Ursula K. Le Guin, on world building: “You can’t just build the world. You have to go there. Live there. It has to be real to you.”
Last night I had the privilege of seeing Ursula K. Le Guin at Powell’s. Needless to say, the top floor of Powell’s was packed, and they kept announcing Le Guin would only sign one book per patron and only if that said patron had a book signing ticket. (No, I didn’t get anything signed!) Le Guin was amazing! Sharp as a tack and hilarious, too. She said some lovely things about writing, ranging from how authors shouldn’t be afraid of the “old white men” to how it took her fifteen years to figure out how to write in her own female voice (and not in a man’s).
During the Q&A, one audience member asked if Le Guin had any advice on motivation. She couldn’t really give any, since her own experiences centered on people who were (and are) already driven to write, who are passionate about their work, and who basically don’t need motivation.
I found this quite interesting, because I struggle with motivation sometimes. I have so many responsibilities on my plate—grad school, Write to Publish, work, volunteering—that sometimes I say that I don’t have the motivation to write. But, if I’m really honest with myself, it’s because I don’t dedicate the time to write.
And that, readers, is my first tip (of six) on how to motivate yourself.
Dedicate time to write – This can be as little as one day out of the week or as much as one hour every day. If you set time to write, you will write. If you consciously set aside a specific amount of time per day or per week, you’ll motivate yourself to do it.
Have a set goal – This one is for the people who don’t like schedules. Don’t worry, I know you’re out there, and I don’t judge. (Much.) If you don’t want to schedule a specific time slot out of your life in order to write, have a set amount of words per day or per week instead. This can be as little as five hundred words per day or as many as ten thousand words per week. Pick a goal that seems doable to you. What’s great about this strategy is that most likely if you do reach your goal, you’ll want to write more anyway.
Turn off the internet – Yes, I did just say that. Turn off the internet. Turn it off. No Netflix. No Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, newspapers, blogs. Just turn it off. The less distractions you have, the more likely you’ll want to write. (Some people like to listen to music when they write and that’s okay.)
Read. Read. Read. – Quite simply, if you read more in the genre you want to write in, you’ll be motivated to either a) match whatever fabulous writer you just found or b) do better than the writer you’re currently reading. Reading is a great way to get motivated because you’ll get excited about your genre again.
Write something different – If you’re seriously stuck on this one section of this one story or poem, try your hand at something else. It’ll get your mind off that problem and, hopefully, by stepping away and working on some other short piece, you’ll come back to the original problem with a new set of eyes and some fresh ideas.
Have a splurge day – So this one is a bit new for me. I call it a splurge day, because it’s the day I can do anything. I can write anything I want to or I can write nothing at all. I can purge a bunch of stuff from my system by fleshing out a world or a character that I may never use or I can bang out a few thousand words in a novel I’m working on. I can spend the entire day with my fingers never grazing the keyboard, completely unplugged. I encourage everyone to have one, just because I know setting a goal everyday may seem daunting to some, and it’s always good to unwind.
Those are my tips for motivation. What are some of yours?