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.
11 responses to “Embarrassing Confessions”
Wish I had it figured out. I think maybe I need the stick a bit more than the carrot. Unfortuantely it’s like trying to tickle yourself,or throw sand in your own eye; the darned stick don’t work when you apply it yourself.
Ha! I love this. This problem: motivation is the most universal problem that plagues us writers. For me, the best thing is to get all my distractions done (i.e. laundry, bed-making, exercise, etc.), find a play-date for my still-at-home-child, get water, snacks, whatever I might need and find the excuse to stop writing to get, open up my doc, and…here’s the tricky part–and the only thing that works–I turn off the internet (not the whole internet, of course, just the one that connects to my firefox).
It doesn’t always work, but I am more productive when I can’t go: “Oh, hey, I think I need to do some dishes.” Oops, already done. Sit your butt back down.
A full time job really must get in the way, though. Not sure how you work past that one.
Also, just blew through a crap-load of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered sunflower seeds.
To justify: They’re small.
Chocolate covered sunflower seeds? I’m going to have to investigate . . .
Thank you for introducing me to two new hitherto unknown addictions.
The two distractions I have now are CNN, which makes me sad, so then I turn to HGTV where all the world’s problems could be solved if everyone could have a simple kitchen makeover, which makes me happy again.
I used to be addicted to Solitaire. One day my husband pointed to my score at the bottom (it was something like -$8,792) and said, “Someday they are going to send you a bill.” So I switched to Netflix which is a whole bunch cheaper and I can watch Jericho reruns, scare myself silly, and STILL not get any writing done.
Besides my sweet little family, Pinterest has been my recent distraction of choice. I try to justify slipping on to Pinterest now and then by telling myself that the visual inspiration will stimulate good writing. But I know it’s just a pretty little lie. So now I’ve banned myself: No more Pinterest breaks during writing time! Think it’ll work? Maybe I should disconnect the internet like Emily does.
I realized recently that the only way I’ll accomplish my ongoing writing goals will be to go to bed early every night and wake up before my kids wake up. So far it’s working, but I haven’t been doing it all that long–so I guess we’ll see:).
Get up early and drink lots of Crystal Light with caffeine.
And whatever you do…do not discover Angry Birds.
I love my zero gravity chair. It’s very ugly, but oh so comfortable. I have one in the play room. The kids play and I write–it works amazingly well.
I try to get an hour of writing done before anyone else in the house gets up. Also, I have to keep myself from getting on the internet. Writing a rough draft in a notebook and transferring it to computer later seems to help. But don’t try to contact me after 8:30 pm because I am done for the day.
Project Writeway has motivated me to write – even though I haven’t won a dang thing – but it’s still so fun, challenging, AND calorie-free.
BTW audio books are my obsession. Yesterday on the way to Ogden I took a detour to Grantsville just so I could keep listening to WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. This distraction is a bit hard on gas, but I chock it up to research.
I did make it to Weber State just in time to listen to Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine. SO inspirational – glad my obsession didn’t lead me too far astray. I would not have wanted to miss her.