Monday morning dawns cold and clear and the author stares at a blank screen firmly forbidding self to wallow on Facebook or find a good card game. What to do? There are a number of old fashioned motivators of a disciplinary nature:
Deadlines. Nothing stiffens the spine like responsibility for a deadline that impacts others. Writers under contract usually have one. Independent and hybrid authors have to impose them on themselves. Last week I recruited a team of beta readers to have a look at my work in progress the first week in February. There is one problem: it isn’t finished. There is one problem with deadlines as motivator; they induce panic.
Task Lists. SIGH. It can be broad, “Finish the book;” it can be middling, “write 2000 words a day;” or it can be a series of very specific tasks, “finish chapter 2 scene 2 and add sparkle to the heroine’s reaction.” At least that tells you what to do today. Lists may help break things into manageable chunks, or they may just overwhelm and leave you feeling hopeless with all motivation crushed.
Schedules. Some author schedule specific hours every day to write. Most have day jobs however, and write on trains, while waiting for the carpool, during lunch, after the kids are in bed and so on. I was never very good at that. Since retiring my time has no externally imposed structure so I pretend to impose one. It rarely works. Either Life or my own contrary nature up end it.
Those three things might get my nether anatomy in the chair and my hands hovering over the keyboard but they don’t put my head or, more importantly, my heart into the story. Jump start, a technique that says, “Set a timer for fifteen minutes and just write what comes to you,” works somewhat. The idea is that by fifteen minutes you will have primed the pump and the story will flow. Some days it just doesn’t.
How do you wake up your inner creativity, what some people call “the girls in the basement?” Here are some things that work:
-Check your plot outline. Some people make highly detailed ones. I don’t, but I have to know where I’m going and make sure I’ve scoped out the next 2-3 scenes.
-Meditate. Empty your mind of the day to day, the books you need to promote, and the stresses of yhou life so that stories can flow in.
-Visualize your hero, either in your imagination or be looking at whatever photo or painting you’ve found that helps you “see” him.
-Do the same for the heroine, or for the setting. Photos or paintings reflective of the location or era help a lot. Because I look for interesting locations this one is important to me.
-Back up and read what you wrote last week.
If none of those get you started, go back to Jump Start. You’re a writer—so write.
Next week maybe we’ll talk about music. But first, coffee.