Monday, January 31, 2011

Motivation and Passion

Last week, I wrote about the call of the writer. Today, I want to focus on the difference between motivation and passion.

Merriam-Webster defines motivation as “a motivating force, stimulus, or influence.” It also refers to incentive and drive. All writers, by necessity, are driven to write. We wouldn’t create fantastical worlds or complex premises without drive. But in our day-to-day writing, how do we maintain motivation?

Some of us have book contracts (that wouldn’t include me---yet), others have word count goals or critique groups that keep them writing. Certainly deadlines can be a primary motivating factor.

Is motivation enough? Or do we need a good dose of passion to keep us firing on all cylinders on our way to completing a WIP.  It could be argued that without passion for your book or topic, motivation could wane or at least ebb and flow.

Personally speaking, I require a heavy dose of both to be successful. Without the passion for my story, to know my characters intimately and lead them through an adventure, no amount of motivation would be sufficient.

On the other hand, it’s very important to me to reach daily word count goals. To other writers, that’s not a big deal. I find it helps keep me on task and even if the words are pathetic garbage, I will have written SOMETHING. For someone without an agent or contract, trying to hone my craft and just get the words down, this is vital.

Where do you stand? Is motivation alone enough for you? Or is passion what drives you to see your projects to completion?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Virtual Weekend Writing Smorgasbord

So we’ve reached the end of a busy, productive and likely exhausting week. What now?

Do you find yourself stuck at home this weekend, wishing you could get away to hobnob with other writers? No need to fear, my friends. You can, albeit only virtually.

Many writers have gathered in New York City for the SCBWI Winter Conference. So much information, so little time. I’ve attended our own regional conference but never this gigantic, heart-pounding, energizing whopper.

One of these years, I’ll make it out there. For now, some of us may have to content ourselves with following the festivities vicariously through those who could attend.

Make sure to follow Alice Pope and the entire SCBWI blogging team all weekend long here.

You can also follow up-to-the-minute impressions on Twitter with the hashtag #NY11SCBWI.

Some other tasty treats you don’t want to miss out in the blogosphere (including more than one contest!):

Shelli Johannes is hosting a Pay it Forward Contest here where she will recommend ONE lucky winner to her agent, Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media.

Coincidentally, you can find an interview with Alyssa here. Kudos to Krista for her great agent interviews!

Shannon Whitney Messenger is offering a query critique. is giving away a Free YA/MG manuscript edit. Wow! Find details here.

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope it spurs your imagination to new heights.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carrying a Full Load

Writers live full lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not. Time is a precious commodity. Maintaining motivation and managing your time are imperative.

I have my own struggles in this area. My average day goes something like this: wake up before the sun; get ready for work; commute; work 8 hours at day job (where I’m able to get a little writing done on my breaks and/or lunch); commute home; tackled by four munckins upon entering; help oldest child with homework (if I’m lucky, I can get a few more words written); eat dinner; get kids ready for bed; write until I collapse in jello-like pile on bed.

I know I’m not alone. We’re all busy but for many different reasons. Finding the balance between your relational life and your writing life is key to a writer’s fulfillment. Some writers I know not only write but also teach classes. They may or may not have small children at home but they have deadlines. Or they may also have full or part time jobs. If you have a critique group or partner, adequate time must be given to them. I have a two-year-old liver transplant recipient and her three older siblings demanding my time and energy, which I freely give them.

If you’re married, quality time to nurture your marriage is non-negotiable. Some people are night owls, others are early risers. Each writer’s best part of the day to write varies and so do our vulnerabilities to distractions like Twitter, Facebook and writing blogs.

So, tell me: how do you juggle your own fully loaded days? Do you have this time management thing down to a science?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Call of A Writer

Writers feel the call of the written word. They can’t deny it and it’s futile to fight it. We MUST write. There is no alternative. Oh, we can attempt to ignore it, comparing it to a fad which will soon fade away. But it doesn’t. It can’t.

If it were that easy to give up, why do so many commit to writing day after day? Certainly there are easier occupations to pursue. Why do we torture ourselves so, in the hope of seeing our words in print, picked up by someone in a bookstore or library and read with delight? We don’t do it for fame, for surely, most writers would scoff at that notion. So few hit “stardom” and even those that do work hard to achieve it.

