Last week we talked about ideas and where they come from. As it turns out I happen to get a good number of them. I currently have ideas for three novels and one short story plus another trilogy of short stories which could easily become a novel, with (knock on wood) more ideas to come. BAM! Another idea just hit me for next week’s blog post [does happy dance].
The thing is, ideas are only useful if you actually do something about them. Ideas are wonderful little creatures but they also require quite a bit of attention. Just like the goldfish you had when you were little, if you don’t feed an idea it dies, and much like a dead goldfish, a dead idea ends up souring the experience, getting in the way, and making it more difficult to bring another one into the picture. What you really need to do is flush it down the toilet or bury it somewhere. Whatever you do, just get rid of it and get rid of it posthaste. Dead goldfish stink and it’s harder to get anything done when there’s a something stinking up the room regardless of whether it’s a dead fish or a bad idea.
Not every idea is going to be gold.
Some ideas are gold though (or gold plated, or just shiny enough to catch your attention), and those are the ones you have to take care of. The challenge with this isn’t so much figuring out what to do about it as it is actually doing something about it. If it’s one thing I’ve learned in my thirty[mumble] years of existence it’s that if you want to get anything done you have to actually get off your butt and do something about it. Quite often, the amount of work you put in determines the success, or the quality of the outcome (though I would argue against the notion that it’s linearly proportioned).
I have a job I really enjoy; two wonderful children; a wonderful wife; a gaggle of siblings, nieces and a nephew; loving parents and in-laws; myriad other family members scattered across the globe; lots of friends, some of them close and some peripheral (but there nonetheless). I also don’t sleep well and there’s lots of activity in my daily routine, so when it comes time to do something outside of all this, like, I don’t know, finish my novel, my motivation levels are fairly low. Sometimes – a lot of the time actually – I just want to sit and hang out in front of the television or read a book or just lie on the couch and enjoy the dim lighting and the quiet. Oh how I love the quiet…
I don’t need to finish the book to pay a bill, or because it’s my job, or because I am contractually obligated to finish. It’s not the last request of a dying family member or friend that I put my novel in their hands before they pass. It ranks lower than helping my kids with their science fair projects on my list of things to do (as it should). The only reason I can think of to finish it is to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I finished it. It will be a great accomplishment when it’s done, and I will be extremely proud of myself when the day comes, but my problem is that day always seems to be at least a day away.
I get more stuff done tomorrow than any other day of the week.
An object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force; so I have to ask myself what are some of the forces that tend to get people moving, and which ones will get me moving? The one that stands out the most for me is commitment. If I make a commitment I really want to honour it.
When I was taking singing lessons in preparation for my fist ever vocal performance I practised almost every day. I found ways to rehearse even when I was sick or exhausted. I had made a commitment and I was going to honour it, damn it.
The same goes for when I was considering doing an Ignite talk. I was accepted once but declined because I wouldn’t have been able to give it the attention it deserved. I finally accepted just a few weeks ago and delivered the talk on February 13th. That one took at least three weeks away from any writing I was avoiding, but I had made a commitment and I had a deadline, so that was that.
As it pertains to writing I made a commitment to post to my blog once a week, on Sunday, and here we are on February 24 and I haven’t missed one yet – I even have my idea for next week’s post! So why isn’t my book done?
Simple. I haven’t made it a commitment – to myself or anyone else. Well, nothing motivates much better than making a promise to the world, so here goes nothing… I have roughly 25,000 words left in my first draft and…
I will finish by March 31.
There you go. That’s less than half the pace needed to win NaNoWriMo, which I did in 2012 (with a full day to spare!) I’ll even take it one step further. Now, I have no idea how long it takes to do a second and third draft, or how long an editor will need to colour it red, but my Dad’s 75th birthday is in October and I think a great present would be a new book for his e-reader. My book, to be specific.
I have a feeling that I’m not alone in thinking this, but nothing motivates me much more than simply being told I’m not capable of doing something. So as I eluded in the previous paragraph, I have no idea if what I want to do is even remotely possible, but I just dare you to tell me I can’t do it.
Go on, I dare you.
P.S. I want to know what motivates you! What gets you out of bed in the morning? What gets you into the office? What gets the blood pumping, the wheels turning, or the pen writing?