Hello and welcome back to the blog! You’ll have to excuse me for not posting last week. I’ll get to the reason for my absence towards the end of this post. For a brief period this week, I was contemplating doing a post on social media etiquette. I would have vented on people who deem you worthy of adding you to a list, but not of actually following. Or people who inundate you with multiple direct messages and tags in a brief period. Also, if I block you on Twitter and you refollow me with a new username, at least change the profile picture so I’ll be fooled into thinking it’s someone else. No, let’s not talk about that. Instead let’s turn to something constructive. Motivation is on the docket today.
I know we’re all adults here and you know the meaning of basic words. Yet we’ll start off with a definition to get us going. Merriam-Webster defines motivation as “the general willingness or desire for someone to do something.” I have no doubt that if you’re reading this blog that the something in this definition is probably writing related. Perhaps you’re writing a short story or a novel. Maybe you’re pursuing some other creative outlet such as poetry or song writing (my oldest daughter has ventured into this realm recently). Call it drive, ambition, determination, or motivation. Call it whatever your heart desires, but without it that novel won’t get written.
The things that motivate us are as wide ranging as we are as people. Money and fame might motivate one person, though I caution you that this is the wrong reason and not likely to come true. While another person might be motivated by the simple act of exploring one’s creative side. I sincerely hope that you lean more towards the latter than the former, as it is the way I lean, though with a few more complexities thrown in. Whatever your motivation is, it’s best to identify what it is exactly that motivates you.
The best way to identify what motivates you is to think about what you want. What are your dreams and desires? What is it about those dreams and desires that makes you want to achieve them? How would you feel if those dreams came true? How about if they are never realized? What would you do? Answering these questions and others like it is a critical step in reaching whatever dream you are bold enough to reach for.
Yes, it’s important. I would argue it’s important because you might not always feel like writing. Sure, it’s easy to write when everything in your world is going right or the words are coming easy. Big deal. Anyone can do that. But when you’ve been working a full day at your day job, life is too busy, or you just received a rejection email from a literary agent about another project, the chances are you won’t feel much like writing. Yeah, that last one is oddly specific because it’s mine. It’s also the reason I only open emails from magazine editors or literary agents after a writing session, not before.
When I don’t feel like writing for various reasons, I simply think about what motivates me to do it in the first place. Usually the simple act of being creative is enough to push me towards the laptop. Another incentive is the feeling I get after a good writing session. I’m sure I’m not the only one that gets a buzz akin to drinking a glass of wine or two after a successful session at the keyboard. I implore you to think about the reasons, your motivation for writing, when you just don’t feel like it. Then go write.
Sometimes, however, that isn’t enough to push me towards the dungeon (my office is in the basement of our house and I write horror, so it fits). There are times when I need something more. Then my mind turns to a young reader pulling my book off the shelf and reading it with a smile. Someday, I might be their favorite author and that’s good enough to get me going. Or I think about my children, whom I try to both encourage and display that it’s okay to chase a dream. Yet my favorite thing to think about when I don’t feel up to writing is the reaction of my first reader, who also happens to be my oldest daughter. Despite her dislike of the horror genre, she has grown fond of reading the first draft of my stories. She’s become quite good at her job as a first reader, telling me when something works and when it doesn’t. In fact, she was emphatic when I was thinking about changing a surprise ending. It stayed. She reads the story and quotes lines of dialogue back to me, as she does with other books, forgetting that I know what was said. I wrote it after all. Yeah, that’s motivation enough for me every time.
Now is the time I reveal the reason I didn’t post last week. In fact, it’s the reason I chose motivation as the topic for this week’s blog post. Last week, I was having a hard time getting motivated to work on my current work in progress, Breaking Character: A Grave Awakening. That novel is the second book in a series, with Breaking Character: The Craven House being the first. About two months ago, I decided to stop querying the first book in the series. It had been sent to more than forty agents over the span of a year. I felt it was time. I would let the queries I had already sent out run their course, without sending more out. On Thursday, the timeframes given by the literary agents expired without a word from them. I knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept. Breaking Character: The Craven House wouldn’t be published by traditional means.
For those wondering, yes, I am considering self-publishing the novel, though it will be after I have gone through the querying process with another novel, From Darkness Comes… That’s down the line. Back to what motivates me for a minute. I have always wanted to see a book I wrote on the shelf at a bookstore. For those wondering, in the middle grade section it’s between Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling (good company, I know). If the first book in the series wasn’t going to be on a shelf in the bookstore, what were the chances of the second? Slim to none, right? Well, my motivation to write suffered as a result. Oh, I still wrote and some of it was quite good, but the desire to do so was lacking a bit and my willingness to stay at the laptop was nonexistent. Honestly, I didn’t even realize what the problem was until the weekend with only a few thousand words to show for the week. Because of my meager output, I spent Friday, a day I usually focus on the week’s blog post, playing catchup.
So far this week (I’m writing this on Monday night because I have the house to myself), I have managed to stay motivated. I’ve done this by thinking about my first reader and her reaction to reading the next installment of the happenings between Calvin and The Writer, a character modeled after myself, with a sinister twister, of course. I wish you the best of luck staying motivated in your own writing. If ever you find yourself lacking some motivation, pull a bad book off the shelf and give it a read. You’ll be feeling better about your own writing in no time and be chomping at the bits to prove it. It works for me.
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Stephen Michael Roth