People think that Writing is easy. After all, all you have to do is string a few words together and watch as your story fills up the computer screen. Right?
We all Tell Stories to our friends when something interesting happened and we know that our mind seems to just churn out these strange tales and thoughts as we walk along the street, or sit on the train on the way to work. For me, the person sitting over from me has a life. I wonder what’s been happening in that life and before I know it a tale develops in my mind and a story is bubbling up.
The strange thing is that when we sit down and try to write the stories in our minds trouble occurs. It’s not so easy getting what’s in our minds out onto the screen and keeping it in story form, like in our minds.
I read a hell of a lot of books on Writing Stories and I’m always thinking about technique and Characters and how to make them all come together and flow into a beautifully crafted piece of work. If your serious about developing your writing, I bet you read those books too, there are some really good ones out there and some not so good. We hone our craft as we set these bookish ideas into action and try them on the page. The trouble is that the books can only tell us, roughly, what others have done to become better writers, they don’t give it to us like a computer download so we can use the ideas like an App. We have to work at it.
Keeping at it. That’s good advice but what does it mean?
Keeping your bum in the chair and working an amount of hours that you set for yourself is a good start. Staying Motivated to Write though, when it’s hard to get it right is a difficult task. Somebody, a scientist or something, said that in every endeavour 10,000 hours of practice are needed to make the Master. Think of this, what if you became nearly a master? Or, you did 5,000 hours? Do you think it make a difference?
I think so. In fact it will make a difference. Some things are definite, they are facts of life – like the numbers game of finding something by asking so many people that you’ll get an answer or the salesperson who must make so many calls to get a sale. The writer or story-teller must write so many stories, good and bad ones, to get a good story. The stuff you’re writing now may be great, or it may be rough and joggy writing that makes you throw up. That’s enough to convince yourself to go out for fresh air and walk along the street. Your thoughts will be of defeat and your legs want to run from the work, go do something else, anything, but not this mess that took three hours of precious life. What’s not in your thoughts?
Well, you worked three hours or so and you were writing. That’s good. Maybe this has happened before, twenty times in the last few months. 10,000 hours – not any more, now it’s 9,937 hours or one year of practice at about 3 hours work a day means that you’ve already written a hell of a lot of words that were both good and bad. 252 hours of writing equals 9,748 left to go. That’s good, because you don’t know what’s coming next. The wonder of writing is that although many of us plan a story, when we begin to write something special happens. As Stephen King says, the Boys Downstairs start working, the unconscious mind kicks into action and although it’s on silent-mode it’s doing a lot of heavy horses work for you and helping you to write a good story. Thinking about your story is fun but thinking about the story while you write is productive activity. So much more is happening than just pondering an idea.
[bctt tweet=”“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.” —Ray Bradbury, WD”]
Working through the rough patches can make a writer feel a bit like a Hack-writer. Somebody who churns out Pulp-Fiction week after week. These guys are grafters, hard-working writers who are not only writing mountains of words but they are keeping the coals hot and the furnace burning day after day, for hours on end. Every hack writer, as we understand them, is writing for money. They are the souls who sit down and whip up a Love Story for the market and then a Thriller on contract. Then they get paid. They’re generally not thinking about literature and how to be a great writer, they’re thinking about being a productive writer. Because they know that comes first; no story means no money. They want the green-backs, the readies or the pasta in their bank accounts at the end of the month – not some vague time in the future. They are being honest with themselves and writing for money. But where do the stories come from?
Well, the true hack doesn’t really care – so long as they don’t dry up they are happy hacks. They don’t think much about “The Boys Downstairs” What they don’t know is that they teach us a lesson or two about becoming a good writer. There are a lot elements to study and practice as a writer and one of them is learning to keep at it. To, maybe, hit the day when you know you’ve probably passed the 10,000 hour writing post and are now galloping on to the big arena. The place where you will formulate a story and write it without doubts and worries of words falling over each other. The clunky sentence doesn’t happen so often and the stories are flowing. Where those stories come from with all their intricate twists and turns and the events that cause readers to laugh or cry, who knows? Maybe it’s the Boys Downstairs helping you out just like they help the Hack to keep churning out their tales of love. Motivation to Write can only occur when you are writing. Sure, we all get that exciting feeling of anticipation before writing and we all experience that difficult time when just before sitting down to write we get a brilliant idea. Like, better feed the cats first, or nip out and buy some milk so I have some for my coffee – gotta have coffee, you know? Then, half an hour later we’re doing the washing up and planning dinner. Yes, and right in that moment “The Boys Downstairs” groan and put down their pens and paper and go back to bed. They were ready to go. You didn’t realise that they were sitting down waiting for today’s work to happen, just the actions of tapping the keys and they would’ve sprung into action with some really cool story telling. They had been working on it all day and night after you finished yesterday. The plans they had for the session that you stalled on were going to kick this story into the best story that you’ve ever written. The most original – the most You story ever. But you went shopping instead. You missed out on a big surprise that “The Boys downstairs” had planned for you.
There’s a lot of ideas about How to stay Motivated with Your Writing but the one I like best is to Trust Yourself and your abilities. You wouldn’t still be writing if it wasn’t in you to be successful. You’ve seen or glimpsed that 1% of talent that you have, and it spurred you on to work and come up with great story ideas. But you and me as writers or artists if you like, are complex beings. We know ourselves as much as we can, we are honest with our thoughts about abilities and limitations, we can push ourselves to write another hour or two but we mustn’t forget that we, ourselves, are only the tip of the iceberg of what we know about our conscious life; The Boys Downstairs, the unconscious mind is always working hard to do the right thing and keep us on track. The unconscious is a powerful resource that we can work with or ignore.