Tag Archives: Motivation

Ideas Challenge

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.

Sometimes you don’t care

If I say ‘writer guilt’ I’m sure most of you know what that is. It is when you get home from work and instead of sitting down at the computer and pushing out 500 words you sit on the lounge and watch mind-numbing TV. And then you feel guilty. It is spending your one day off in the garden instead of at the laptop. And then you feel guilty.

I don’t know if it is my jaded view on publication, if it is the head-cold that just won’t go away, or if it is the natural cynicism that comes of aging, but my writer guilt seems to be going away. There are days when the sun is shining and I think the bigger sin would be to lock myself away with a computer instead of getting out an enjoying the fine weather.

Does that make me less of a writer? Yes, I think so. Do I care? Not a whole lot. Maybe like the waves of productivity and lulls of stagnation this will pass. Maybe the guilt will come back and I’ll start eating more chocolate and stop enjoying the time off I give myself. Or maybe not? That’s the excitement of real life I guess, you never know what is going to happen next.

Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the garden now 🙂

Why write?

I didn’t start out wanting to be a novelist. Originally I wanted to make movies. As a kid I loved films. I loved getting lost in them, it was a place where magic was real and dreams came true. It was only as I got older that I realised books did this as well (better even).

I worked out pretty quickly that I didn’t want to direct movies, act in them, or produce them; I just wanted to come up with the ideas. Movies back in the 80s and 90s were very limited by budgets, which is why I thought about writing books instead. There were no limitations on the special effects or cast size in books.

Leap forward twenty-plus years and I’m still writing these unlimited-budget-special-effects stories, but very few of them are getting out to the big wide world to be read. I am finally conceding that perhaps what I find interesting and funny does not appeal to the average person. Which begs the question; how much should this realisation shape my next steps?

It all comes down to why I write. The past five years have slowly killed my dreams of being published to the point where I can live off my writing. I’ve known too many people now who have been published by big publishing houses and they are still working in ‘temporary’ jobs to pay the bills. Mix with that the fact that I actually like my day job, and enjoy the people I work with and suddenly living off my writing becomes less of a goal.

When I think about why I sit down at this computer for so many hours, the same truth comes back to me; I like stories. I like to live in a world of my own making and explore all the what-if’s. I would love to have others read my work too, but that is just a bonus. I am my first audience, and I love to watch the stories unfold.

So I know I will continue to write, and I’m comfortable with the idea that I’ll write the stories I want to read. Who knows, maybe now that CGI is so cheap I could turn my hand to a special-effects script after all? It is all about getting the story out.

Dreaming of work

I work in the knowledge management area, so it is not uncommon, when I’m stressed or busy at work, for me to dream about categorising bits of my life; adding metadata to my cat, clothes and friends. The dreams don’t necessarily make a lot of sense, but they have their knowledge nicely tagged and ordered.

This got me thinking about what life might be like if I was to work as a writer – would I dream about my characters? I’ve only ever once dreamed about my characters, it was when I was nearing the end of the first draft of Paragon and I dreamed of the biosphere and saw two of my characters walk past. I was so excited I woke up.

When I wake from a metadata dream I want to hit myself in the head, and feel cheated that I have not been paid for the extra few hours of work I put in. I don’t think I would ever feel that way about dreams of my characters.

Thanks to our Prime Minister, I could potentially be facing another thirty years of metadata dreams. If I am going to be dreaming about work for all that time, I think I need to find something a bit more dream-worthy. Perhaps it is time for my mid-life crisis to really kick in?

When I was a kid ‘Choose Life’ t-shirts were all the rage and I think I even owned one. Now, some thirty years later, I really understand what it means. And just for the record, I don’t ever recall seeing a ‘Choose Metadata’ t-shirt.

Wright and wrong

Writers group opened with the usual guilty confessions about how much we had not written since last month. This is a fairly common conversation in both my writers groups, yet each month there is new writing to be critiqued so something must be getting written.

Are we expecting too much of ourselves?

For the most part we are not full-time writers. We have jobs, families, friends, gardens and pets that have genuine claims on our time too. There is no denying that writing is a lonely game, and you have to make sacrifices that others won’t necessarily understand, but I wonder if we are all a bit too heavy on the guilt.

It is hard to find the balance between saying no to the social events so you can get your story finished and giving your time to those who need you and who, in turn, you will need in the future. After all, if we do reach the goal of getting published, we want to have loved ones to invite to the book launch.

I’m starting to realise how important it is to factor in the non-writing time. You can either plan for it and enjoy it, or you can put unrealistic expectations on yourself and get disappointed. Sometimes having a bit of a break can be good for your writing.

Synchronicity

I’m currently reading a book on synchronicity, or the coincidences in your life which are there to help you on your way, or teach you a lesson. The idea is that coincidences are always there for a reason (or as Dean Koontz often says, there are no coincidences), so when you happen across them, then you know that the universe is trying to tell you something so you should listen.

I’ve known about synchronicity for a long time, and I have always been open to the idea, but I hadn’t been dazzled by it recently. So I borrowed this book to remind me of the exercises I’m ‘meant’ to do to open myself to being able to recognise when synchronicity is occurring.

The day I borrowed the book I had two unrelated people talk to me about synchronicity. They both brought the subject up without any prompting from me. The next day I got home and thought I should make a healthy salad for dinner, but all I could be bothered with was oven fries. The oven wouldn’t turn on! So I made the salad and felt really good. The book was working already.

