Friday, July 9, 2010

GUEST POST: Seven Ways to Stay Motivated in Tough Times

Camille LaGuire is author of the funny western mystery HAVE GUN, WILL PLAY.  She keeps herself motivated with a blog called The Daring Novelist.

Life is out to derail your writing career.  Every day you're bombarded with motivation to do something, anything, other than write.  It may be fun stuff like the internet, or horrible stuff like a car accident.  You may have to pay attention to some of these, but if you're ever going to get any writing done, you have to bring yourself back to writing.

And you do that by motivating yourself.  Here are seven ways to keep yourself motivated.

1. Eyes on the Prize.

You need a goal you can put your finger on.  Forget vague things like "Be a famous author."  Be specific. You want to sell a book, or sign a three-book deal, or sell the rights to Hollywood.  It can even be something less practical, like being interviewed on TV about your book.

When you make your goal specific and concrete, you can start taking the smaller steps to get there - like finishing your book.

2. Eliminate the Negative.

Don't just ignore negative things that sap your enthusiasm.  Hunt them down and destroy them.  It doesn't matter if it's something you can't get rid of, like a good job in a bad economy.  If you really want to write, and something is interfering with your writing, you have to resolve that problem.  Be creative. Question everything.  Is it the  job or the hours?  Is it the people?  Or are you worried about money, and the job would be less stressful if you didn't spend so much?  Find the root of the problem and go after it.

It may take time to make a change in your life, so pin it to to your goal.  Fixing your life is a part of achieving your dreams.

3. Love your writing.

If your writing is to survive all that life throws at you, you have to find the pleasure in it. If you're one of those who thinks your writing is junk, you HAVE to get over this.  Maybe you can't believe your skills are good enough, but you always remember that the story is worth writing.  If you don't write it, it will never exist.

Some writers write a fan letter to themselves about the project when they begin it.  They write about all the things that excite them about it.  Then they stick it in a drawer.  Whenever they get discouraged about the project they pull out the letter and remind themselves of why they're writing.

4. Set quotas you can beat.

Nothing is more motivating than success.  Especially when you repeat that success every day or ever week.  So set a daily goal that you can achieve more often than not.  If necessary, adjust that quota from week to week.  By meeting that quota, you will constantly prove to yourself that you are a writer.  You can write, you can produce.

5. Report your progress.

We're writers.  We're pretty good at imagining things... like that you achieved your goal even when you didn't. (Well, you know, you were close enough.  Three sentences away....)  Make your progress public.  Use Twitter, or a blog, or just a forum among friends.  But state your quotes and report whether you met them.  It's amazing how much this will motivate you to write that last sentence, and then maybe one more, and another.

6. Get yourself an audience.

This really goes along with #5, but it's worth mentioning on its own.  Whether it's a best friend, or a critique group, or your mom.  Having someone waiting for your next chapter can force you to actually produce it.  (Writer buddies are better for this one, usually, because they understand that too much pressure can make you freeze up.)

7. Train Your Muse.

Set aside ten or fifteen minutes every day to train your brain to obey.  Have a task and focus on it.  Maybe you brainstorm ideas, or titles.  Or maybe you write opening lines, or description.  Just for ten or fifteen minutes. Set a timer.  you can't do anything else in that time.


Valerie Geary said...

Great post today! Good things to remember! Thanks Camille!

Martina Boone said...

This is very motivational. I love the idea to set a quota you can beat. That way, you feel good about what you're able to accomplish consistently.

Thanks Camille!

Joshua McCune said...

Camille, wonderful advice, particularly #3 (for me). Thanks for the excellent post.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice tips! And something we all need...we all have days where motivation is elusive.

I'm tweeting this one.

Helen Ginger said...

Great post. I think my main one will be to set quotas. I do that with other to-do lists, so I can do it for writing.

Like Elizabeth, I'm off to tweet.

Straight From Hel

SheriO said...

This post was SO helpful to me. I get so off track sometimes and can find a thousand things to do other than write the next chapter. Thank you for tips #1 and #3!

L. T. Host said...

Camille, thanks for this post! Great points. I totally need to do all of these more often. It's easy sometimes to let yourself slide, and say you'll be motivated... tomorrow.

But no! You need to be motivated, today!

Thanks again :)

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks all for reading! Getting motivated and staying motivated is an important skill. That makes us persistent - which is what you need to get anywhere.