Sunday, June 24, 2012

When the going gets tough ...

When it comes to motivating people there are all sorts of styles one can employ. My father, a former Army drill sergeant and Air force flight line supervisor, had no trouble at all motivating three children to keep their rooms spotless. His cry of “Police your area!” sent all three of us scrambling like hungry Rottweilers after the last pork chop in the garbage can. Anything he found out of place during his inspections was thrown immediately into the trash. Clothes, books, toys – he didn’t care. If you didn’t respect it enough to keep it in its place, you didn’t deserve it. Tough? You bet. Motivating. Absolutely. 

However, as a writer, I have discovered there are times I simply cannot be motivated to write. I have all sorts of excuses. I’m a writer. I can create excuses out of thin air. I’m too tired. I need to do the dishes. I need to do more research. My muse has gone to Jamaica and taken my motivation and my brain to carry her luggage.


I'm not certain what motivates me to write, what gets me back on the horse after I have slid off the side like my Great Aunt Icie's jello mold at a Fourth of July picnic. But I have come to know what doesn't work. Berating me doesn't work. Yelling at me doesn't work. Telling me to give it up because I will never be able to write fast enough to be a success in this business doesn't work. Denigrating me and making me feel small, and dumb, and unworthy doesn't work. 

I don't need a cheerleader. And I certainly don't need a "yes" man (or woman) telling me everything I write is perfect and not a letter needs to be changed. Most days I'm not sure what I need, but I do know what I don't need. Which isn't very helpful, is it? SIGH ! I didn't think so! 

What motivates you to write when you have been brought as low as Billy Bob's blue jeans on a Saturday night? What motivates you to write when you think the whole world sees you as wasting your time on a dream you will never achieve? What motivates you to write when you think you are completely unworthy of even the smallest bit of success? 

Or if you like, tell us what DOESN'T work when it comes to motivating you. Do those perky cheerleader types work for you or do you just want to smack 'em and say "Crawl back under your pom poms and leave me to wallow in my writerly misery?"


Connie Gillam said...

Good morning, Louisa.

When I don't have the motivation to write, I listen to music. Sometimes that does the job, sometimes it doesn't. I also visit blogs looking for those motivating words that will do the trick.
If none of those work, I find one of my favorite books and just read. Sometimes the sheer beauty of the book motivates me to write again.

M.V.Freeman said...

I understand this. How do you get back to writing? I'm with you--rah rah, doesn't always work, nor does yelling, cheering, bribery.

Where it comes from is me. I have a story that whispers in my ear and no matter what the he** everyone else says --its up to me to write it.

Sure, getting a contract helps tremendously, but the bottom line --it still rests on me.

And I'm a stubborn, snarly, furious person who just refuses to quit because that means I give up on me.

I'm not quite ready for that. Are you?

Very compelling thoughts Louisa. And I am glad you addressed them!

Anonymous said...

(1) I set the timer. "Just 15 minutes. Then I can go do something else." Works every time. A lot of times it's having too big an idea of what I'm going to accomplish that day that makes it hard to start.

(2) I find that taking planned days off is good. (My tendency is to work every single day, and I get kind of stale when I do that.) If I lose a day through slacking, that's not good, but if I plan on taking the day off it recharges me.

(3) Any kind of contact with friends, even browsing old emails. Writing is such a solitary life that I think my evolutionary brain sometimes tells me, "Go find your pack. You won't make it through winter alone," and that interferes with my ability to do write.


Ella Quinn said...

So far I haven't had the problem. However, I would dearly love to be able to motivate a CP of mine.

JoAnn said...

Finding joy in the successes of others helps me. It took me a looooonnnnnng time, but I think I've finally moved beyond the jealousy I used to feel when friends and acquaintances achieved what I wanted.

Also reading for pleasure gets my juices bubbling again.

Louisa Cornell said...

Mary, I think you have hit on THE point. It lies with me. And I am definitely not ready to give up. I have to do this for me and for the stories in my head, not for the approval of others or for public accolades or anything else. That point gets lost sometimes. Thanks for reminding me!

Louisa Cornell said...

Greta, these are some great suggestions! I love the idea of planning a day off rather than letting myself slack and being guilt-ridden for days afterwards. And you are so right about the solitary nature of this business. Any contact with fellow writers even for a few minutes lets us know we are not alone!

Louisa Cornell said...

Ella, I am certain your CP appreciates your concern and your support. Sometimes that is the best thing a CP can do! :)

Louisa Cornell said...

Great point, JoAnn. This business is competitive and it is easy for the green-eyed monster to raise her ugly head. Sincere joy in the accomplishments of others fills the well and sends good things out into the universe.

And sometimes reading for pleasure is the very best medicine of all!

Christine said...

I am late to the party, but I swear by the timer. However, there are just days when I have to give myself permission not to write because I'm not going to produce anything that's even close to rescue-able. Yesterday was one of those days. And that's okay. I wrote for a bit, but the day trickled away due to my mood being very low. I have a goal of 4 hours a day, but that didn't happen on Monday. Might never happen on Monday! I also give myself a day off to recharge.

Chris Bailey said...

Louisa, I'm so glad to know I'm not alone. In many ways, I'm fiercely competitive. Tell me I can't, and I will prove to you that I can. Except when it comes to writing. Tell me my character is unsympathetic, and I'm ready to dig my own grave.

Like you and Mary said, though, one minute I'm sure there's no joy left, and the next minute, the missing bit of dialogue tumbles into my consciousness, and I'm off on a writing sprint.

'm a big fan of the timer, too, to help me find time when I feel there's too much to do. Just fifteen minutes!

Louisa Cornell said...

Christine, giving yourself a day off to recharge sounds like a good idea. It's the guilt thing that gets me - "I should be writing. I should be writing."

Louisa Cornell said...

This really is a business of ups and downs, isn't it, Chris. Glad I'm not the only one! And yes, being told you can't do something can sometimes be a GREAT incentive!

Suzanne Johnson said...

I'm an old journalist so I'm motivated by deadlines. Even if I don't have a deadline from someone else, I give myself deadlines. Of course, deep down inside, I know there are no consequences if I miss my own deadlines. It usually works, though!

Louisa Cornell said...

Ah! So you are trained to the deadline, Suzanne! What a wonderful skill to have. I will train myself to that if it kills me!