Thursday, 5 July 2012

Preparation 3: How to Sit Down Part 2 - Motivation

So, have looked at will power. But really, relying on just will power is doing things the hard way. It really should be just there as a backup. To really start cooking with gas, or writing with oomph, you want the good stuff: motivation. If will power is making yourself do something you know you should but don't want to, motivation is the magic power of making you actually want to do it. If you are motivated, you don't have to con or guilty yourself into doing it. Instead, it becomes almost impossible to hold yourself back. The greater the motivation the less will power you need to do it. Awesome, no? So, today I'm going to look at how to overflow with motivation so that writing will become your play and relaxation.

At the beginning of an enterprise, we are usually overflowing with motivation, can't wait to start, jumping the gun. This is with a lot of things, writing, new exercise and diet programs, starting a new job. But after a while, be it as short as one day, that beginners' motivation disappears. Then it feels like you are using every ounce of will power you have just to do what you have to do. There is no joy in life, you don't feel like you are doing anything that you love any more, and it's all just work, work, work.

Well, my friends, it's time to break that mental attitude, and bring back the fun!

I started writing out a practical list of things you could do to try and make yourself feel motivated, but it all sounded a bit too much like work. So I thought about it another way. What's the difference between play and work? Really? Pretty much one you enjoy and the other you don't. That which is play for some is work for others. So, basically, we want to turn writing into our play, not our work.

First there is the way we approach the writing time. Play is about imagination, discovery, surprising yourself. It cannot be routine. Routine is the death of play. If you take a group of kids that love kicking around a soccer ball and start telling them they need to practice kicking back and forth for ten minutes, then practice blocking from each other for the next ten minutes etc., you have suddenly taken all the play out of it. Give them a ball and let them go for it. If you want to look forward to your writing time and be able to write for hours on end, you need to do the same. Yes, you need to sit down, and yes you do need to churn out words, but that's about it. Give your characters a situation or problem, and then just sit back and enjoy them trying to work out a solution.

Similarly, in your first draft, don't take yourself too seriously (no one else is!). Just be silly and enjoy it. During exam periods a friend and I gave each other challenges such as: find a way to get a Terry Pratchett quote into your essay, or one of my favourites was to find a way in a written exam to include the sentence 'I'm a fish' in ancient Greek. Suddenly something which was a chore becomes an enjoyable challenge. Staying motivated to write is a lot easier when you don't take yourself seriously, and are prepared to have fun.

Then there is what Kate Forsyth talked about: building anticipation. I have to admit, this is an art that I had almost lost. We are told it is childish to look forward to things, to not be able to sleep the night before Christmas, or to count down to birthdays. We aren't even supposed to like birthdays when you grow up (which is a waste of a great day of cake, if you ask me). To chuckle with glee at the thought of being allowed to escape and sit down and write just does not gel with our image of the tortured writer.

Well stuff that.

I'm going on a journey to rediscover anticipation and joy. From now on my writing is going to be my play time. I'm going to spend all day dreaming about what my characters are going to do when I let them loose. I'm going to smile as I converse with my main girl and promise her I'll get her out of her current difficulties. I'm going to walk away from work with a spring in my step because I know that soon I'll be entering my imaginary world where nothing is routine and I am queen. It's going to be great.

And while I said I wasn't going to give any practical tips, here are just a few that might help.

  1. I find reading entertaining writers on writing motivating. I also find reading amazingly bad writers helps became I'll be damned if they get published and I don't.

  2. I try to write something first thing in the morning, particularly any problems I'm having right now, so that my mind can tick away all day subconsciously trying to solve it.

  3. Make yourself smile every time you think about writing. There is a lot of research to suggest that smiling is part of a feedback loop: you usually smile because you are happy, therefore if you make yourself smile in connection to something, it appears to feedback to your mind that you must therefore be happy about that thing. It's worth a try at least. And if you want to go one better, develop a manic, evil laugh when you think about being the creator of thousands of minions and worlds. Mwah-ha-ha....

  4. Feel free to daydream throughout the day about your story. Daydreaming is a very important part of the process, and you shouldn't allow anyone to steal it away from you, unless possibly if they are paying you by the hour to do something else.

That's all my practical advice for now. Am going to try and work on building anticipation, and see if I learn anything new along the way.

Unfortunately, I'm sort of looking forward to some of my later books, which I really don't know much about, but the first two which are the sequel and third in the series aren't exciting me so much. I might have left them a bit long, they have gone a bit stale, so I will have to see what I can do about reinvigorating them. I'm 30,000 words into the second, but it might mean that I have to just start from the beginning again. Will see.

Preparation Day 5: Unfortunately, other than writing two blog entries and discussing what I want to write with my brother (Tim, not the one writing the book, who is Dave), I didn't really get much done writing prep wise. I stayed the night with my grandparents, and after I explained that I wanted to try and make it as a writer, but not to worry because I wasn't giving up my day job straight away, they then turned the conversation onto jobs I could apply for once I had worked out I wasn't going to make it as a writer. The top suggestion is to be a public servant. If you can't be a writer, the next best thing is obviously working for the Government. If I work out the secret to turning that into play, I'll seriously be onto something!

Over and out,

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