Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Great Self-Experiment

I hear a lot of talk about writing and such phrases as, "If you want it bad enough, you'll write every day." The underlying message is that if you aren't writing every day, then something's wrong with you, like you just don't love it enough.

I disagree.

We're humans, true, but we're still animals with simple animal instincts. We still seek what's pleasurable and avoid what's not pleasurable. Sure, sometimes the above assumption is true, sometimes if we're not writing every day, then we don't love it enough.

But I still don't buy it. It comes down to pay-off. When you put in the time and the effort, what do you get out of it?

When I first wrote, I won honorable mention in a little contest. It felt awesome! Then I did three little stories just for fun, and posted them on a yahoo group. People were nice and encouraging, and I had another "carrot." Then I got a few pennies; I wrote short stories, so the pennies came quickly.

Definitely great motivation.

Don't get me wrong, I truly love writing. I've grown a little, and now I get a kick out of yelling at myself for three hours, and then finding at the end of three hours, that I pushed myself to grow (just a teensy bit) as a writer. I get a kick out of telling myself I did a little better than I thought I could.

But there's days where it's just a job. There's days I sit down, I put in my time, and work. The next day I have to make it better, but ... it's just work. I do it because I want the reward. Sure, I love writing and find it incredibly fulfilling; it feels so right, like I'm doing exactly what I should be doing.

Motivation isn't something that's there or not. Motivation is something you DO to yourself. We have to approach ourselves as we would a science experiment.

Instead of feeling guilty or worried that we're not motivated, we should analyze what we did, how we did it, and what we got out of it. Then we should play with each of those variables until we settle on what works for us, what motivates us the most.

Yes, it's true that a huge desire will overcome most obstacles we set for ourselves ... but why not make it easy for ourselves?

So what pay-off do you get from writing? What little rewards do you give yourself to help you stay motivated?

I allow myself to read a page or two of a book after every couple hundred words (usually non-fiction). When I get 1,000 words done, I let myself wander the store and look at books. When I get stuck, I go look at Nora's books and remember her commandment: just write. When I need inspiration, I read a short story.

I just cringe when I see statements that say if you're not loving every second, you shouldn't be doing it. Nothing is like that. It's like parenting. Of course it's rewarding, of course they're your everything, but ... of course there are times when you're not inspired. Finding the way to write when we're not inspired is the key to turning our writing into a daily discipline.

5 bonus scribbles:

Zoe Winters 1/10/2007 01:32:00 AM  

amen and pass the corn chips.

Right now, during my "novel in 90" project, I get to post my progress and then play "ice ice baby" (which I know doesn't sound like a reward but it's so goofy that it's fun). If I fail for the day...i.e. don't do the work, i get mocked and no shiny happy stupid song.

Poor zoe. :(

Nienke Hinton 1/10/2007 03:37:00 PM  

I reward myself with blog-hopping, except that I often end up rewarding myself before I write! My pleasure is in seeing my final word count for the day.

spyscribbler 1/10/2007 05:28:00 PM  

Nienke, you just made me laugh somewhere around 'town.' I think is was at Anatomy of a Book Deal. And now you're here! Thanks for stopping by.

Zoe, goofy is fun! That sounds like a blast!

Edie 1/11/2007 12:13:00 AM  

I use good old chocolate as a reward. It works.

The problem with writing is the interruptions. I was doing one thing yesterday, then received an email that sent me to doing another thing. Then someone told me about an agent this morning, and I was googling her... You get the idea, lol.

spyscribbler 1/11/2007 12:42:00 AM  

Chocolate! Yes!! Trader Joe's has these truffles that they put on the shelves (in brown tins) only during the Christmas season.

Trader Joe's French Truffles, I believe.

Ohmigod, they are the BEST chocolate I have ever had in my WHOLE life. And I've had German chocolate in Germany, Swiss Chocolate in Germany, the best French chocolate ... even those fancy-shmancy expensive connisiuer chocolates.