Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blog Chain - Motivation-Suckers Beware!

This round's topic was chosen by the amazing Amanda, who wanted to know:

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you're not making any progress in your writing career?

I actually posted about this topic a year or so ago - and when I went back over that post I realized that what I said then is as true now as it was when I wrote it.

Staying motivated is something I struggle with at times, as we all do, I'm sure. Writing is hard work. I enjoy it. But when Real Life or the little green monster in my head rears their sometimes ugly heads (and they always do), finding the time, energy, and motivation to write isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

So, here are a few things I do to help get me “in the mood.”

1. Find something to make me laugh.
When I am in a bad/sad/stressed mood, the last thing I want to do is write. I’m not sure why that is. I have a great time going over the stories in my head. But getting those stories from my head onto my computer sometimes takes more effort than I want to put in just then. But if I can lighten my mood, laugh a little, I start to relax, and suddenly writing seems like less of another “to do” item and more of a fun activity. I find something to
make me laugh and help me take myself a little less seriously. A good British comedy or standup routine are always good for a few laughs.

2. Take a short break and fix what is bugging me.
If I am not motivated to write, chances are, there is something else bothering me. Maybe I need to fold some laundry and I just can’t settle in to write because I can see the 15 loads of clean clothes from the corner of my eye. Maybe I promised my kids I’d have cookies waiting for them when they got home from school, or maybe I forgot to make my bed, or any one of a hundred other things. Now, I’ll admit I’m a little more…anal than some people :D But if I just go take care of whatever it is that is making me feel guilty for writing, then I can sit and write and enjoy myself instead of fixating on other things.

3. Get inspired.
I am inspired by so many things that this one is actually a really good way for me to get motivated. A few of my favorite inspirations are:
- Music. Some songs just really hit me hard and make me want to write. For one of the stories I am working on, I pretty much have James Blunt’s “Same Mistake” on repeat. A few other bands that always inspire me are Apocalyptica, Coldplay, Everlast, Evanescence….those haunting melodies are just great inspiration for the drama needed for some good fiction.
- Art. My walls are plastered with art. My husband teases me about it because there is not one blank wall in our house. I also troll the internet… is a great place for inspiration. I collect gorgeous nature shots and other pictures like this...

I see some of these places and want to write a scene that takes place there, or I’ll see a picture like this…

and I want to write a scene where my characters feel the way the people in the picture look like they feel.
- Movies. Certain movies just really hit home and tweak emotions that are hard to contain. My current favorite is P.S. I Love You. I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times, because it makes me laugh and cry and drool (Gerard Butler…ummm gorgeous!). It makes me want to write something that will make people feel the way I feel when I watch it.

4. Read.
I read. A lot. And I mean A LOT. If you are going to be a good writer, I think it’s a necessary part of the process to read. I call it research. It gets me an eye roll from my non-reader husband, but it really is research. Most of the time I get lost in the story, but now, as a writer, I can never really shut off the edit mode. Sometimes I’ll come across a passage or a really good (or bad) dialogue sequence and think “wow, I love how she did this,” or “ooo, I never would have worded this like this, it just doesn’t work.” Reading other’s work makes it easier to spot both the good and the bad things in my own work.
And, like the movies and the music, sometimes I’ll read a book that just inspires me to write, inspires me to create something that will invoke the emotions that I felt while reading.

5. Almost last, and anything but least, I go to my patient and saintly friends.
They put up with a lot from me. A have a few very good friends who get a copy of just about every email, passage, chapter, query letter, and synopsis I have ever written. They deal with my insecurities about everything I do. They love me enough to tell me when I suck and are genuinely ecstatic for me when I succeed. They encourage me to write when I’m in a slump and they support me when I need to slow down a bit.

They make the whole process easier. If you don’t have any writing friends yet, I highly suggest finding some, because this is a tough business and it is more wonderful than I can express to have people to go to who understand what I’m going through.

6. And the real kicker – I try very hard not to compare my journey to anyone else’s.
I am unique and so is my work, so why on earth would anything about what is going on in my world be remotely the same as what goes on in someone else’s? If I start comparing my journey with others out there, yeah, it can be a real motivation-sucker. So I try very, very hard not to do that. And when I have a hard time keeping my blinders on, I shut myself off from everything but my own little story world – I stay away from blogs and Facebook and posts and everything else that distracts me from what is truly important….MY OWN JOURNEY.

These are just a few things that I do get myself motivated and in the writing mood. Everyone is going to be different, so these things may not work as well for you as they do for me. All you really need is the right mindset, a little inspiration, and the support of a few good people, and the motivation takes care of itself.

Be sure to stop by Laura's awesome post if you haven't heard how she handles motivation problems, and head to Shaun's blog tomorrow to see what works for him!

How about you out there? What kills the motivation for you? How do you get it back?


Vicki Rocho said...

Great answers!

The internal editor kills motivation for me. I have this grand picture /scheme in my head that I'm just not living up to and it becomes a huge hurdle. Learning just to press on, even when my writing is less than stellar. Sometimes I distract myself by working on character sheets or doing a floor plan of the house/apartment and inspiration seeps back in.

Matthew Rush said...

Great advice! Thanks Michelle.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post! I'm with you on reading books, including the rsearch part. Fortunately my husband is very understanding about my need to read books. :D

Christine Fonseca said...

Great answer Michelle - and yeah, remembering that your journey is unique is the key. That and great friends!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Thanks for the tips!

Michelle H. said...

I also call reading "research!" Makes it seem more dramatic :) Great post!

Jamie Grey said...

Love the post! I totally agree on the laughter thing - sometimes you just need to find the joy in life again to move forward.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Inspiration is so key. I just started reading Jellicoe Road and within a couple of chapters I could already feel it lighting a fire in me to be better, try harder. Books/movie/songs/paintings like that are the ultimate motivators.

Cole Gibsen said...

Fabulous answer! You are so right about not comaparing your journey to others. It's something I worked very hard to do myself and it makes all the difference!

Carolyn V. said...

I love your answers! I have a terrible time comparing myself (where I am in my writing, how well I'm writing). I'm trying not to, but it's so hard. =)

Jan Markley said...

good post! I recently did a couple of posts on writerly motivational 'to do' and 'to don't' lists. Which included how to avoid spiraling vortexes of negativity!

nomadshan said...

Taking a short break to fix something sounds familiar. :) The laundry on the bed behind me -- feels like it's tapping me on the shoulder, going, "Hey... Hey... Hey..."

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

All great points, but I think that last one might be the most important - it is hard to see other people succeed and wonder when is it my turn, but in the end that doesn't do anyone any good.

Sarah Bromley said...

Fantastic post, Michelle! These are great tips for keeping it going. Nice job.

Anonymous said...

This is a great list! Love your ideas for inspiration! :D

B.J. Anderson said...

Wonderful post, Michelle! I especially like music, too. Sometimes a song can just get me writing a scene I've had troubles with.