Thursday, August 23, 2012

L.I.T.E.R.A.L. # 2: Thoughts on The Components of Writing Motivation

L.I.T.E.R.A.L. is a weekly blog meme for authors hosted at Indie Books. We created it to serve as a support group for participants of the Author at Once workshops, but we welcome all writers (from anywhere in the world) who’d like to weigh in on the topics!

The Question from Bronze Age Media: Now let’s share how we get things done. What gets you in the mood to write? Is it a deadline, a prize, a pushy editor? Can you recall your most productive writing session ever? What triggered it?

The Answer: 
For feature articles that I write for a local parenting magazine, it's the deadline. First of all, it's a choice to accept the writing assignment. I keep that in mind. When I'm really swamped, I flat out refuse the assignment and the editor understands. But when I do take it on...the next thing that pushes me is the deadline. There's nothing like a deadline. You either meet it or you don't. The hard part is coming to terms with NOT meeting it. But I guess the answer to this is to be in communication with the person who'll be impacted. In this case, it's the editor. I was writing a piece recently and I was still waiting for one of my interviewees to get back to me. As soon as I knew I was going to hit a snag, I alerted the editor and asked for five more days. My request was granted. I realized that they usually work with buffers so it doesn't hurt to ask for a reprieve. But I only do this once in a blue moon. I always stick by the deadline or finish earlier.

For writing in general, I signed up to an online platform called It's a nifty idea. You write 750 words every day, preferably in the morning (your morning stream-of-consciousness thoughts). The site creator cites this book called The Artist's Way which advises artists/ writers to write down morning pages (your first thoughts for the day). Among all the advice in the book, this is the one that really worked for him.

Your entries on the site are entirely private (nothing is published online) but what's so great about it is that the platform analyzes your words and gives you statistics about your writing: in how many minutes did you finish? Were you writing about the past, the present, the future? What was your mood while writing? What were you preoccupied with? For this alone, I think it's worth writing on Now, they have this thing called the monthly writing challenge. When you sign up for it you identify your reward (i.e. spa and massage, a movie, a trip out of town) and you identify your punishment (no ice cream for a month) plus on top of that you either end up in the wall of shame (for not finishing) or the wall of awesome (for finishing). It was grueling! I tried it out for July and I'm glad I finished the challenge. No one had to check. Just me. And it was worth it. I ended up with a lot of material for the book I'm writing plus other stuff, like children's stories, that weren't on my initial agenda. It just got me in the process of writing again., I think it's time for me to get back on the habit!

I also recently joined the Poetry Group on and I love posting a new poem in their "I am open to critique" forum. I get a thrill out of getting comments from other more experienced poets and I like finding out how they think. I get exposed to other people's ars poetica...and learning has always been a strong motivator for me. So, when I do get some valuable feedback, I edit the poem with those comments in mind.

My most productive writing sessions were probably in coffee shops when I gave myself several hours to finish a chapter or two...or compile several poems into a theme. Maybe it was the caffeine (haha!) or maybe it was the momentum. I don't know. A self-imposed deadline that I meet makes me feel really triumphant. The only thing that beats it is getting feedback from someone who was touched by what I wrote.

The idea of finally finishing something gives me a thrill. Even if there's no monetary gain, no one to push me, or no prize to win...I love the feeling of closing off and finishing a story, a poem, a blog. Closure might be what some people call it. Or completion. For this to happen, there are equal parts of discipline and inspiration that work together for me.


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