Tag Archives: Motivation

Back!

I will confess, it was a lovely month off. I got to do a lot of socialising, family stuff, weekend getaways and lazing around. But that’s all I seemed to do. And if I’m honest, I could easily have fit the blog in around all those things.

What I noticed was that I felt no compunction at all to get to the computer. So, I didn’t just have a month off my blog, I had a month off writing. While I know I’ve said many times that I’d done no writing in the week, I did put out some flash fiction and edited stuff which I just didn’t count. This month I literally didn’t write any words of fiction.

And what was also strange is that I posted on social media less, not more. I took photos that I thought I should put up, but didn’t. I mentally composed ‘funny’ (IMO) tweets, and then never wrote them down.

It’s made me realise that this blog isn’t about getting followers or connecting with the big wide world; twitter, Instagram etc. do that now. This blog is about accountability, and clearly I need that in spades. Let’s see if anything else gets written this week.

Waiting

I thought I was getting better at waiting. I’m really not. I’ve got a few pieces of writing out for consideration and they have all run overtime on the deadline for responses. But all I can do is wait. That is the lot in life for an unpublished writer.

I can’t help but feel that if I was a more dedicated writer, I would just get on with the business of writing so that I wouldn’t even notice the waiting. But I do notice it. Every day. At least three times a day.

In first year Uni we did an experiment on rats either reinforcing, extinguishing or irregularly rewarding a press on a button with food. The reinforced rats just tapped away casually getting fed, the extinction rats tapped for a while, then gave up and got on with something else. The irregularly reinforced rats madly banged away at that button trying to work out what was the secret combination to get that food reward. I feel like one of those rats.

So, I guess my mission this week is to find something (besides work) to distract me from my email so I don’t keep checking to see if anything has come in yet. And I’m going to try really hard to make sure that thing is not TV.

It really is time for me to start working on a new novel.

 

Transformative Creativity

I was getting coffee with my work colleagues the other day when a song came on in the café that totally ripped me out of the here-and-now and dragged me back in time for just a moment. I’m sure my colleagues didn’t even notice the rip in the time-space continuum that gobbled me up and then spat me out. But I did. Those memories sat on my shoulders for the rest of the day.

Then on the bus I was transported to a fantasy land with a bunch of people I think of as close friends, despite having never met them. They don’t even know my name or what I look like. Of course they are characters in a book that I’m reading and they took me away from the congestion on the roads, for which I was truly grateful.

The arts really do have the power to take us somewhere else, to feel something else, to stop us in our tracks and make us suddenly see with different eyes and ears and senses. It amazes me how little time I make for revelling in other people’s creativity given how wonderful it can make me feel. I’m going to make a point of listening to more music and reading more books in the coming weeks. Maybe it will help with producing my own works of creativity.

Back on the wagon

A funny thing happened on Saturday. I was lounging about, stuffing my face with enough chocolate to make me wonder if it is possible to get diabetes in a single week of poor diet choices, and I suddenly got up, came into the study, and turned on the computer. More amazingly, I opened a writing project I last worked on in October and I started editing it.

This is was a very rough first draft, so I needed to write new words and everything. Within the first sentence I felt like I’d never been away. Next thing I knew nearly two hours had disappeared and I came up for air, leaving the world in my story behind and finding myself again in the study.

It was wonderful.

This is such a nice way to end the year. It gives me hope for a more productive 2019. I have my list of writing projects I want to complete, and now it seems I have found the motivation to get back to putting words on the page instead of just watching my own private movies.

I hope you all have a very safe, relaxing and fun New Year. I’ll see you all back here next year!

Reading and writing

As you can probably tell, I’m back on the writing wagon. I’m both editing and writing new words, after a bit of a break. I’m also getting back into my reading. For the whole time that I wasn’t writing much, I wasn’t reading much. It can’t be a coincidence that they both dropped off and picked up again at the same time.

In the past month I’ve read a mix of horror, science fiction, YA fantasy and murder mystery. I’ve also managed to read them quickly – one was knocked over in a single day. They don’t really crossover with what I’m writing, but I find that doesn’t seem to matter. Reading good stories always inspires me to write stories.

Could it be possible that when I don’t write (and don’t read) my aversion is actually to story? I find it hard to believe that could be the case, given how much I love story when I’m in the middle of it, but it is just so easy to pick up a book. So why wouldn’t I do it?

I know this is running a bit of a risk of confusing addressing the symptoms with curing the illness, but I wonder if next time I find myself falling into a bit of a slump – do I just force myself to read a few good books?

