Writing Motivation

Trouble comes to every writer. Even writers with lots of published books. Before I sat down to write this, I looked up my old posts on the topic. None of them fit my current situation, but it was fun to read them because they reminded me of how far I’ve come and that I’ve successfully solved this problem before. Here’s the thing, what used to work doesn’t anymore. I thought for a long time about not writing novels anymore. I can get my writing fix here on the blog and in my morning pages. But I’m in the middle of a book and I hate to leave things unfinished, so I put time and thought into the decision.

It took awhile for me to decide not to trash the WIP. That process of thinking through if I wanted to keep doing this at least until I finish the current project is what led to my current motivation for continuing. I figured out that my old goals weren’t working any more. For so long my goal was “get published” then “publish a book” then “publish a novel” then “switch genres” then…nothing. I’d done it all. Every single one of my writing dreams had been achieved. I’d met all my writing goals. I could die happy. (Really. This becomes an actual thing at my age.)

Eventually, with a lot of help from morning pages and a pointed question from a friend, I figured out that in order to motivate myself I needed a new goal. None of my old goals would suffice. I had reached the top of my personal book mountain. But come to find out at the top of my writing mountain, I saw the bottom of another mountain. I could continue the climb if I was willing to do the work to reach a new goal. Right away I decided that of course I was going to try. Having a goal in life (about anything, not just writing) helps me keep moving, remain upbeat, and continue striving. I don’t think about goals that much, but I need them.

I’m 64. I started writing when I was 14. That’s 50 years of always writing, always finding another mountain to climb. My supply of enthusiasm and energy for the book biz has diminished. It was bound to happen on such a long road with so many obstacles to overcome, so many wrong turns and happy detours. Diminished doesn’t mean extinguished, though. I’m not finished quite yet.

What I know now that I didn’t know before was that as long as you’re alive, you can reach higher than your biggest dreams. My new goal in finishing this novel and making it great is modest. My husband is retiring soon and we want to travel and spend more time with our grandchildren. That is the golden goal. My motivation to finish this novel and make it my best effort is to send the book to an agent a friend says is perfect for me. After that, it’s out of my hands.

When I was younger, I had many goals and dreams. What I learned then is that goals are different than dreams. Goals only work 100% when you have control over the outcome. (Dreams are another post.) I don’t have control over what the agent will say about my book. And that’s fine. I already had an agent who couldn’t sell my book and I ended up with a perfectly fine publisher anyway. That was many books ago. I’m thinking submitting to another agent is worth a shot. And it does something else: it gives me a good reason to finish this novel and make it fabulous.

Changing Your Life

Sitting here writing about changing my life with advice from a self-help book when I feel as if that’s an impossible task. It’s almost as if someone snatched away the me I used to be, and frankly, all I want to do is get her back. Where did the Cindy who loved yoga and writing go? When did my resolve to eat healthfully disappear? I’m reading STICK WITH IT as a last-ditch effort. The book bases its premise on an acronym SCIENCE and does claim that all the advice is science-based. Since last report I’ve read two more chapters and actually made some progress. Did some backsliding, too.

I’ve already written about stepladders and community in previous posts. This past week I felt I needed a super dose of help so I tackled “Important” and “Easy.” I can sum up those two chapters swiftly. “Important” is all about priorities. If you think the change you want to make is important, you’ll try harder to make it and keep it. Sean Young, the author, sites a study about the three most important things in many people’s lives.

Money, health, and relationships are the top three. Turns out, as long as you’re not destitute, money isn’t important to health or happiness. People with money can still get death sentence diseases or be clinically depressed. People with lots of money are often miserable in their relationships.

It’s easy to think “if I just had X amount of dollars, all would be well.” I’ve thought that myself many times. One of the changes I’d like to make is in my health. “If I hired a chef, I’d be able to eat better with less effort. I’d also be able to hire a private yoga teacher.” All true but I can see that money wouldn’t take away temptation as far as cake goes and if I didn’t feel like working out, a coach wouldn’t motivate me to do it.  I’d just cancel. Health has to be important enough to me to change my eating and exercise habits for the better.

My other goal is to finish my book. I actually did complete a writing project that was on my to-do list. To get my books on audio, I had to fill out five spec sheets, choosing a section of each story to be narrated. After weeks of procrastinating, I got it done this past week. So that’s what I mean…this self-help method is working to a point. But all the money in the world can’t conjure that spark of hot desire that compels me to tell a story and get it in great shape for my editor’s eyes. But, since it’s important to me, partly because of the writing communities I’ve been a part of for so long, I am determined to get it done this summer.

So much for “important.” Next is “Easy” and I do know that “easy” helped me start a yoga practice again. I simply loaded Gaia onto my computer and with a couple of clicks and a move from chair to floor, I’m ready to go. No special equipment or clothing needed. No trip in the car to the yoga studio. “Easy” works for me as far as exercise goes.

Eating the right food is a bit more complicated. Fast food is easy. The stocking, preparing and cooking of whole nutritious food takes way more energy. Stepladders (that first helpful hint in SCIENCE) breaks down difficult or complex tasks, which does make them easier. I’m still working with my goal of eating right. And I’m trying not to bask too long in the glory of finishing the tasks for the audio books.

I have a set of steps for completing the book project, too. Meanwhile I’m still reading. I’ve done S, C, I, and E. I can’t wait to see what the heck N is all about. Neurohacks. Hmmm. Something with the brain, I suspect. SCIE/NCE. Maybe I can get this book finished by next weeks so I’ll have all the tools necessary to implement my goals.

