Friday, August 27, 2010

Staying motivated at the end of the day

It's been a long day.  A LONG day.  On the scale of short to long, this day has been epic.  So how do you stay motivated?

Let's be honest - you don't need to write those 2,000 words tonight.  Really, it's okay.  No one will know.  You can just go to bed, crash, get a reasonable night's sleep, and wake up in the morning, refreshed and ready to go.

That's certainly an option.  And, sometimes, that's all you can do.  Some days you are just so bone tired that you fall asleep waiting for your two minute noodles.  I've been there.  Those cooking instructions are a LIE.  But, hey, that's the way the baklava crumbles.  Into gooey, delicious chunks of nuts, honey and pastry, that also happen to be soporific.  Somehow.

But then there are those days, you know the ones where, yeah, it's been a long day, yeah, you're tired, I know, and you just finished cooking dinner and washing up, and you're sitting in front of the computer with Facebook open, thinking, just thinking...  I could go to bed right now.  Or I could write my words for today.

The bed is sitting there, being all nonchalant.  It's just waiting, blankets wide open and welcoming, warm and soft and fuzzy like my cat's tummy after she's been curled up in the sun.  So warm, especially on these uncharacteristically frozen Brisbane winter nights.  But it will still be there in an hour, or even two.  Heck, it will be there all night, or I hope so, for your sake.  But time?  Yeah, time's a bit more slippery.

You see, an hour might sound like a long time.  If you think about it, really think about it, it is.  That's one thing I think kids have got over us adults, we think, "15 minutes?  I may as well play solitaire." while kids think, "15 minutes?  That's three rounds of make-believe and at least one and a half of dress-up!"  They're active.  They make good use of their time.  Now, I know our tasks become more complex the older we get, to a certain point, but writing is one of those most simple joys, like a hot bath on a cold day, or a ray of sunshine in the rain.  You don't have to work.  Writing isn't work, unless you're getting paid.  Writing is expression, letting oneself go.  Like letting your hair down at the end of the day, loosening your belt, or dreaming, writing is the solace we allow ourselves in order to relax.

Yet it seems like hard work, doesn't it?  On those days where you just want to curl up with a good book on the couch and dream the evening away, it seems like there's nothing more arduous.  But you know that's not true.  If you're anything like me, the catharsis of writing is more relaxing than any journey out of the self.  There's time for that when you're already relaxed.  To process the events of the day, the week, the month, you need an outlet, and where better to put your ideas?

2,000 words.  A day.  Let's put that into perspective.  Write for a week, and you'll have 14,000 words.  That's a long short story (ha!).  Write for two weeks, and you'll have 28,000 words.  That's a novella.  Write for a month, and you'll have 60,000 words.  That's a YA novel.

But, you know, you do this for the love of it.  If you're like me, writing usually comes last, after chores and work and cat and play.  And that's okay.  If it's not a job, you don't have to treat it like one.  Similarly, the worst thing you can do is freeze up and keep your fingers from moving.  Staring at a blank page has rarely helped anyone.  If you decide to write, decide to write, no matter the consequences.  You can edit later.  For now, let your frustrations, sorrows, joys and delights flow onto the screen through your eager fingers, and try not to take any notice of the time.  Don't set an alarm, but do dedicate yourself fully to the task at hand.  Close any messenger programs, emails or unnecessary browser windows.  Turn off music, close doors and windows to keep noise to a minimum, and let the people in your house know that you're busy.  Stay in this mindset for as long as you want to, for as long as you can, and when it's over, for whatever reason, take a deep breath.  You did it.

What's important is not the word count, but the act of writing.  Getting in a habit is only setting part of a routine.  As my mum says, it takes seven days to make a habit, and twenty-one days to break one, so if you write for a week straight, you've got three weeks to get back into the groove.  I think those are pretty good odds.

And, hey, if you don't make it one night or morning or whatever time is best for you, relax.  You're only human.  Whatever you can get done is taking you a step closer to your dream, so don't beat yourself up.  Writing 2,000 words a week is better than no words at all.  Remember to breathe, make yourself a cup of tea, and just be.  You're a writer.  Remember that.

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