Jan-No-Wri-Mo: Lessons

Well, I did it. 51,154 words in the end. There was actually no point at which I didn’t think I’d make it – I’m far too pig-headed for that. When I promise myself that I’m going to do something, I do it. Which is not always a good thing…

I don’t think JanNoWriMo (or any WriMo for that matter) is a good way to write a novel. It is a fantastic way to get a novel finished, but if you don’t know exactly what is going to happen in your novel (and even my most planned novels end up going in different directions to what I expect) then I think you can hurt the story.

There were seven days in the month when I did no writing at all, and all of them happened when I didn’t know what should happen next. I had nearly three days (the short writing day happened here) where I spent quite a few hours brainstorming all the directions the story could head in. Then I picked one. Was it the right one? I don’t know. In real life I probably would have ruminated over the decision for at least a week. I didn’t like JanNoWriMo on that day.

But it wasn’t all bad. I discovered that early morning walks are fantastic for drawing out ideas. I would set off and couldn’t come home again until I knew what I was writing that day. Some walks went for 20 mins, some for over an hour. All of them got me a little bit fitter too, which is always good. It’s something I’m going to try and keep up.

The other thing I learned was that when you get creative in one area, it makes you start getting creative in other areas. Now, I wasn’t working, so maybe that figured into things too, but I did more elaborate cooking, took loads of photos, was out in the garden, and even managed all my TotalGym sessions without the usual torpor. I know that is one of the tricks you learn in Maximum Willpower; that once you start getting motivated in one area, you get motivated in others as well, but I didn’t even know I wanted to do all these other things.

Now I’m feeling a bit bereft. I’m writing this on the morning of February 2nd because it feels wrong not to be at the computer. When I finish this post I’m going to head out for a walk and see if I can come up with a short story idea. I need to be writing.

And I’m sure novelists can relate to this; I’m also sad. I spent such an intensive month with my characters and now they are all gone. I miss them terribly. Sadly, experience tells me that editing won’t bring them closer in the same way. Maybe that’s why my brain is already working on the final novel in the trilogy?

So, I guess the big question is; will I do another WriMo? I am interested to try JuneNoWriMo, because it’s got to be easier to write in the cool weather. 40°C days are torture at the computer. But I’m going to have a range of projects to work on. I think I could bash out 50K of short stories without running into the same problems that I hit with the novel. Let’s see, I’ve got a few months to decide yet.

Statistics

Number of days out of 31 that I wrote: 24 days
Average session: 2,131 words
Biggest writing day: 5,198 words
Smallest writing day: 712 words

Merry Christmas

The end of year is always a crazy rush, and this year has been no exception. But now I have 4 days off before the final run at work, and then it is time for JanNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month). I’ve never done JanNoWriMo before, but I am very mindful of the fact that it is only one week away, so I hope the anticipation is waking up my writing daemon and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat a bit too much food, and have a couple of wines and then settle down to read (from cover to cover) my novel for which I hope to write the sequel in January. That is my only writing requirement for this long weekend. Everything else is going to be friends, family and more food – because that is what the end of December is all about.

I hope you all find yourself in the company of good friends and family this Christmas long weekend. And if the family aren’t so good, then I hope that they are at least entertaining, or (for the writers reading this) inspirational.

Please take care, don’t drink and drive, or text and drive, or drive off after Aunt Mary said that particularly offensive thing. And if the chance presents itself, show kindness to a stranger. We shouldn’t wait for Christmas to do that, but it is a good excuse.

Merry Christmas!

Wants and needs

I want to publish novels that people read and enjoy. I need to earn money to pay my bills. Wants are born of passions and desires, needs are forced upon us. Isn’t it funny how easily we find the motivation to meet our needs but often only the inspiration to meet our wants?

I get up each day and go to work, not with joy and excitement, but acceptance. And I DO get up each day and go to work. So why don’t I use the joy and excitement of writing a novel to get me to the desk each night to write? I think it’s because it is a want not a need. So when I’m tired, or run down, writing gets jettisoned along with all the other optional wants (fitness, healthy eating, enough sleep, a proper cleansing and moisturising regime).

I’m a very pig-headed and motivated person, so I tend to make time to chase my wants, but even with that, I am amazed at how often I let them slip. I never let my needs not go un-met. It got me thinking about my personal needs and how I can change my wants into needs.

Food and bills are pretty frontline on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so let’s ignore them, but let’s look at other ‘needs’ in my life. I’m over 40 now (sometimes) so I’ve seen some of my wants make the transition into needs already. I want to keep my teeth, so now I actually floss every night. Yes, every night. In my 20’s I’d be surprised if I did it once a month. The fluorescence lights in the bathrooms at work have made colouring my hair a need that I used to be able to let slip. Saying no to chocolate and wine has also become the norm for me in recent years, that was unheard of in my early 30s.