 

 

Don’t Want to Write

Today, and to be totally honest, lots of days this summer, I have not been in the mood to write. It used to be that I did it anyway. First thing. Now I look at email and Twitter and Facebook first. I am upset that somehow I lost my writing routine. Social media is a fun place for writers to hang out. But you go to the bar after work, not before.

I finally decided I would look up my old posts on motivation (there were only four of them) to see if I could find anything I could use now. This is from August last year:

Yesterday…

I made coffee instead of tea, did some morning pages while sipping that first cup of coffee. As usual my journal was a bitchfest. And then I just stopped. I was not into brooding. I decided to let my body lead and leave my thinking mind behind. So I watched an Oprah show I’d taped over the weekend. I never watch television in the morning. Just switching to an unfamiliar schedule turned out to be the way to turn off the me, me, me.

After that hour, without even thinking about it, I came up to my writing room and worked on WIP for an hour. Then I walked on my treadmill and did some yoga and weights.  

When I woke up today the two things I did not want to do were 1.write 2. exercise. I did them anyway. I put away my short term “don’t wanna” went on a little t.v. vacation and  then cruised on the sweetness of how having done those two things would make me feel.

A lot of the time it isn’t that I want to write. It’s that I want to have written. Always, I don’t want to exercise, and always I want to have gotten in some exercise. So that’s the key. Not what I want to do in the moment but what I want to have done by the day’s end.

Switching things up every now and then seems to be the key. Must be time to switch from social media first thing to working on the novel first thing.

Writing Thru the Holidays

Does anybody get any writing done during the holidays? For me, it’s a challenge, but I manage to write (almost) every day. Here are 5 fail-proof fallbacks:

#1 Morning Pages. Write in your paper journal about whatever is on your mind. Aim for three pages. If you only get a paragraph, that’s okay. But push yourself to do more!

#2 First drafts. Really there is no way to screw up a first draft. None.

#3 Collaborate. I am working on a first draft of a non-fiction book with a friend. We email each other sections of whatever shows up in our minds that day regarding our subject. We chat. We brainstorm back and forth. We ask and answer each other’s questions on our topic.

#4 Blog. I have never been one to revise my blog. When I started out blogs were spontaneous and even misspelled words were okay. Bloggers posted every day. I did not miss a day for the first three or four years! Now it’s acceptable to do “once a week.” Piece of cake! Don’t listen to the rules of blogging. I recently saw that you MUST have a photo with every blog. Nope! Do it your way.

#5 Christmas Letters & Emails. Correspondence counts!

Motivated

A few weeks ago, I got some unfortunate news from my doctor. I have pre-diabetes. This is not the first time I have had sugar problems, and in the past, knowing the problem, I’d cut sugar out of my diet and the issue would solve itself. So of course, I vowed this time to cut out all treats that were made with sugar, while still allowing myself a little dark chocolate with high cocoa content, because I don’t binge on it and it’s healthy.

Shortly after making that promise to myself, I went out to lunch with a friend and ate the two free warm chocolate chip cookies that came with our meal. I didn’t eat them so much as inhale them. My friend Donna had one cookie, ate it slowly, and took the other home. So sensible. So not me.

I’ve been trying to beat my sugar addiction forever. Well, since I stopped smoking in 1987 and food started tasting good. Before 1987 I could care less about candy, cake, bread, chips. Eating was an annoying necessity. I was all about the nicotine. Pack a day for 15 years, except for the two times I was pregnant and the 10-20 times I tried to quit. But finally to my utter amazement I was able to quit nicotine. Harder to get off than heroin! So how come I can’t quit sugar?

I really don’t know the answer. I just know that I can’t quit trying to quit. I’m hoping Judy Smith, who has a chapter on indulging in her book “Good Self, Bad Self” will give me clues. She does have a method, it’s a little complicated, you really have to read the book, but I’m trying to put it into action. Today I figured out that I can actually work The Plan (a healthy lifestyle eating habit my friend Lisa came up with to successfully lose 30 lbs.) and exercise.  Instead of saying “well I’m shopping later so that’s exercise” I got on my treadmill and then hit the yoga mat.

And I’m still going shopping:) Will I be able to give up sugar with the same ease that I have incorporated exercise into my life? It seems so stupid to keep eating cakes and candies and cookies when I am headed on a fast train to giving myself shots of insulin. But I’m not stupid, just a sugar junkie.

I was able to add exercise because it makes me feel so better afterward. Yoga is a must for my back. I hurt if I don’t do some yoga every day. And walking helps cheer me up. I’ve been depressed, I admit it. I hate admitting that. But what I noticed when I started walking was that I am not depressed after 30 minutes on a treadmill. A little exercise gets me through a 24 hour day in a much better mood. Amazing!

Giving up sugar doesn’t have that same gratification. Sugar tastes good. It’s an instant hit of wonderful. I don’t feel a sugar crash like some people do. There is nothing tangible to keep me from indulging. Well, except my health, and I value it as much as my mood. Except when I am confronted with a delicious something full of sugar and slip into sweet denial.

I am motivated to quit sugar. Now I just need to get some practice with “no thanks” under my belt. I need a few successes. The next three days’ social events will all be sugar-rich opportunities. If I say no three times, I’ll have those successes to lean on during the coming holiday sugar rush. Wish me luck. And determination.