Tuesday, April 13, 2010


“I think I can, I think I can…”
The Little Engine that Could

Song playing: Halo by Soil

Hello all! I have returned, armed with lists galore!

I also painted my toenails bright, turquoise blue in case you were curious. It’s called “Turned Up Turquoise (neon)”. Part of me wonders whose job it is to name nail polish. I mean, someone has to do it, right?

Anyway, moving merrily along.

Yesterday I talked about not feeling motivated because I felt overwhelmed. I shared a link for Demotivational Posters, because I think they are funny in a snarky sort of way, and remind me to not take myself too seriously. It was NOT intended to demotivate anyone, but to make people laugh. Carry on, writer friends! Let the ink follow like a river of…ink.

Anyway, today I thought I would talk about motivation. So, what do you guys use as your motivation to finish things? What do you do when there are extra projects on your plate? Right now my personal life is crazy, because I am hip deep in wedding preparations (I am engaged, and getting married June 19th. Yay!). On top of that, I am also moving back in with my parents in July, while my new husband goes off to Air Traffic Controller class for six months. Yes, it’s going to sorta be like being an army wife. So I have to prepare for moving my stuff into an even smaller place than I am living now.

So my free time has dwindled, and my regular writing production has slowed, making me feel backed up and behind. Joseph Selby was kind enough to give me a swift kick in the rear, and advice on carrying on, which also made me remember other tricks I used to finish projects mounting up due to time restraints.

But these are not excuses. In fact, I see such complications as blessings in disguise, because goodness knows my life will only get busier. I need to learn how to deal with demands on my time now, while I am still single, and childless, and unpublished.

So here’s some strategies you can use to wave your magic wands over projects to finish them.

This is Joseph Selby’s advice, and let me tell you, this guy is productive. It’s a great suggestion:
"Look at your overwhelming pile of things to do and pick one thing from it that has an achievable goal (so no starting a new WIP, this is something that needs to be finished, not started). Pick it up and push everything else away. It is now dead to you until this thing is finished.

When you're done with that one, repeat this process until your overwhelming list of things to do is no longer overwhelming."

Great advice. I especially love the "it is now dead to you" bit.

Here are some other ways to keep you on task:

*If you are easily distracted: TV, phone, people, whatever is interrupting you—remove it. Unplug the internet (you don’t really need to check your email every ten minutes to see if someone has replied. You only feel like you do), put the ringer for the phone on silent, and in another room altogether. Turn off the TV. How many reruns do you need to see to make your life complete? Crappy reality tv shows?

*Set goals. So cliché, I know. But it works. Make a list, set daily word count goals, make a list of steps you need to prepare for your book (like, research you might need to do, character sheets, etc depending on your level of pre-book planning, or the same for the editing your about to embark on). I am very anal. I have “Make to do list for A Dangerous Mind” on my other, more broad to do lists. I like my lists. They comfort me. *pets her lists* I am told not everyone likes lists though, so if they aren’t your thing, find another way to organize things.

*Remember when I had that How to Write a Novel Series? Remember how I said right when you have an idea that you know you will write into a book you keep a little inspiration diary of some sorts? Where you write down what inspired the book in the first place, maybe some pictures and artwork? Not only does this help you push through writing and editing the book, you can also use this to fall in love with the story again, if interest is your problem. Maybe back off the nit picky of what you are working on with your book, and ask yourself, What about this book excites me so much? Sometimes you might be moving away from that idea and need to move back. Sometimes you just need to fall in love with your book, all over again. *collective sigh* Awwwww…

*Bribery. It hardly ever works for me, but I’ve seen it work like magic for others. Tell yourself you’ll buy or do something you really want to once you reach a certain goal. You can work with small scale bribery by saying you’ll eat some M&Ms after you finish the chapter, or large scale like buying a new computer if you complete some monumental task. The size of the goal should be directly proportional to the size of the bribe. You lose all sense of accomplishment if it’s not.

*Caffeine and chocolate. Enough said.