I think there is a bit of shaming in ‘wanting it all’, like we should just be grateful for what we have. Don’t get me wrong, I know that anyone who counts colouring her hair as a need is a very lucky person indeed, and I AM grateful, but I also think there is nothing wrong with wanting more. Or should I say needing more.

Imagine what I would achieve if publishing a novel became a need? There are so many silly little wants I could sacrifice to get it done. Think; if we could turn the desire to make this world a better place into a need to get it done, what might we achieve? Yes, I’m very grateful for my health, and home, and loving family, but I am also grateful to be able to want more. I think I need to publish another novel. It’s time to get this done!

Motivation

Writing a novel takes a lot of time. Editing a novel (for me) takes even longer. There are a lot of hours in a novel, or even in a long ‘short’ story. My experience has been that exuberant enthusiasm has never held on for long enough to get me to the end.

Motivation to write generally falls into two different categories; carrot and stick. The carrot is things like imagining typing the words ‘the end’, visualising your novel in a book shop, or the burning desire to get your characters through this testing time and see them out of the terrible situation you put them in.

Then there is the stick, which is where pretty much all of my motivation comes from. The stick is things like not wanting to stay in your day job, knowing how disappointed you’ll be in yourself if you get to the end of the week without having written any new words, and the old chestnut of all-pervasive writer’s guilt – which sucks the joy out of all non-writing moments, rendering even the most delicious Haigh’s chocolate unpalatable.

Recently I have tried to find a different carrot method by looking at other successful people and asking myself ‘what would they do if they wanted to be a writer?’ These people don’t have to be writers, they just need to be people who have pulled their finger out and succeeded at something through hard work and determination. They also need to be people you genuinely admire.

How it works is this; you find yourself spread out on the lounge with the cat curled up beside you and some terrible reality TV on the screen. You’ve had a tough day in the office and you are considering finishing off that bottle of wine you opened on the weekend. Then you ask yourself ‘What would <insert person-you-admire’s name here> do right now?’ If you’ve picked the right person it will hopefully get you off the lounge and into your novel.

I’ve been using this for over a year now, and it has helped me get to the computer time and time again. By the time I write my first sentence it all becomes about me again, and wanting to finish the story, but when it comes to getting the computer fired up and the TV turned off I really need to give credit these other people.

Of course the previous two weeks where I didn’t write a word show that this doesn’t work all the time, but it has worked often enough that I’ll continue to use it. And to be honest in the last week I have written nearly 5,000 words and the question I’ve been asking myself is ‘what would *I* do if I was serious about being a writer’ and that feels a whole lot more positive. It also means I can appreciate my Haigh’s chocolate again.

Project promiscuity

Okay, I know I’m inviting a bunch of really bad spam from that title, but it was the most accurate way I could think of to describe my old approach to writing. I’ve been writing all of my adult life, and until the last few years I was a big believer in writing what I felt like writing. Our moods change a lot, and when you are happy you don’t really want to get bogged down in a depressing or dark piece of fiction. So I always used to have a number of projects on the go at once.

I ended up with a lot of novels that only got to chapter 5. I also had a lot of partially written short stories. What I had very few of was finished pieces. I also did almost no editing because the lure of new words always won.

About three years ago I decided I needed to finish stuff, so I tried to focus on just one project at a time. It didn’t work, as soon as I got to a difficult bit in my story I’d set it aside and start thinking about another story. Thinking turned into writing, and next thing I knew I had another novel that only made it to chapter 5.

Not many people know this, but a few years ago I spent a week believing I had a brain tumor. My doctor prepped me for it with too much conviction, and due to a whole manner of mishaps it took a week between the doctor’s diagnosis, my CT scan and getting the results that the doctor was wrong. I had a bunch of really bad symptoms that gave incredible verisimilitude to my incorrect diagnosis, so needless to say I did a LOT of thinking about the future, and more specifically, how short that future might be.

Above everything else I wanted to finish my novel. Despite my symptoms and stress, every night after work I came home and wrote like a machine. I’d hit a tough bit and I would slog through it to get to the next part where I felt more comfortable about what was happening. I didn’t let any other projects distract me.

By the time I discovered my brain was clear (and disappointingly showed no signs of secret microchips implanted by alien abductors), I had realised that I could force myself to focus. That novel was EveryWere, my pantser novel, and I finished writing it in just over 3 months.

That was a game changer for me. Since then I have picked just the one project at a time and regardless of mood, inspiration, or haunting writing daemons, I work on only that project. I have finished another novel, two novellas and five short stories since then. Probably more completed words than in my entire writing career before that time.

A lot of people enjoy project promiscuity, and they can make it work for them. But if you are like I was, and you aren’t finishing anything, then don’t wait for a terminal diagnosis to get yourself focussed. Try being faithful to just one project. You might go through some tough times together, but you may also find yourself in a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your writing than you have ever had before.

Happy writing.