In episode #198 of The Creative Penn Podcast, Steve Scott, a self-published author who earns a six-figure income from his writing, gives his advice for being productive and successful. His number one tip?
“Consistent butt in chair at least 5 times a week.”
It is no secret. The magic way to produce writing is to sit down and physically write. However, as all writers know, sometimes this is much easier said than done. After all, when our day jobs and families and friends and fully-loaded DVRs come calling, it’s difficult to turn them away. Given the opportunity, many writers will exercise their imaginations to invent any story necessary to get out of doing their work. Unfortunately, I am no exception to this weakness.
This November, I will have to beat myself at my own game and figure out how to get to “butt in chair” long enough to crank out 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. As part of my NaNo prep, I’ve evaluated my strengths and weaknesses and concocted a few different brands of kryptonite to help break down my inner-procrastinator.
By finding honest answers to the following questions, you can do the same.
What is your biggest motivator?
Without a doubt, my strongest motivator is my knight-like sensitivity to obligation. I like to believe that this stems from my parents, who raised me to be loyal and honest and keep my promises. But, whoever or whatever is to blame, when I feel connected to something or someone, I go to insane lengths to hold myself to that commitment. I can’t even stop writing in the journal that I’ve wanted to abandon since April, simply because I feel obligated to finish 2014. Yeah, I’m crazy. Hopefully, it comes in handy.
How can you create that motivator for yourself?
This question may be tricky for some, but for me, it’s simple. I am telling anyone and everyone who will listen that I am doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve announced it on this website, on every form of social media, and face-to-face with my family and friends. By telling so many people about my goal, I will feel obligated to succeed. Additionally, one of my other complexes is that I abhor looking stupid, and if I talk a big game and don’t deliver 50,000 words, I’m going to feel pretty damn stupid.
Who can help you?
No matter who you are or where you live, you can find a support system to help you achieve your goals. For me, I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful husband, Daniel, who has agreed to be my word count tyrant. Even tonight, when I was tired and did not want to write this blog post, he yanked my cell phone out of my hand and ushered me upstairs to write. He has also agreed to give up our office and desktop for the entire month so I can have a free work space. I’m also lucky to have close writer friends, Teresa and Sam, who understand the undertaking that is NaNoWriMo and will cheer me on this month. I’ve also been able to meet more writing buddies simply by doing a few searches on WordPress and Twitter. As the Aussies say, too easy.
So many writers talk about having a special place to write or about carving out a specific time of day for writing. I intend to do both this November. As already stated, my husband is giving me free reign of the study and computer, so that I have no physical excuses not to write. Time is a little more tricky, given that I work a full time job from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (including commuting time), and I sometimes do take-home work in the evenings and on weekends. Most writers say that writing in the morning works best for them, as they can get their writing done first thing and then tackle the day worry-free. I am an ogre in the mornings, but I may have to give this a shot. However, so far, I’ve been able to devote at least an hour every night to writing for this blog, so I can probably do a bit of both and make it work.
How can you practice your skills and build confidence?
By this, I mean, how can you take on a smaller venture to prove to yourself you can complete your goal? For instance, my goal is to write 1,666 words a day for all of November. Well, for the last week, I’ve been writing roughly 800 to 1,000 words every night for these blog posts. While nonfiction flows faster from my mind to my fingers than fiction does, surely if I can write this much for a blog post every night, I can slam out some prose. Think about your own goals and see if you can do any “test runs” to build your confidence.
If all else fails, humans are animals, and we love pleasure. What can you give yourself as a reward that will motivate you to complete your goal? And better yet, who can safeguard your reward to ensure you don’t cave and just treat yourself early? For me, a huge motivator is that I will be able to cross off my #1 bucket list item and feel less like an amateur when I talk to people. However, for a physical reward, I am going to treat myself to Scrivener (I’m using the free trial during NaNoWriMo) and buy myself some new, professional clothes. My husband will be monitoring me all month and ensuring that I do not let the credit card slip until I reach my word count.
How can you remind yourself of all this?
Some writers surround themselves with motivational quotes or images; some have a daily creed they say to themselves. While I do love quotes, the way I am reminding myself of my commitments is by writing these posts, right now, on this website. These words are my motivation, straight from the source, my purest form of obligation to commit myself to this goal and not look back. Plus, surrounding myself with awesome writer friends and a relentlessly supportive hubby helps, too. Even if I forget, they won’t let me hear the end of it.
To follow my NaNoWriMo journey or add me as a writing buddy, check out my NaNoWriMo profile.
What are your answers to these questions? How are you motivating yourself to win NaNoWriMo or achieve other big goals? I’d love to read your tips!