*My best suggestion, one I know works because things fall apart when I don’t stick to it is to have a REGULAR schedule (case in point yesterday, which was a flow over from having Sunday off, but spending the day making stupid meal plans for the wedding and not writing (guess where I would have rather been? Writing, yes. I am in this for life)).

Don’t tell me you can’t have a regular schedule, because your life is too crazy. People, I am the QUEEN of crazy (somehow, saying that feels more like a defeat than a victory). My official work schedule is 9-3 Mondays, and 3-9 Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday but those are more like guidelines, really. If I don’t have any clients passed 7, I can go home early. If I don’t have any clients scheduled before 5, I can go in late. I can be “on call” through this times, and have to get and leave with one phone call if they get someone booked. I live with four other people, all who have their own work schedules, and use the computer two inches away from my desk.

If I can juggle all of that, and still have a semi-regular schedule, then so can you. The idea is to be flexible. If you wind up with more time than you normally do at that hour, take advantage of it and keep writing. If you wind up with less, no sweat, you can make it up later. If you have children/spouses/family members/pet with unpredictable needs and desires, try to work around them. If you have some free time, don’t waste it on TV (unless you need a break of course), work on your writing.

Okay, there you have it. Some suggestions. What keeps you guys motivated?


  1. Congrats on getting married! I play at people's weddings for a job. My husband plays piano and I play flute. We do about 30 of them a year. Our website is loaded with songs incase you want to listen and links to other wedding resources:

    Good luck with your planning!

  2. Well for starters, be sure to differentiate between what is a distraction and what is an obligation. Moving and getting married are permissible alternatives to writing. The book will still be there when you're done.

    Now, after that, different strokes work for different folks. The bribery thing works for some people, but not me. I can't have TV. I can't have internet access. I don't even do music any more. I used to put on a movie, but I'd leave the actual television off just to have background noise. I do my best writing in public places.

    Not only that, there are certain places where I write the best (the commuter rail, Jackie's Diner, Dylan's Diner) so those are the places I go to the most. The repetition lets me build a norm. I know if I'm on the train, I'm supposed to be writing. Train = write. Counter at the diner = write. If I'm there, I'm productive because I'm there being productive. It's an awesome self-fulfilling prophecy.

    This of course can make it difficult going to places like Borders or Barnes and Noble where I'm considerably less productive, but thankfully the train and the diners work into my schedule well.

    I also set a goal. My job is to write 2000 words a day. Once I start, I do not revise until the end (unless the beginning is a clear misfire, then I rewrite and try again). Once the ball is rolling, it rolls to the end. If your target word count is 65k (like my current YA novel WIP), 2000 words a day will yield a completed manuscript in 32 1/2 days. Accounting for some weekends where I don't write and maybe a week off to read and refresh my battery, my current WIP should be done by the end of May. Thus, that is my expectation. I will finish this by the end of May. I will not work on any other projects until this one is finished.

    There are plenty of tricks people can use, and they may work for them. I find what works best for me is treating it like a job. If I maintain a professional discipline, I will be able to main a regular output. (My personal expectation is a minimum of one publishable manuscript per year.)

  3. @Aubrie: Thanks for that great link! You play beautifully. I will definitely check out more of the music you have there.

    @Joe: I totally agree that writers should treat their writing like another job. Yes, it's fun and invigorating and wonderful, but still a job. I have a similiar work schedule that I adhere to.

  4. My dad was an air traffic controller for many years. Then, when the stress (you know it is considered one of the highest stress jobs there is?) got too much for him, he switched to Data Systems Specialist (also with the FAA) - so my folks went back to Ok. City in 1981 for his training. (And they got back in plenty of time for my wedding... must be something about FAA and weddings... ;-)) Then he was pulled back to control traffic during the strike (tell your fiance NOT to strike. It's illegal, and he can be fired. All those controllers back then DID get fired.) He ended up working 60 hour weeks, iirc - the most they can allow. (You don't want a tired Air Traffic Controller if you are flying!)

    Weekends - those are the days I often ditch, so that I can spend time with my family. But not always. I'm consistently inconsistent.

  5. See? Look at that. Item 1 scratched off your list. Bam! On to the next!