Monday, January 14, 2013

Keeping Those Writing Resolutions: Action = Motivation

by Editor, DJ Hendrickson

Many of us begin a new year full of gumption and big plans for our writing careers. But like a lot of New Year’s Resolutions, we may find ourselves falling behind our schedules and not accomplishing much of anything. With everything going on in our busy lives, it’s no wonder that our gumption can be siphoned away by long to-do lists. Add in the human tendency to believe that we act once we’re motivated, and it’s no wonder most of us never get around to making those resolutions a reality.
Only the idea that we act when we’re motivated isn’t necessarily true, especially when it comes to reaching goals or changing our behavior. If we wait for motivation to strike, we may be waiting a really long time and never reach those goals we set for ourselves.
The reality is, our motivation grows as we take action. Even taking the smallest step signals to our brains that we’re making progress. And even the tiniest little bit of progress makes us feel good, which increases our motivation to take more action to make more progress to feel even better.
So what sorts of small actions can you take to increase your motivation? Anything will get the ball rolling, but doing something that actually gets writing work done will be most effective. We may think that we need that new computer software or new paint on the walls in order to feel that elusive inspiration that will motivate us, but we don’t. What we need is to actually get something done.
It doesn’t have to be something big, such as writing ten thousand words a day. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be getting words on the page at all. There are a million little decisions to make in order for a story to come to life. Characters must be named, places must be researched, timelines must be plotted. Then there’s the promotion, platform building, networking and business paperwork. When these sorts of tasks pile up, it can build a huge, seemingly insurmountable pile that drains motivation even more. But with five minutes, you can take action on these types of tasks and increase your motivation. It will also free up more of your writing time to get those words on the page. Another benefit of doing these things in tiny bursts is that you’re less likely to get sucked into clicking lots of interesting links and falling into the internet abyss.
Here are some ideas:
Find a way to make notes so you’re only writing down enough to jog your memory later. It may take a bit to figure out a system that works for you, but once you do, it will save you a lot of time and lost ideas. I mastered this while taking notes in more literature classes than I care to remember, so I can now write a five hundred word description from ten words I scribbled down at a stop light. This way, when that great transition or line of dialogue pops into your head, you don’t lose it.
Have a smart phone? Use it to scroll through baby name sites while you’re waiting in lines, for appointments, or to pick the kids up from school. This is also a good time to check in to social media without it turning into an hours-long time suck. If you have a specific piece of information you need to look up, such as when the rainy season is in the northeast, you can probably do it in these tiny pockets 


Barb Han said...

Great post, DJ! I started using the 5/25 method. I set a timer for 25 minutes, then get to the keyboard. When the timer dings, I stop. The timer gives me a five minute break, so I run up and down stairs or jump rope to get my blood pumping. Then, I start over again. It's amazing when I really see how fast a half hour goes. It motivates me to use every minute wisely. Plus, I'm not as tired at the end of my work day. Total bonus!!

Robena Grant said...

I love this. Thanks, Dj. I'm a stickynote writer. I line them up on the side of the printer and when I'm done with the real writing I pluck off a note and do a task. It might be an idea for a blog post, or to create an author page somewhere, or to update something. I love the self-satisfaction of tossing out the sticky note when the task is accomplished. : )

GiniRifkin said...

Hi DJ:
Thanks for reminding us that writing is so much more than just sitting at the computer, it's those flashes of brilliance on how to save a hero or kill off a villain, it's research, and re-sequencing, and just letting the story percolate in your head while in line at the grocery store. Your hint of learning to jot down a few pertinent words to capture this more lengthy info is a great suggestion.

Gini Rifkin