I’ve chatted to writers all year, and some have had a fabulous 2013. Some, not so great. One of the things I’ve noticed (not just this year, but every year) is that those writers who have a strong motivation to write, seem to get more done.
It sounds like a no brainer. If you’re dieting for no good reason, mud cake looks good. If your wedding is in three weeks (or your book launch) and you need to fit into that special dress, carrot sticks are the new chocolate.
So motivation – for characters and for writers – is key. And at the start of a story when the idea is fresh and the potential sales appear JK Rowling-ish, delusions of grandeur can take you far. As a mentor, I never knock writers off their lofty fantasy pedestals. It motivates them to get up early and work late (creating the time factor of the equation all by themselves). In fact, I encourage writers to pick a fantasy moment: walking the red carpet, getting a big advance payment in the mail, opening the box full of advance copies of their book and loving the cover, and then milking that fantasy for five minutes every day, wringing every bit of happy/ relieved/ satisfied/ thrilled emotion they can out of it. That builds motivation too.
The reality may end up looking like this:
The Bentley you thought you’d be buying with your first advance
Here Bentley, Here, Bentley. Good dog!
So reality can dent your confidence, and therefore your motivation. How do you pick yourself up when you’ve had rejection in the past, you’ve lost perspective on your story, and you’re starting to doubt that it will ever get published, and if it does, that anyone will bother to read/ like it? Perhaps life itself has dealt you a crap year and those muddy glasses are making everything look terrible, including your writing.
Dear Manuscript, you look like this…
Sometimes you have to start back at bedrock and just work at making yourself happy. My experience as a mentor has shown me that happy writers are productive writers and I reject the cliché that starving/troubled artists write the best work. We all experience life’s ugly moments. Some writers unfortunately have had more pain than others. And yes we do draw on memories of those dark times to bring our stories vividly to life. But we don’t have to be experiencing that pain now to be writing our best. We simply need to be good at remembering what it felt like, and luckily for us, really bad moments seem to be engraved in our memories!
Publishers and agents want to work with productive writers, those who can create saleable novels year in, year out, building readership and thereby sales and profits for all. If you can get happy and stay happy, you’ll have your best shot at being that author. The delightful side-effect is that you’ll also be a fab person to be around, and family and friends will stop doing this when you walk in the room:
Has she made her word count? Is her eye twitching? I can’t look.
So here’s my tip for the end of the year, to wash away any unpleasantness from 2013 and set yourself up for a cracker super-happy ultra-productive 2014. Make up a list like mine (takes five minutes in Microsoft Word) and sit down with a pen and paper and fill it in. Honestly, I had thirty done in ten minutes:
As you remember each fabulous thing that’s happened to you in the year, no matter how small, it will trigger happy feelings, and before you know it you’ll be glass half full instead of glass half empty about everything, writing included. My list included everyday things like:
- Standing on the verandah watching a thunderstorm
- Eating a perfect lime slushy on that really hot afternoon
- Watching the Aussies win the Ashes on tv (cricket, for those who don’t know)
- Laughing at the cat that time he rolled in his sleep and fell off the chair
- Watching Meg’s eyes light up when she talked about her new home
I also included some personal peak moments that really meant something to me. So you get the idea. Fill up the list, really feel the emotions, reliving all their splendor as you write, then make time with your morning coffee each day to have a glance through it again and let the happy memories make you smile.
I pinky-promise it will help you let go of the negativity that weighs you down and squashes your creative inspiration. Then you’ll be all set up for a fabulously successful, productive, satisfying and fun 2014.
Go for it!