Motivational Thrills

Sticky tabs. Fluorescent flags and highlighters. Brand new mechanical pencils, a freshly-dedicated spiral notebook, and intention bringing it all together. It all sits before me, ready to receive my inspired prose. Or uninspired prose, or maybe ideas, or scene notes, or research questions (“How widespread are wolves in Greece?”), or notes on the various myths I hope to draw inspiration from.

There’s something to be said for little motivational thrills like brand new office supplies. Do I need them in order to write? No, there are plenty of programs designed to take the place of “cumbersome” physical objects, and my laptop has a nice selection of them. I use Scrivener to write, to keep character biographies organized, to keep detailed summaries and outlines, and so forth. I honestly can’t live without that one. I’ve also just recently started using the free version of Evernote to keep track of my scenes and clip research information from the web. OneNote would be a useful program, if I cared to replace the paper notebook entirely. And I use Excel to keep track of my word count. But there is something utterly satisfying and evocative about holding a pencil to clean paper. The action says, “I have ideas.”

I am not, generally, the type of person to have ideas pour out of them in a waterfall of inspiration. The lucky seat-of-their-pants writers who go off on a tear and then have to cut back their work, rather than extend it? I wish I was one of them, honestly. Sometimes, getting the words on the paper is like walking up a hill of molasses. And so I surround myself with small things that inspire and motivate me — life can’t be counted on to supply a steady stream of these things on its own. No, as Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” The muse is sweet, fickle, and inconstant. She may actually be a cat. But when she’s not present, work continues: I still have to write. I’ve read (probably in a Stephen King quote) that habit will serve you better than inspiration. I believe that’s true. It is also true that you must be working in order to make the most of that inspiration when it comes to you. So: butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

Probably the most important quality of being a writer is persistence. The second I would have to say is enthusiasm. You have to love your story. You have to be driven on by it night and day until the words pour into your dreams when you sleep and you wake up at six a.m. to catch the overflow in buckets. And when that enthusiasm fails, persistence and discipline will serve you well.

Motivation, unlike inspiration, can be summoned any time. A steady stream of it is possible. For a long time, I had an index card pinned to a small corkboard above my desk. In bold lines, it said “People want to read your book. Write it!” That was daily motivation for me. Now, it takes the form of my organizational materials. But I don’t need the index card in front of me physically to remember its motivating words.

I may not have many people invested in my stories yet, but I am confident more of you will come in time. I’ll share excerpts here when I can, introduce you to my characters, and tell you about my research. This blog previously lived at this location, but it should be easier for you to follow my posts here on WordPress. There are a few options for getting notified of when I make new posts, and you should find them near the bottom of the page.

Thanks for reading.

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