The folks over at Writing Excuses have a saying: “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.” The basic premise of this principle is that no matter how awful a day you are having, no matter how jelled your creative juices, no matter how many distractions might exist around, you will be more productive if you sit down and write something than if you just throw in the towel and pursue something else. Therefore, it is important to put yourself in a situation on a regular basis where you will actually be writing, no matter how much you accomplish during that time.
I’ve found that this applies for me at a couple of different levels. When I determine ahead of time that I will devote the time to writing, I am usually more productive. And when I get off of the couch and plant myself on an upright chair, something happens – I get in a zone and I’m much more likely to gain momentum.
The thing for me is, I often fall into that trap of thinking that because I’m not pumping out the word count at the rate that I know I can, then it must be a waste of my time and I’d be better served doing some else. So I fire up a video game or flip on the TV or pull out a book – all fine activities on their own, but they don’t put words on my manuscript. And in the end, I feel a bit guilty and frustrated that I “wasted” all that good writing time when I could have been making progress.
Why does this happen? Is it really because I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m not writing at top speed? I think the Writing Excuses guys stumbled on it when they suggest that it might be as much about my motivation as anything else. What am I writing for? Who am I writing for? Why am I writing at all?
In some ways, I think this is where finding a good “writing mode” in terms of where I sit, how I sit, etc. can really help. We are creatures of habit. When we sit in a certain place with a certain posture, we tend to think and do the things we always think and do in that position. So, if I sit on the couch, where I normally watch TV or play video games or read, I’m much more likely to be motivated to do those things. But when I’m sitting up in a chair at a table or desk, I am in “work” mode, and the motivation to get work done springs up within me.
That’s a crucial point: I believe that all of us who are writers have within us the motivation to write. We might not all have the same motivation – my motivation may be different from yours may be different from Jon’s. But we all have the motivation. If we didn’t, we would never write, and we wouldn’t call ourselves writers. It’s not about generating the motivation, it’s about drawing it out of ourselves.
So, what draws out your motivation?