I’m sitting here at 5am knowing it’s my only time to write and knowing with equal certainty that creative writing is not going to happen this morning. Sometimes these early morning attempts work and sometimes nary a word spills out of my brain onto the page. This morning seems somewhere in the middle, as my brain clearly isn’t spilling the next chapter of my novel, and yet it is not completely blank, as it sometimes is when I try to force writing. Sometimes mornings like this evolve to more creative writing, and sometimes the best my brain can do is ruminate on how to get productive creative writing – as in the next chapter of my novel – flowing.
I’ve read lots of articles about how writers motivate themselves. Some have rituals they apply. Like lining up multi-color pens and/or pencils and pulling out a favored notebook and shutting out the rest of the world, either literally, as in locking the door of the room in which you are working, or by putting up mental blocks to the sounds and movements around you (as I do when writing on a train – sans the colored pens and pencils).
Sometimes writers bribe themselves, as in “if I write five pages by lunch time I can….” That one never works for me, as the latent adolescent in me counters with “if I want whatever I’m bribing myself with, I can have it whether I produce or not, nah nah nah-nah nah!
There are days when words just flow. They are rare lately, but I live for those days. On those days, when I even like what I read as I review what I’ve written, I imagine producing something so commercially appealing that I land an agent and a major publisher and a fat advance and I can say bye-bye to my full time job. They give me hope, however illusive, of a true writing life. The odds are against that, but I do love those days. Today is not one of those days.
Sometimes the only thing that works is the potential for embarrassment and shame. That’s when I bring out the big guns. That’s when I sign up for a class where, if I don’t produce, that fact is there for everyone to see. I may not be motivated by guilt or bribes or pretty colored writing instruments, but I never miss a deadline in a writing class because I can’t bear the embarrassment of others knowing I don’t have my homework done.
It’s sort of a last resort. As I’ve written in recent postings, I’ve been a bit distracted by the realities of life for the past few months. Maybe creativity is stimulated by adversity for some writers. But in my case when things get really bad my coping mechanism is to shut my brain off any moment when I don’t absolutely have to function. It’s a pretty miraculous coping mechanism, in that I mostly don’t miss a beat at work and I manage to pay bills and balance the checkbook and do all the stuff that has to be done in our house. But it isn’t conducive to creative writing. Then that inertia I mentioned in a previous post digs in deep and only desperate action can get things moving again.
So my class starts one week from today. I’m sort of cheating, because I’m starting with two assignments (10,000 words each) that I already wrote. But they needed a lot of work, and spending time revising has helped me get back into the story. After the first two I will have to produce 10,000 words every three weeks starting with a blank page. But it will work. It always does. When my first novel, Autumn Colors, was hopelessly stalled, it was two consecutive writing courses that carried me to “The End.” I wrote most of In Her Mother’s Shoes without the prodding of class deadlines, but a class was what got me started and helped shape the direction of the story.
The moral of this story is, do whatever works, whatever it takes to motivate yourself. Strip yourself of any delusions or fantasies and figure out what motivates you. Then just do it.
With Easter nearly here, Mother’s Day can’t be far away. So often mothers and daughters struggle with their relationships. Consider giving the moms in your life the gift of In Her Mother’s Shoes, a story of difficult relationships and the journey to understanding and healing.
Both In Her Mother’s Shoes and Autumn Colors can be purchased as paperback or ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, through the Apple Store, or can be ordered through your local bookstore. Signed copies are available through my website, www.dawnlajeunesse.com. If you have read either or both and liked them, a review on any of the book sites would be appreciated!