Summer 2006: Motivation Matters…Or Does It?

Motivation Matters…or Does It?

It’s been a heck of a rough spring and summer on my end here. I’m a migraine sufferer and have had over 110 migraines since April. Suffice to say that a pounding, blinding headache doesn’t do much for one’s creativity or motivation to work

And yet, work I have, as often as I could. I’m writing my sixth book of the year this month, with two more to follow before 2006 wraps up.

Trust mewhen I have a headache, my first inclination is to head to bed, have a huge pity party and overindulge on treats from Dairy Queen. But there are books to write, proposals to write, galleys to proof, e-mails to answer…a job to keep showing up for. That means that I need to get motivated and get to work.

Or do I?

One of the chief things I hear from writers who are struggling is that they just aren’t that motivated to write. Or that they can’t find the time to write until they find the motivation, like the carrot before the horse. They need one to spur the other, to get them going on putting those words on paper. Then, they figure, this job will become easier. The words will fall onto the page like rain from an overstuffed cloud.

Ha-ha.

Let me know when that happens for you because it sure doesn’t happen in my office.

Every day is a struggle. Every day I play that internal war between wanting to do anything but work and getting to the page. Why? Oh heck, start a list. There are plenty of reasons. The characters are being difficult, the book isn’t shaping up the way I wanted it to, there’s a great sale at Macy’spick your reason and I’ll give you five more, just to make my case.

It’s not motivation that gets me in here, at least not what I see as motivation in the traditional sensethat driving need to succeed; to become the next J.K. Rowling or whoever the hot author of the year happens to be. We might all tell ourselves that, but come on, when you’re sitting at your keyboard and you’re struggling to get just one more paragraph out, you’re not picturing major launch parties for your book or a Barnes and Noble sales report that hinges on your latest release. No, what gets me to keep pounding away at the story is one simple thing

The need to know the end.

Yes, I write romantic comedies, and yes, I know that unless I change my name to Nicholas Sparks, they’ll end up with a happily ever after. But HOW I get from the disaster at the beginning to that ending is always a mystery to me (even if I write a synopsis, I never follow it. I’m a seat of my pants kind of writer, with a lot of the pre-planning happening in my head). I’m the kind of person who won’t flip to the end of a mystery to see whodunit (unless it’s REALLY badly written and I don’t think I can slog through another two hundred pages). I won’t fast-forward to the end of a suspense movie, no matter how tight my gut is twisted with tension. I like the anticipation, I like the building, I like to see the resolution come together.

It’s not motivation that gets me to work every day. It’s suspense. I’m dying to see how this story will turn out. If these people will be what I envisioned or if they’ll go off on some picnic with my tale and come back with something altogether different in the basket. I can’t cheat my way out of thisI have to actually write it to see how it turns out.

That’s the bad news. Because I am, at heart, a lazy person, who would love it if those words would just write themselves while I’m sleeping. I could come in here, turn on the computer and VOILA! my story would be done, except for the reading.

Do you need motivation to write? Not exactly. No writer feels motivated every day, heck every word, to write. What you need is the curiosity. To see whether you can finish the story, the book, the query letter. To see how it all turns out. To see if your vision becomes different once it’s painted on a computer screen.

Will you wake up some days, raring to get to work? Yes. I have days when I can’t wait to get in here. Will you get distracted by an e-mail, a quick game of FreeCell, the call of the cookie jar? Heck, yes.

What will get you back in, among the words, even if the Tylenol isn’t working and the kids ate the last of the cookies and the best of Dr. Phil is on this afternoon?

In my opinion your need to know. Let that be the fuel for your writing fire on the days when your motivation to write is nil. Think about your story, turn it over in your mind a bit while you’re cooking dinner or making that long commute home. Warm up the fires of curiosity so that when you and your computer are reunited, you’ll be more inspired to write instead of flopping onto the sofa.

Yes, motivation can be important. But on the days when you don’t have it, you don’t need to sit around, waiting for the writing fairies to send some via UPS. You can still sit down and get to work, grinding out wordsgood or badbecause somewhere, waiting for you, is The End.

A side note: Many of you have kids who went back to school this week or will in the next couple of weeks. My kids did (yeah!), which means I’m back on a regular schedule, always a good thing. If you want to find more writing time, try treating it like anything elsefit it into a schedule. I don’t care if you fit in ten minutes before your wheat toast in the morning or if you stay up till two in the morning after working second shift to hammer out a few pages. Find a schedule and stick to it, day after day.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again a page a day, every day for a year = one completed book at the end of 365 days. One page a day. 250 words. You can do that, I know you can!

FYI: For those interested in my books, visit my website at www.shirleyjump.com. If you’re writing fiction and want to join my how-to discussion list, go to www.yahoogroups.com/justwriteit

Shirley

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