Get the Motivation Engine Started

Chuck Wendig has a nice blog entry about motivation, and how you don’t need it. He also uses Mad Max: Fury Road metaphors, which makes me happy.

Word Boy
From Terrible Minds.

In the blog post, he writes:

You try little tips and tricks. You eat chocolate to reward yourself. You read good books and you read bad books in an effort to urge your own prose forward. You set up your time so that you take 45 minutes to write, and 15 minutes for a social media break. You drink coffee. You read writing advice. You pin up motivational sayings around your office […] Conjuring little tips and tricks — they work. I know they work. I use them. You use them. But you can also rely on them too much. You can use them to the point that they cease to be tricks and they become cheats — it becomes an act where you are constantly trying to fool yourself into writing.

If I understand the point correctly, Chuck Wendig advises not to become dependent on your writing tricks, because they become crutches. Suddenly, you can only get started with your newest novel idea if you have a Snickers bar beforehand or you first take 30 minutes to read a book by your favorite author.

Instead, he suggests you just write. That writing bears its own momentum — writing begets more writing which begets more writing in a similar way nutritionists are always saying healthy living is just making a series of good choices.

I’m not sure I entirely believe that. It’s a simplification. I’d love to think, “Oh yeah, I can be a totally healthy person if I just tell myself ‘make the right choice, the one you know is good, H.!” But when that chocolate chip cookie is giving me the eye, it’s really hard to just make a good choice. I mean, it’s just one chocolate chip cookie, right?

Similarly, it’s really hard to simplify writing down to “just write.” Yeah, obviously I know if I write I’m going to have output, but in a world that constantly demands more of my time — more reports at work to make, more laundry to do, more dishes to clean, more food to cook, more chores to finish, and that whole pesky sleep thing I need to somehow have 8 hours of — it’s not so easy to say, “I’ll just sit down and do it.” (And yet, like exercise, I know once I get started I’ll love it. I just also know I have tons of other things I need to do, too, and sometimes the guilt of ignoring that other stuff makes me feel uncomfortable enough to put off writing.)

So, instead, I have “cheats.” To keep from eating chocolate chip cookies all day like it’s going out of style, I tell myself “no” 6 days out of the week, and “yes” on the 7th day. Or, I’ll eat three instead of the number I really want to eat (which is “until my stomach shuts down”). In the same vein, I have things I do to help me settle down and “just write.”

So here’s a list of some of my writing tips and tricks to get me motivated:

  1. Listen to the “Dance” station I made on Pandora. Dance music motivates me to do a lot of things in my life.
  2. Jotting down things I like from good movies, books, etc. For example, if a story has some element I find intriguing or really like, I’ll make a note of it (The way nobody kept harping on about trust in Mad Max: Fury Road really increased the tension in certain scenes. There’s no time for Mad Max to wonder if Furiosa can shoot a gun better them him! Shit is getting real!)
  3. Interview my characters (and there are plenty of good character questionnaires on the internet).
  4. Re-read or re-watch books and movies that get my creative juices flowing. Stuff like The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle or Neuromancer by William Gibson. Or movies/TV shows like Spirited Away10th Kingdom, and Firefly.
  5. Schedule writing time by putting it on my To Do List or in my planner. There’s something about getting to tick things off of a list, right? As that thick line goes through the words, or that checkbox gets joyously scribbled next to an item, it’s like a natural high. I admit, sometimes I’ll do stuff and realize it wasn’t on my To Do List and add it later just so I can immediately tick it off and feel all that satisfaction. So why not add writing so you know once it’s ticked off your list, you will feel really good about yourself?

Some of those tips and tricks just make my ideas clamor for attention, to the point where I can’t ignore them no matter how many dirty dishes are piled in the sink. Some just help keep me focused instead of starting and stopping.

So that’s my list. What’s your tips and tricks to get you writing?


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