I love synchronicity, I love the thrill when it unfolds in front of you, but it does raise so many questions, not least of which is am I not where I want to be because I’ve been too dopey to recognise the opportunities that were manifesting to move me along, or (worse still) am I exactly where I should be according to the universe?

So maybe when I start sending out the novel that will somehow help humanity, then the universe will jump on board and make it fall into the hands of the editor who loves it in the publishing house which is looking for exactly that book. Sounds like a lot of coincidences, but I guess that’s what synchronicity is all about.

It works! So far…

I’m loving the working day of writing, or eight-hour week. Twice I’ve sat down to do an hour of writing and ended up doing over two. Amazingly my editing has also improved significantly because on the days when I have commitments in the evening I print off stuff to edit in little blocks of time around my social life.

I think part of the reason for my success so far is that I seem to be planning much better than I have for my other ‘methods’ of writing. Because my definition of writing has expanded to editing I’m actually giving my editing the recognition it deserves and therefore getting more done.

When you just have word targets editing can fall down in the priority list, but there is no point writing 5,000 words a day if you don’t edit them. So now, not only am I starting to finish some stories to first draft status, but I’m actually dragging some of them through to a second draft so I can show them to my beta readers.

So the eight hours across the week compared to one whole day dedicated to writing. Well there is no comparison; I was four times more productive spreading my writing over a full working week than I was with a single day of ‘dedicated’ writing. I think I might be onto something here!

A full working day…

On Monday it was Adelaide Cup Day, yes, the race that doesn’t even stop the capital city after which it was named was on, so we all got to take the day off, most of us unsure if it was Labour Day, the Queen’s Birthday or just a day for us to get to the Fringe before the festival was over.

I decided to treat it like the day I would have if I was writing full time. I let my alarm go off at my usual Monday wake-up time, intending on doing an Alexander McCall Smith and writing for three hours before the rest of the world woke up. Instead I hit snooze faster than I thought my brain could even deduce that it didn’t have to go to work and I went on to sleep in over an hour later than usual.

But then I did get up and write… For an hour and a half. Then everything else became important; the grass needed mowing, the hedge clipping, I hadn’t spent enough quality time with my cat. As I was ploughing through the lawn (I have a push-mower and hadn’t cut the grass for nearly a month, so it really was ploughing) I started thinking about my week off for writers’ week. True I had written nearly 7,000 words in about a week, but nearly all of those were put down in 1.5 hour slots. Maybe word counts aren’t my thing, maybe I need time allocations?

So this coming week instead of word count targets I’m going to trial allocated timeslots for writing. I’m going to aim for one hour a day, with the option of extending by an extra half hour. I know that some days it will be impossible to book out a full hour on some of my evenings, so on those days where I am busy I will break the target into 30 minute slots which I can slip into the bus trip and lunch breaks. Since I have discovered that I edit much better on paper than the screen, editing can be the thing to do in those small slots.

I’ll let you know how I go, but the truly interesting thing will be to compare the output from my “full dedicated day” of writing on Monday to this upcoming week where, if all works out well, I should have about 8 hours of writing, or one full work day equivalent.

What brings us here?

I watched an interview with Matthew Reilly the other day on the ABC, and his story about why he started writing was my story about why I started to write. So far, however, we have had slightly different punch-lines for our personal tales, but there is still time left for me to address that.

He and I are of a similar vintage, so we were probably inspired by the same films growing up, and I distinctly remember as a kid thinking I wanted to make movies. Back then I thought to do that I had to be a director, without really understanding what the director did, all I knew was the director was the person who got their Oscar just before the lead actors so that’s what I said I wanted to be.

When I got a bit older I discovered that movies took lots of money and lots of people, and I had influence with neither. Back then most directors were in their 40’s (unbelievably old as far as I was concerned) and I couldn’t wait that long. I started to lose hope.

Then I discovered Lois Duncan.

She was writing books that were exactly like the movies I wanted to make. Her books were filled with special effects, young and exciting characters, and stories unlike everything else that was out there. That was when I discovered that writing books could give me the world that making movies promised.

Ironically now I love books so much more than films. I will always feel more for characters in a book than I will for those in a movie; the textures, tastes and aromas are so much more vivid in a book (directing my imagination) than a movie, so for me it feels like you are more there.

I would still love to see one of my stories turned into a movie, but I understand now that even that isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Your end gets changed, characters get tweaked beyond recognition and sometimes the main reason why you wrote it gets cut from the film.

But before I can even think about that I need to get my stories published. It would be wonderful if others could see my ‘movies’ with their million dollar special effects, exotic locations and amazing character actors, held in the pages of my books.

Use it or lose it

Sometimes when I haven’t written for a long time I get scared that I’ll forget how to write. Up until now it hasn’t been the case. My little absence, once over, had tended to make me a better writer, if anything. But this break feels different.

Even when I don’t write, I still usually think about my stories. I imagine what the characters are going to do next, I picture myself writing the story in the future, sometimes I even get new ideas that I try to remember for later (but never do).

This time I seem to have relished the break so much that I have completely cut myself off from my stories. There was only one time in all of January when I found myself thinking about a story; that was in the middle of the night when the temperature didn’t dip below 25’C and there was something outside the window making noises that sounded like they might have been coming from an alien. My mind wandered a lot that night.

Even now, as I sit at the computer with hours of free time stretching out before me for the first time in weeks, my brain is blank. I don’t even know which story I want to work on, let alone what I want to happen next.

This time I really am worried that I have taken too much of a break. This time I feel it is possible that I can’t go back. Even worse, it is not so much that I have forgotten how to write, but for the first time in longer than I can remember, I just don’t want to.