It has been said many times that writing is a lonely occupation. Many of us who write talk about the difficulty of sitting down at a computer and actually putting words on the page. You have to make a lot of sacrifices; skip social events, let the garden go, ignore the dishes and deny yourself relaxation time. That is a big ask for what sometimes seems like a little reward; some words on a page.
This is where your motivation really comes into play. If you want to see your name in print, or earn millions of dollars, then pretty quickly you will crash and burn. Those things take years, and you can spend a lifetime writing and still not be guaranteed of achieving either fame or fortune – even if you are good!
If you want the satisfaction of writing a novel, then you will probably find that slow and steady will see you through. I have a lot of friends who have a novel bouncing around inside them and they just want to get it written. These, I think, are the most successful writers when it comes to personal satisfaction.
Then you get writers like me. I don’t have just one novel in my head, I have a library of them. I have actually finished writing two novels, but the satisfaction of doing so is fleeting. I have barely typed ‘The End’ and sneakily printed off a copy at work before I start stressing about finishing one of the other novels (I can’t even say next novel, there are just too many to know which one should be next).
After so many years I’m finding a mixed up motivation issue. I’ve come to the realisation that they will never all be finished, so I go through long periods of writing lethargy where I figure ‘why bother’ – but then I also get haunted by everything from a flying obsidian dog to a boy who thinks cat poo smells like perfume. I have to let them out or they are going to drive me mad.
I guess that means that I’m going to be a writer forever, whether I like it or not.
There is a huntsman spider sitting in the corner of the room as I type this. Two weeks ago he was hunched up in the corner of my dining room. The dining room is on the exact opposite side of the house to the study.
When he went missing two weeks ago, I assumed he had found his escape by the same route as his mysterious entry. That or else the cat had eaten him. Today I discover I was wrong on both accounts. The spider has steadily been making his way across the entire house over the last fortnight, without me seeing him once.
How many times did I sit down on something to which he was attached? How often did I tread (with bare feet) near one of his hiding spots? Perhaps it is best not to know. But that’s the problem with being a writer, I’m imagining it. I’m even imagining the sojourn into my room he no doubt did, or worse, has planned.
Maybe one of the things that push writers to write is that they don’t like the unknown? Maybe speculating on what may have been is one of the ways we put our minds at rest.
This imagination thing does backfire terribly though when the spider is up in the corner of a room, a little too high and out-of-reach to safely trap and eject. I know the next time I come into the study the spider will no longer be here. And then… well then I will not be able to sit at a table or climb into bed without a thorough inspection first.
Hopefully he’ll be a little lower next time he turns up, and looking at the size of him, I might need to finish the super-sized Nutella jar before he next appears.
I don’t know if it is just because the work Christmas parties have started already, but the end of year feels so close now that I’ve started thinking about what I want to do differently next year. I’m big on tasks lists, I write one each week, but I’m looking at them less and less, and my achievement level reflects that. Clearly I need to revitalise how I’m doing them.
I also have spent a lot less time on writing since August. I was knocked down by a two-week cold, and in that short time I got out of the habit. So getting back into the swing of booking in time to write also needs to be a priority.
I think now is probably a good time to start thinking about your writing new year resolutions because you still have enough time to test out your possible commitments. I won’t set my ‘to do’ list until the end of the year (I still have a month and a half to cross things off of this year’s list), but I’m going to try out as many ‘get writing’ tricks as I can to find out what fires me up.
I’m also going to do something different this year. I’m only going to do a six month plan. A year is too long to be doing the same things the same way. I think my downhill slide in August was probably because I was starting to go stale both with my process and my proposed task list.
How has your year stacked up against what you wanted to achieve? Don’t worry if there are a lot of gaps, the way I see it is if you have ticked everything off already it means you were not setting yourself a big enough stretch. I’m sitting at about 60% of what I wanted to achieve, and if I’m honest, that is more than I thought I would get done. So I’m happy.
I have this naive (possibly) belief that there is an unlimited well of ides inside me and I will always be able to find something if I dip inside my head and look. But I’m starting to wonder if this is just because I do so little writing that when an idea comes to me I have so many others as yet unwritten, that I generally ignore it.
I have recently been thinking about what the down sides would be to being a full time writer, and for the most part they are things I enjoy about working in a normal job; having work colleagues to chat with, the coffee shop situated just downstairs which gives me an escape for a few minutes, no need to network and find my next contact for my next project. But one thing that didn’t occur to me until this week was the stress around the pressure to be creative.
When your creativity is a hobby, and therefore an option, there is no pressure to come up with stories. It is the idea that drives you to write, not your need to write driving the ideas. As a full time writer I would need to be generating a LOT of ideas, and if the well is dry when I try to dip into it, I would have to dig deeper, coming back later would not be an option.
So I’ve decided to set myself a challenge so that when that million dollar publishing deal (or, let’s be honest, any publishing deal) turns up, I’ve thought about all the pros and cons and I’m ready to jump in. So for the remainder of the year I’m going to come up with an idea for a story every Monday and Thursday. I’ve even got a beautiful notebook that I’ve been too afraid to write in that will be perfect for the challenge. I’ll report back here to let you know how I go.
Like many keen gardeners I’ve got a bunch of little seedlings bursting out of the ground nearly ready to be planted out. But our spring weather is a bit all over the place at the moment and on Wednesday night the air was a bit chilly, so I put my little greenhouse covers over my seedlings – and promptly forgot about them.
The next day it was 29’C –a lovely day by all accounts, unless you are a vulnerable little seedling with a glasshouse lid over you. By the time I got home all but one of the seedlings had perished. It was weeks of work gone in a day.
It brought to mind what I’m going through with my kid’s book at the moment. 35,000 words into it and I’ve realised that I have to completely change my main character. Worse, when I change my protagonist in the way that I think I need to, it has a major knock-on effect in the story and to other characters.
I feel like my months of work have been a little wasted. Yes the soil of the main plot-line is still there, and I know I have a lot of imagination seeds to spare, but the seedlings are frizzled, they are not going to make it.
It is a little disheartening, but once I’ve changed it I will have a stronger crop. And I know the mistakes I made last time, so I can avoid them this time. So there is nothing to do but re-plant. The sooner I do so, the sooner I’ll have some fresh seedlings.