Monday, July 7, 2014

Second and Whatever Comes After Foremost: What Keeps You Writing?

In last week's blog post, I discussed passion for the craft as the reason for writing in the first place.  Knowing why you've decided to write and/or pursue writing  as a main or secondary career is important towards keeping yourself grounded.  Passion, like fire, can be tempered or even burn out.  That likely sounds odd to most folks and leads to questions such as "so, putting words on paper/computer screen leads to burning out?"  Not quite, although there are some writers who leave the craft for various reasons that probably fall into burn out. What I'm talking about is separate from passion and goes beyond even inspiration: we're talking about motivation this week.

Whether it's a bout of Writer's Block, or losing interest while slogging through exposition or dialogue in order to get to the next big scene, maintaining motivation becomes one of the keys to finishing your book.  It means staying on track and on task, writing down one word and then another until you've got a full sentence.  It means keeping your focus so that you can tie those sentences together.  It means never losing sight of the big picture of your story as you round out the last section of a paragraph, and paint with letters the scene in your mind.  More importantly, maintaining your motivation means sticking with all of the above in order to see that kind of progress.  Of course, making progress helps to fuel/refuel one's motivation.

Another key part to staying motivated is to be fair (but honest) with yourself when you stumble.  We're only human and that means we are capable of failure through an infinite number of ways.  Procrastination.  Poor time management.  Perfectionism to the point of paralysis.  Everyone procrastinates at some point: writing is hard work and you deserve some time off, don't you?  Who doesn't have a hard time keeping track of time: between work, spouses/significant others and kids, when is there time to write?  And, of course, no one will want my book if it isn't the next Great [Insert Your Country of Choice] Novel: by editing on the front end, I'm saving myself work on the back end (Yup, I used to fool myself with that one too).  The sooner you can admit these things to yourself, the sooner you'll be able to come to grips that sometimes you have to take a break and recharge your batteries.   

Last month I started a 30 Day Challenge for myself by writing 1,000 words per day during the work week and 3,500 words on Saturdays and Sundays (i.e. 12,000 words a week).  I thought this would be a great way to: (A) stay motivated; (B) make a huge stride towards getting to the half-way mark of the sequel to "Of Murder and Monsters," and (C) would be lots of fun along the way.  I was way off base with A.  I was an idiot with C.  B was a good idea; however, I learned that I went about it all wrong.  In terms of motivation, anyone can put up 1,000 to 3,500 words in a sitting, but that doesn't necessarily translate to writing a good book. For the record, I'm not knocking on authors to set daily word count goals.  It that's what works for you, great! For me, it didn't work because I kept questioning the direction that Book Two was heading.  Granted, I'd come back the following day and do a clean up of the previous night's work; however, it was taking a toll on my motivation. In other words, I wasn't keeping my batteries charged.  Mind you, holding down a 60+ hour per week job is also a factor. 

While some would likely argue that my 30 Day Challenge was a failure, the important lesson I've taken away from the experience was a better understanding of what motivates me.  I've always known that I wanted to be a writer and it's part of the legacy I hope to leave for my children.  While I harbor no dreams of being the next Great American Writer (not sure I'd want the title anyways), writing gives me another piece of myself to leave for my kids when I'm gone.  Writing and storytelling is a core part of who I am.  Sharing that part of myself with my family, as well as the readers who've enjoyed my writing, today and years down the road is one of the factors that keeps me writing.

What keeps you motivated to write?

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