Even if you do plan to live out your existence scrawling obscurely in a closet, there are still some essential tools you need to do it effectively and with vigor even when all motivation has died. (If you haven’t experienced this yet, trust me - it happens)
It can take nerves of steel to face that blank page, or to resist the ringing phone. It’s especially daunting to create a masterpiece when your own mind turns against you, and the only thoughts left are discouraging ones. In those moments of deflation or confusion or sloth – and we all get them – we need a burst of motivation from somewhere.
What kicks you into gear? Maybe it’s setting specific goals, or being accountable to a friend or mentor. Racing to meet a deadline works well for me, and I have regular weekly and monthly deadlines that keep me on my game. Maybe what quickens your step is competition (there are loads of writing contests out there), or the promise of solitude in a café somewhere that fires you up.
The trick is to find out what works for you, and use it.
Like the “lone” cowboy, we need others. Put aside the notion that you’re too obscure or different to benefit from others. Pride is a waste of time. (Guess how I’ve learned that) You are not too weird, too invisible, or too awesome to need others. Like the cowboy, we need people who sell ink cartridges and journals and who catch our mistakes. Whether that looks like meeting one-on-one with a fellow writer or mentor, or plugging into a local writing group, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you learn.
Desire to Learn
There’s nothing sadder to me than someone unwilling to learn. It means they believe they have reached perfection and do not need to become more. So they never will. As writers, we need to learn how to clearly communicate with our readers, better serve our clients, and efficiently use technology. This requires new skills, and the sharpening of existing ones. Every job we do, every person we meet, can teach us something – about them, about life, about ourselves. Never stop learning.
Goals – Real Ones
I know goals were just mentioned, but there are real goals and pseudo goals, and only one is going to do you any good. Most people set pseudo goals – generic, unmeasurable, wishes. For example, “This month I want to write more” or “I will get published this year”.
Real goals are highly specific and highly measurable. They are also a little scary (which may be a source of motivation), because you will be able to measure how specifically you failed if it’s not met. So what. Let it scare you. At least you know what you’re aiming at! Whatever goals you have, make them specific. Instead of aiming to “write more”, set aside a specific time each week (or day if you can!) to write. Then set out to write a minimum of say, 500 words. The details are going to save you from distraction, and propel you forward. Know why? Because you will know you’re accomplishing it. Success is measurable. I dare you to get real specific with one goal right now. You’ll be surprised at the change it brings in even 4 weeks.
We’ve all heard these things before, I know. Unless we’ve DONE them though, we don’t know the freedom and joy and success that comes with them. It’s kind of like exercise. I can talk for hours about sit-ups, but it will have no impact on my figure. (Too bad, it would be a lot easier!)
Nope, to write I’m afraid we have to pull up our big girl pants and do the grown up thing. This takes good old fashioned, no shortcuts, actual work. And it’s worth every bit of effort to live the dream – to write.
Leave a comment to tell me which of these areas you plan to grow in over the next 4 weeks, and how you plan to do that.