man!

Helpful tips for Gittin’ R Dun (which I hope to follow myself soon here): (blue collar comedy)

-Be okay with writing not being your top priority

I have a lot going on right now. Not in a bad way, just in a “life is full” kind of way. I have a husband who I want to spend time with. I have a new house that is empty and unfinished. I am teaching eight courses this semester at four different colleges. I try to run 4-5 days a week. I’m an active part of my church community. I have a binding commitment to watch at least 30% of all television that has aired in the past decade. Writing is sometimes a priority; but a lot of the time, it isn’t. And that’s okay. I don’t have to feel bad about not locking myself in some crumbling garret until I finish 1,000 pages. That's how you get the consumption and all manner of plagues.

Do I have this book on hold at the library?
None of your business.
-Don’t use other priorities as an excuse to not write

I’m busier than I’ve ever been...but I absolutely have time to write. Do you know how many people have book ideas that never make it to the page? Like everyone. And Snookie’s had two books that haven’t just made it to the page but have been published and, presumably read. Snookie found time in her busy baby-making, hair poofing, tequila-swilling schedule to write two gorilla juicehead novels. What’s your excuse?

-Create accountability

I haven’t done this yet with Book the Second because I know how powerful it is. If you promise pages to someone (especially if that someone is the workhorse whom you fear) and you don’t deliver…uh oh. This does mean you have to acquire a reader (or several, hopefully), but don’t do this until you are ready to produce. If you have a WASPy fear of putting others out like I do, this tip will work wonders for your efficiency.

-Give yourself consequences or rewards      
This nutbag could be your therapist someday.

My lame-o sister, who is getting her PhD in Psychology, is the queen of measured consequences. Maybe consequences isn’t the best term. Restrictions, let’s say that. When she’s got a chunk of dissertation to work on, she limits her web activity. She’s told herself she’s not allowed to visit certain time-suckpages until she reaches a certain point in her writing. I’m more of the reward type, myself. If I finish 10 pages, I get another cup of coffee. If I revise these three chapters, I get to watch an episode of Sister Wives (which may seem like a consequence to some). You know your personality, so reward or restrict as needed.

-Divide your project into intense, brain-heavy parts and lighter busy work parts

I’m still in the planning stages of Book the Second right now. But even within that planning stage, I can divide my work into the brain-heavy category and the lighter fare. I’m doing a Prezi (fancy PowerPoint) to map everything out instead of the usual scrawls in various notebooks. As I’m working on this Prezi, I have sections where I really have to take time and think about where I want my plot or characters to tentatively go, and then I have other sections where I’m basically just copying and pasting from Wikipedia to build up my researched sections. (I know; I should know better. But it’s faster, you know it is!) For your work, maybe you want to split up research, writing new sections, large revisions, and copy edits. Let different parts of your brain work at different levels of intensity. Save the major work for when you have the time and mental energy, but you can also accomplish some easier work on your off days.

Any other suggestions writers? (Other than “suck it up and do it, you little baby-punkface.")

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of a lady recently (I think maybe she was on TV...but could also have been in real life -frightening that I may be confusing the two) who was describing her motivation to get to the gym on the regular. She said something like: "Every time I want to excuse myself from the gym because I think I'm too busy, I remind myself that at any moment many, many people far busier than I am are on treadmills."