Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Staying Motivated When Times Get Rough


I have not posted here in a while, for which I humbly apologize. I have been writing, marketing, revising, rewriting, editing, proofreading, proposing, and on and on and on, while at the same time trying not to burn out.

As some of you may know, I've been caught in a publisher's spiraling troubles--I moved to another publisher already (did last year), but the problems are still pulling at my heels. Lots of issues to solve.

I know many authors caught in the same situation who are finding difficulty writing and staying motivated to write. Luckily, I have not had this problem; I still love digging my hands into my books and writing them. That's not to say I'm not distracted as heck from getting work done! (I so need to turn off the Internet.)

I had a brief revelation yesterday about staying motivated creatively, so I want to quickly share it FWIW:

Divorce the act of writing from getting paid for it.

I write for money. I have no other marketable skills (*g*), so I have to turn in books to get paid. I don't always want to. Sometimes I would much rather go to the mountains and look at the view. (And I do; it's inspiring.)

But when I separate the act of writing from money, business, contracts, proposals, numbers--in other words, when I make it all about the stories, the creative motivation returns.

I do plenty of creative things just to do them. I build dollhouses and dollhouse miniatures (it's not a hobby; it's an obsession). I don't do it for money--spend money yes, make money, no. Yet, I'm still motivated to do it. I pick up the miniature magazines I subscribe to, look at the beautiful things other people have created, and I want to get out my glue and paint and make them too (or purchase them from said people--I'm happy to shop!)

Yesterday I made an autumn wreath for my front door, digging through my boxes of silk flowers and leaves and making a huge mess before I was finished. I didn't do this for money or because I had a contract. I did it because I wanted to create something pretty for my front door.

Making a wreath is not as difficult as writing a novel (well, not as time-consuming, anyway), but it's a creative process, one I went through without thought of compensation. I just wanted a wreath.

Building dollhouse miniatures *is* time-consuming and complicated, and costs money, but I do it anyway. I build my settings because I want to create something beautiful. I display them in various places about the house (or I thrust them upon long-suffering friends or family members).

I have no monetary motivation for building these things. I will receive no compensation, no fame, no fortune, no awards, no name in print, nothing. I take photos of my projects and post them on my website, my minis blog, or to a Facebook group for the like-minded mini-obsessed. But that's all the "publication" I will get.

(BTW, if you want to join the long-suffering, my mini blog is here: http://jennsminis.wordpress.com / with many photos here: http://www.jennifersromances.com/Miniatures/miniatures.html )

I still do it: for the joy, to delight in the finished project, to see if I can do it.

Why should writing be any different? Yes, I have contracts, and I make money when I sell books (see no other marketable skills). But I write to create something beautiful, or as near to beautiful as I can--for the joy, to delight in the finished project, to see if I can do it.

When I think of writing like that, the motivation is there, the joy is back. Having contracts and deadlines is an extra motivation, of course (and why I write books rather than do minis all day), but I'm also working on a couple of books/projects for which I have no contracts and no deadlines. I might never sell them, but I'm still motivated to finish creating what I've started. Having other books on deadline will slow down this process (like the minis), but will not stop it.

In conclusion, if you are tied in knots about writing, fear you'll never be sold again, have rights tied up to the book of your heart (and believe me, I know how horribly heartbreaking that is), stop.

Divorce the act of writing from signing contracts, making money, yadda yadda yadda.

Go back to writing for the sake of it. Create something beautiful. See that you can do it. Try a new genre you've always wanted to try. No one says you *have* to write what you've been writing thus far. Write what you want to write, try to sell it when you're done. Forget about "career" and go back to why you wanted this career in the first place.

Even if you never sell that piece of writing, it is NOT a waste of time. Every book or story completed teaches you something new, builds up your existing skills, and leads to new creative thoughts. When I build another miniature project, I try to learn something new, which I can take with me to the next project. I get better as I progress. Writing is no different.

And hey, you can always thrust that finished and lovely novel upon your long-suffering friends and family, or pop it on Kindle and thrust it upon the people there.

But whatever happens to that piece of writing in the long run, you had the delight in producing it, you saw if you could do it, and you learned something.

On the other hand:

If you think I'm insane, and the only thing that motivates you is impossible deadlines, it's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Join in and write!

4 comments:

Bianca D'Arc said...

Love this idea and will do my best to use it! I've been underproductive this year due to stress over deadlines and the crippling loss of my Mom, who was my best friend. Writing has become WORK and I just don't wanna do it! *whine* But I think if I manage to turn that around - take your good advice - and make it fun again, the way it used to be, it could really help. Thanks for sharing! I'll give it a try. :)

Tina Gerow said...

Thanks Jennifer! I needed this right now :) With packing for our move, my writing has stalled. I'm just relieved that I'm not under a deadline right now, so it's not killing me. But once the move is done - this will really help me dive back in and get moving. :)

vikkibakus said...

Great words of wisdom, Jennifer. Your timing is impeccable and your wreath is stunning. Creation in any form is the life force of motivation and satisfaction and sometimes obsession. You have miniatures, I have hockey!

Denise said...

Jenn,
A very late chime in here. Amen. Amen!!!

Denise A. Agnew
www.deniseagnew.com