Sunday, June 22, 2008

Motivation Anyone?

I'm a pretty disciplined person. I like notebooks and to-do lists and filing systems—although you will still find my office (home and work) repeatedly falling into a state of chaos. Still, I strive for order and focus.

In my writing life, I stick to a routine. I write almost every day, at the same time and in the same place. I know that for me, waiting for inspiration is a mistake—the book will never get written if I wait to be inspired. Rather, I need to sit and do the work, every day, whether I want to or not.

I advise beginning writers to do the same, at least until they can figure out their own writing process and working style. My kind of routine isn't the best way to work for everyone. But I do believe that beginning writers need to get past the initial fear of writing and need to understand that writing is work—not magic—and it takes practice to become good at writing and revising your work.

But I have to admit that even I lose my motivation. I get it back with a very simple trick: I pay myself. I bought myself a nice pottery jar at a seconds sale and placed it on my desk. And when I'm truly struggling to get my butt in the chair to write, I put a dollar in the jar every day that I do it. When I've gathered enough money, I buy myself something. Right now, I have 6 bucks in the jar, which means I've been doing all right. But I'll be paying myself, as the book I'm working on becomes more challenging. Plus, I'm a big fan of Levenger notebooks and I've been mooning over a bunch of stuff in their latest catalog. Writers and their notebooks, right?

If you're having trouble finding motivation for your writing or whatever creative work you do, you might try paying yourself to do it. You'd be amazed at how just one dollar can make a difference in how you feel about sitting down to work.

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