February 3, 2010

Finding Motivation

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing is finding the time and the motivation to write every day. Often that novel we want to write gets put on the backburner because real life gets in the way. Chances are we all juggle a day job, dreaming for the day when we earn enough from the craft to spend the whole time writing. Even working 9-5 (or in some cases more - especially if you are trying to do a PhD in Physics) it's too tempting to say mañana. But realising that dream is going to take a lot of work so how do we keep going?

For years I wrote part time. I would go through phases when I would write all the time for 2-3 months and then stop and not touch anything; by the time I returned to working I was already rusty. Fortunately NaNoWriMo in 2009 forced me to get into the habit of writing everyday and finally I wrote that book thought about for a year before. Deadlines do help I find, especially in something competitive like NaNo. I'm lucky because I rarely have trouble with first drafts. I don't suffer from writers block because I visualise the story before attempting to write it. I do come up with some new twists and turns while writing, but having a start and a finish and a vague area in between helps to construct the story. If I haven't planned beforehand, I turn to real life for inspiration.

When you have an idea and a motivation to write - you will make time, even if you have a fulltime job and a social life. During NaNo, I would wake up at 6am (I was kitty sitting at the time, that probably helped), write while I sipped my morning coffee before going off to work. I would write a couple of hundred words in my coffee break and then work throughout lunchtime in the Starbucks down the road, then more writing in the evening. Not a very good long term lifestyle I know but I had never been more prolific in my life - I managed to write a 75,000 word novel in a month. The bad quality 100% guaranteed, but the story itself is interesting and its easier to edit something bad instead of a blank page.

The tl;dr version is that you will make the time to write if you have the motivation and the compulsion to do so. But how can one gain motivation?

Something like a competition with a time frame helps, but only if you know what you're gonna write. Sitting down to NaNo working an idea from scratch is going to be more of a challenge. Also writing a novel is an ambitious endevour - hence I prefer to work on short stories for now. Short stories are easier to manage when you are learning to write and edit.

One of the biggest motivators was finding a writing group. Turning up to that first writers meeting when you get asked the dreaded question "What do you write?" when the truth be told you haven't done anything in months is almost shaming.  Even networking with other writers can be a great inspiration for your work. You  have the opportunity to get support and guidance from experienced writers, as well as solidarity from the aspiring ones on your level. It helps a lot discussing your work casually with other people who are genuinely interested in what you do, or getting feedback and encouragement. It fills you with a sense of purpose and you feel compelled to keep bringing things to show you are working hard to earn their respect.

 If you are in a large city, chances are there is one even if you do not live in an English speaking country. I googled (in English) "Writers group Madrid" and bingo: out popped a journal entry with information on when and where the meetings are. Just turning up makes me feel like I have done something, even after my slump around Christmas (Eastern European mother's need constant attention) I managed to regain my momentum because I retained some tie to my writing.

This blog too is here to motivate me. I feel by writing it I have something to prove. The concept is to chart my progress and journey as a writer so I need to live up to my own expectations or I suck, right?

I know that deadlines, networking and blogging helps keep my writing everyday. What works for you?


Tony Anders said...

I find that I am driven more so by inspiration than motication per se. My genre is inspiration, but the topics present themselves when I stay "open" as opposed to "searching". I also write to confront issues in myself taht when placed before me, allow me to counsel myself, and in the presentation of writing publically, may help others along the way! Thanks for your blog!

Deborah Nagy said...

Tony, you're right: inspiration is just as important, if not more so, than motivation. I think when one is inspired, it's much easier to become motivated.

After talking about first drafts with a fellow writer in my group, I realised I'm one of those lucky sods who has no problems churning out first drafts in one sitting; most of the others tend to take a long time to construct the story as it goes along. I find the hardest for me is editing because I want to write new things, and editing relies more on motivation than inspiration.

I guess we all work in different ways. I love the fact that writing is such a unique process :)

Thank you for your comment. It was very interesting!