OK, not everyone can be Carol Lunch Williams or Andy Ellis. I know I can’t be, and believe me, I’ve tried. These two are a special breed of writer, the kind that can write regardless of life circumstances, Nothing seems to slow them down when it comes to their writing. They’ve proven they can be productive no matter what.
I am quite a different breed of writer, the kind who’s blown about by every wind of distraction. The biggest distraction, of course, is my job. I am deeply grateful to have a steady job, and I’m deeperly grateful that it’s a job I love. The downside, of course, is that it’s a full-time job, and it gobbles up lots of my time. The upside, in addition to a regular paycheck, is that I get to work with some terrific people on a regular basis.
But it’s not just my job that gives me an excuse not to write. I have children and grandchildren, a house and yard, leaky faucets, plugged gutters, a TV, an appetite, and a lovely wife, and all of these provide wonderful reasons to find something other than writing to do.
But I do, from time to time, manage to pull myself away from the distractions and head down to my windowless, internetless, soundproof room in the belly of the BYU library to write. And I have to admit, I’ve gotten a lot of writing done in that writing dungeon. But even down in my dungeon, distractions exist. And I’m ashamed to admit this, but here it is: I realize that I am perhaps the only writer in America who has to overcome the pernicious attraction to Microsoft solitaire. I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s a prewriting device, a problem-solving device, a brainstorming device, but it’s really just a plain old time-wasting device. Fortunately, help is available, but I’m yet to the point that requires a 12-step program to Solitaire.
Other than sitting at my writing desk and staring at my computer screen until words start to appear, I have found one Pavlovian method that helps me get the writing done, even when I don’t feel like it. When I’m up against a deadline or in a deep funk, I use a token reward system to motivate myself. Butter toffee peanuts are the token, Every time I finish a page, I allow myself ten sweet crunchy toffee-covered peanuts. Unfortunately, this method has serious and visible side effects that are only exacerbated by the sedentary writer’s lifestyle.
So, dear reader (I know there’s now only one of you), unless you’re a Carol or Andy clone, what do you do to motivate yourself to write? And what are the side effects of your method? I welcome your suggestions.