It isn’t easy. I have three young boys and a household to run. When I first started writing, I was in graduate school. Later, I was the brand new mother of a baby, then another one and another one. It wasn’t easy making – forging – the time to write. Sometimes (most of time), I had to trick myself into doing it, especially when I first started writing or was very, very tired because my child was up sick all night.
I’m going to focus on the dream of becoming a writer because it’s a dream that I’m currently pursuing. Plus, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to motivate myself to write, which I can pass along to you.
So, let’s say you’ve come up with an idea of what you want to write, but find yourself sitting, staring at a blank page/screen because you don’t know how to start and all that white is intimidating the bejeebers out of you. Or you’ve gotten started writing and then got stuck. Or, you can’t seem to make the time. I’ve been there many times and have struggled to overcome these obstacles.
Here’s what I came up with to get over them:
1) Finding time: There are twenty-four hours in a day. The typical person needs to sleep 6-8 hours (I prefer 9). If you work, take away another 8-10 hours. Then there’s eating, cleaning, exercising etc. You get the picture. So how does a person find time to write?
a) Make a schedule. List all your activities for the week. Somewhere there has to be an hour or two that you can sit down and do something just for yourself. Schedule it in.
b) As hard as this sounds, think about sacrificing one of your lesser favorite TV shows and use that time to write.
c) Find a consistent time to do your creating. Most people go to work at specific times. This is the same idea.
d) There’s a lot of down time you don’t realize you have. For example, waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I’ve used this time to scribble ideas on scraps of paper. Or taking a shower or standing in line at the groceries.
e) If you’re really serious about achieving your dream, you will make time for it. If you are not, you will make excuses. Don’t be one of those people who says, I will write when I retire. Let’s face it…in these economic times you might never retire, or you’ll die before you do.
2) Motivation: Create a creative environment. I have surrounded myself with my favorite books, both for leisure and for research, interesting pictures, my ugly doll, and my skulls, all to conjure up an atmosphere that shouts, Imagination! Another world! It doesn’t have to be much space – you can hole up in a corner along with your computer, typewriter or notepad, with the perfect lamp and a stack of your favorite books close by and your i-pod in your ears. But it has to be yours. It’s like going to work – you go to an office, or cubicle, or building, to do it. This space you create at home is your office. Consistency of environment can help get you focused and keep you on track.
3) Motivation: Look for stories everywhere. Lately, all someone has to do is bring up one slightly unusual story, idea, or image, and my mind takes it and runs, developing a story as quickly as it can. But first I had to work at freeing up my mind to see and hear the ideas. Be open to this world and it will flow into you. Heck, it might even start to shout at you, trying to get your attention. In raising my sons to be open to creative ideas, I’ve created little monsters. The two attending school have told me an idea has been percolating in their heads all day and they couldn’t wait to get home to put it into practice. Children are so much more open; we adults might have to either reawaken the child within or train ourselves to be creative.
4) Motivation: Along with #3, keep notepads everywhere. By your bed, in your bag or purse, by the TV, in the car. As much as you think you’re going to remember your ideas, you won’t – unless you’re one of those weird people who remembers everything. I’m not. As vivid as the idea was, it goes right down the toilet when the kids start to bicker or the phone rings, or a pretty, fluttery thing floats by.
5) Motivation: Talk to trusted people about your idea. Brainstorming is great for writing a book. You may not use other’s ideas, but one of their thoughts might kick off an idea of your own. I’ve used this method many times to achieve clarity, map out a plot, figure out a detail. It’s very helpful and actually quite fun. My engineer husband has a surprisingly fantastical imagination and has helped me figure out directions to take many times.
6) Motivation: Reward yourself for good deeds. I purposely eat less at lunch so I can have a snack while I type. I like food. I know I probably shouldn’t use it as a reward, but I do. Still, I don’t want to turn into a chair potato, so I have to work at not overdoing. Working at home, I have access to food whenever I want, and personally, I could eat all day. So I, and probably most people, really have to be careful using food as a reward.
My other rewards? When I finish something big (a certain number of pages a day, a book, an edit), I let myself read for fun, or watch a good movie, or go out with my family. The funny thing is, writing itself has become a reward. Most of the time, I love writing for the process itself (that doesn’t mean I’m giving up my snack).
7) Motivation/Getting unstuck: Listen to the music that fits with the mood you want to evoke. Ethereal music for ghostly books. Rock-n-roll for an action scene. Whatever floats your boat. Music can be very inspiring. I can’t, however, listen to music when I edit. It’s too distracting. I’ve found that I can’t seem to pay attention while I’m doing air guitar or singing at the top of my lungs. Go figure.
8) Motivation/Getting unstuck: To get in the mood to write, I read or watch movies in the genre I’m writing in. I write fantasy, so I watch The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter. I’m currently writing a dark romance so I watched the new version of Wuthering Heights (which I wasn’t all that thrilled by, I must admit, but it set a mood). Other movies/books can also trigger ideas.
9) Getting unstuck or started in the first place:
a) First of all, take off the pressure. Tell yourself that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. When it comes to this kind of thing, you really don’t.
b) Second, give yourself a goal. Today I am going to write one page, or even one sentence. I’ve talked about this before in other blogs, but taking baby steps may be just what you need to do to get yourself unstuck. Imagining having to do it all at once is too overwhelming.
c) Take a break. Take a shower or a walk. Or let your work sit for a day or two and think about where you want to go with it. Fantasize about it just like you fantasize about telling off your boss or a jerk with road rage. Writers have imaginations, use yours!
d) Write now; edit later. It’s that simple. Don’t let your perfectionism kill the project before it can ever really take off.
While writing can be a great joy, it can also be hard work. Most people get paid to work. Writers don’t until they publish something, which can be a reward a long time in coming. So search out what motivates you, use it temperately, and most of all, don’t give up! Following your dream is a process in itself and is meant to be enjoyed.
Now, what are you doing wasting your time reading this blog? Get out there and follow your dreams!