No, writing for those of us committed to it, whether pre-published,  a debut author or a multi-published writer, agented or not, battle ourselves, our time, our deadlines to find the perfect word. I set daily word count goals. Some people set time goals. Some just write and don’t set any goals. The point is, we are all writing. To do otherwise would be to turn our backs on our gifting, for this is what it is.

Writing is our life, and the words we write our food, our sustenance, moving us from this day to the next with the hope our words will touch just one person. After all, if we wrote simply to entertain ourselves the fire wouldn’t burn so long.  The desire would eventually fade away. But to touch another life, to make someone consider different circumstances, or to simply help them escape harsh realities, that is why we write.

The heart of my writing is to share life.  A journey taken alone can become discouraging, but a road walked with many companions, that’s where joy can be found.

{this post is dedicated to all my writer friends}

Friday, January 21, 2011

Worthless Resolutions, Achievable Goals

Ah, yes, the dreaded New Year’s resolution. How many did you make this year?

OK, I admit it. I used to be one of those folks who created a list of New Year’s resolutions. But failing year after year was no fun. Many of those goals didn’t make it past the first week of the new year.

Several years ago when I began writing again, my strategy changed.  After hearing (or reading) many writers advise focusing on achievable goals, I decided to move in that direction. While goals are great, setting yourself up for failure is not. Being realistic about “resolutions” while having at least one BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal) can set you up to succeed.

Now, each year I review how I did with last year’s goals. The major goal from last year: begin to write something every day. You have to know me to understand how difficult I made this for myself. Many writers tell you to find even 15 minutes to write every day and you can finish a novel in a year.

I allowed distractions to dictate my writing life. Instead of utilizing fifteen minutes when I had it available, I chose to dabble in other things (translation: reading blogs, Facebook, Twitter). While those things are all great, I learned they needed to take a backseat behind my primary goal of writing daily.

The good news? In October I set a monthly goal of 25,000 words. I’m a little organizationally anal, so I need to set up a daily word count and track it, so I can monitor progress. And it worked. I not only hit 25,000 words in October, but also in November and December. I’ve almost surpassed that total for January.

Achievable goals. If I can do it, so can you. So start today and you’ll find confidence you lacked, and the opportunity to build upon them. Bigger and better things await you in 2011.

Oh, and my BHAG for this year? Connect with an agent or editor who believes in my work.

Until next time,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off and Running

It’s been a long time coming but I am finally making the foray into the blogging world. For those of you who know me, you are probably wondering why it took me so long. Writing has always one of the greatest passions in my life but has repeatedly been placed on the back burner. More on that in a future entry.

Technically, I suppose, this is not my first blog. I have been maintaining a blog about my youngest daughter, Sarah, her liver transplant and beyond for two years. That blog was created more to keep people informed and up-to-date on our hospital stays and surgeries than anything else.

Why blog? The reason is probably three-fold, at least at the outset. First, it gives me a venue to share my journey on the road to getting published and engage others who travel along that same road, or who have come before me.

Second, it provides a place to share part of my life. Each entry won’t necessarily be exclusively about writing. My life is so much more than that. With four children under 9, a full-time job and a marriage to nurture, time is a premium. But even above the time aspect is my commitment to those relationships and responsibilities.  There are already blogs out there from writers with small children at home. My intention is to offer encouragement to others in a similar situation or who are just finding it hard to get started, no matter their age or family situation.

Lastly, a blog is a place to be real (I wanted to use the word 'vent'!). Okay, so I won’t be detailing any disappointing dealings with agents and editors or how I wish I could write full-time but I may comment on other subjects, particularly parenting. More likely, I will comment on my writing frustrations and how bogged down I can get in the middle of my WIP.

So, feel free to hop on board. The more, the merrier. While I am relatively “new” to the writing game, I do have 40+ years of life experience behind me and that counts for something, right?  I hope you will find this blog a safe and encouraging place and one that can truly become a community.

Enjoy…and keep writing!