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Monday, August 27, 2012

I Need Incentive and Motivation to Write

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks. Six weeks! How is that possible, writing longhand with a pen that had to be dipped into an ink well throughout the process? Prolific writers such as he was may be so in tune with their craft they can just sit down and write, although Mr. Dickens did have a family to feed and was in debt when he wrote his breakthrough novel. I never felt confident enough in my writing skill to depend on it for a paycheck, so I don't know what I might accomplish if writing was more than a hobby to me. However, I do know this for sure--I can't just say to myself, "OK, get your act together and write!" Something has to inspire me first. Either that or I need an incentive, and even then, life has a way of getting between me and my keyboard—interaction with family and friends, housework, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, pet care, exercise, gardening, and so on.

To me, inspiration is the most crucial part of this process—discovering something that not only moves me but has the potential to educate or entertain others. These ideas often spring from one of the five senses—a spectacular sunset, a smell that makes me cover my nose, a song that makes me cry. Sometimes it arrives in the form of a sixth sense, an idea that just feels right.

Serendipity comes into play when I'm at the right convergence of time and place for an “aha” moment that I otherwise would have missed. These opportunities sometimes reveal themselves when I take a wrong turn, either literally or figuratively, and come across a situation, idea, word or group of words that falls outside the box. I carry pen and paper with me at all times so I can jot down these unusual perspectives.

Dreams and memories have great potential for inspiration because they can be so intense. Well, I have to admit as I get older the memories aren’t always so intense, but the dreams and memories I do recall are usually the ones that hold the greatest potential for writing material.

After I come up with an idea or storyline, the next step is to turn whatever inspires me into a poem, essay or novel, and for that I need motivation—some incentive that makes me sit at my computer instead of vacuuming or pulling weeds. No, I do not enjoy vacuuming or pulling weeds, but chores often become excuses to delay the writing process.

Deadlines are a great motivator. These can be self-prescribed for the disciplined writer, many of whom set goals of a certain number of words or pages by noon, by midnight, or per day. Frequently deadlines are dictated by a boss, publication, critique group, writing competition or the timeliness of the subject. Faddish or timely topics have motivation built right in because their newsworthiness has a short lifespan. Charles Dickens had to get A Christmas Carol into print before Christmas or wait an entire year--perhaps another reason he was able to write a masterpiece in such a short period of time.

Critique groups can push you to write since you are expected to have your work in the hands of the group's members by a set time. The groups I belong to help those of us with writer's block by giving prompts (idea starters) to get our creative juices flowing. Publishing a blog helps by forcing you to post something on a somewhat regular schedule. If you don't keep your blog fresh, you will lose followers. Writing competitions work even better for me because not only do they encourage me to write, they make me stick to a schedule and really, really, really polish my work.

The stimulus to write can be the thrill of seeing my words on a page or in some instances, receiving awards, affirmation, or a paycheck. Regardless of the payoff, there is always the wonderful feeling I get playing with words, rhythm, and sound as I write and the thrill of accomplishing a worthwhile project when I'm finished.

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