Thursday, April 10, 2014

Motivating Yourself For Fun & For Word Count

This is based on a presentation I gave at my writers' group. It seemed to strike a chord with a number of people, so I figured I'd make a post on my blog where perhaps it can also help other people.

So maybe you made a New Year's resolution to write every day. You have a story that needs to be told. You have information you want to share with the wide, wide world. Maybe you want to do it for the money, the fame, the torturing of school children two centuries hence. You have reasons to write.

So what keeps you from writing?

Tiredness, sleepiness, work, family, friends, depression, stress, sickness, a conviction that what you write isn't any good and therefore no one will read it?

So you have reasons.

They're not sufficient excuses.

To quote Charles Bukowski, "If you’re going to create you’re going to create whether you work 16 hours a day in a coal mine or you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children while you’re on welfare.” If you have the fire of creation burning in you, you need to get it out. Sure, your life may not be easy, but only YOU can share with us the words in your head. We can't get them out for you.

Or to use an anonymous quote that I personally like a lot: "Your daily schedule is your creed; what you believe in, you have time for." If you truly believe that you should write, that you are a writer, you will make the time. Now, before you offer the thought, "Maybe I don't really believe I can write, because I haven't been." Nope, nope, nope. You've got today. You've got tomorrow. You've got the rest of your life to be a writer. Yesterday doesn't count. You can't change it. Today and tomorrow are yours to change.

So what are some things we can do in our quest to become writers?

First of all, I'm going to share with you something that I only realized after years of starts and stops, something I've heard from a lot of people, something that makes it harder to write.


It's worse than your mom looking over your shoulder while you type, and commenting. Perfectionism will shoot your writing in the face, stomp on it a few times, then leave you in despair with the mangled corpse while it laughs at you.

Seriously. It's not going to be perfect now. Accept it, and move on. Every time you find yourself thinking, "am I saying this right? Am I using the right words?" or ANYTHING ELSE of a perfectionist nature, club it over the head and move on. You can edit later. You need to write now. Refuse to be stymied by nonperfection. 

So, let's talk about what you want to do, specifically. Write a book? Blog posts? Magazine articles?

Set some specific goals. Some "I wills." Things that you WILL do. Not things you will TRY to do. Make a note of your "I will," either in your head or on paper or in a document somewhere.

"I WILL finish writing a novel by July 2015."
"I WILL write two blog posts a month."
"I WILL have four articles ready to submit to magazines by Dec. 2014."

You may find it even more helpful to set more specific deadlines. A friend of mine, who writes for a gaming site, sent a list of deadlines of when he will have certain articles in, because he writes best with an impending deadline. Another figured how many words he needed to write per week to finish his book by a certain time, and set that as a minor goal

Now for word count.

Pick a word count that sounds good, that you think you could easily write every day. Got it? Good. Now cut it in half. It's better to set the bar low and then raise it rather than setting it high and then quitting out of frustration because you can't keep it up. By halving your initial word count figure, you eliminate some of the potential frustration right out of the gate.

Also, keep in mind this word count you chose is a MINIMUM, not a MAXIMUM. Think of it as a minimum, and if you're in the flow of things, don't let passing your word count goal stop you from writing more. Again, the word count is a MINIMUM.

Also, it doesn't have to be word count. Some people write by hand, and have a goal of writing X pages a day. Set up an equivalency system if you use multiple mediums or write different forms. If you write poetry as well as prose, you probably know 500 words of poetry is going to be significantly harder than 500 words of prose. Figure out what your equivalencies are, and stick to them.

Time. You might have regularly reoccurring days that are really bad for writing. On Mondays, you might not even get home until 11 pm. Perhaps on Fridays is the night you hang out with friends until 2 am. You know what days these are. Treat these as "bonus days." You are not expected to make your word count on these days. If you do, it's a bonus. If you have these set in your mind as "bonus days," you'll be less likely to miss even more days because you couldn't write on those especially busy or tiring days.

Figure out what time of day works best for you. For me, it's before I go to bed. Sure, this has led to a couple of late nights, but since I write better at that time, it's worth it. A couple years ago, I tried getting up an hour earlier before work to write. I rapidly discovered that I don't write worth jack shit at 5:30 in the morning.

Maybe you don't have a lot of time in your day. You probably have moments, where you're sitting on the bus, or waiting for dinner to cook. Little times. Utilize those for thinking, for planning; you might even be able to write if you have a notebook or an IPad or a Kindle with you. Use the time you have. There's probably more of it than you think.

Things to write about. Keep in mind that background information for your novel or assembling your notes for that nature article count towards your word count. Take a day to brainstorm ideas. Keep in mind that you don't have to write in linear order. Write whatever scene or point you currently are thinking about.

Have more than one thing to write. There are days when you will hate your novel, or you really have no idea how to proceed. That's fine. Write something else. As for me, in addition to the novel I'm writing, I occasionally will crank out poems, blog posts, and bits of other stories that are bouncing around in my head (If I ever write a vampire novel, I've got like 12 ideas I could pull from), It's okay to take a break from your main project, and may even be beneficial. The goal is the daily word count. At all costs, reach that daily word count.

Day-to-day: You can't go to bed until you reach your word count. When you roll out of bed in the morning, that should be a settled fact in your mind, like brushing your teeth. You WILL write those words before you fall asleep tonight. Treat that as an absolute in your life.

Cheating on your word count only benefits Current-You, and Future-You will have to pay the price for it. We all know Past-You is a bit of a lazy bum, or Current-You wouldn't be such a pickle, now, would you?

If you can't stand what you're currently writing, switch to something else. Write what's on your mind.

Above all else, The Word Count is Sacred. Have it settled for a fact: when you roll out of bed in the morning, know that you will reach your word count before you go to sleep. Don't go to sleep without reaching your word count.

Some more tidbits: If something isn't working, change it. Change the time of day. Lower the word count (it's a minimum, not a maximum), change your music, change your location. Do what you need to do to optimize the word flow.

When you miss a day, because it will happen, it's okay. Don't try to make it up. Next thing you know, you're 3000 words behind and the task of catching up is even more daunting. Don't try to make up for the past; focus on achieving today and tomorrow and the next day. Your mindset should be focused on today going forward, not on what you failed to do yesterday.

 You are your own best friend in this quest. No one knows you like you do. Figure out how to make the magic happen. Use every trick in the book, and add your own. Today is yours to write. Remember, the word count is sacred.

You can do it.

Remember why you write.

Feel free to leave your own comments, tips, and tricks in the comment section.

1 comment:

  1. This is really brilliant advice! I'm putting this into practice immediately. Thanks for posting this! :)