You want to be a writer? You have to give up something.
Part of this is, of course, the fact you need time to write. At this point, if you’re not writing already, that potential time is being taken up by some other activity. Facebook. Hockey. Vodka. TV. Xbox. Take your pick. It doesn’t much matter, but it’s something. You get to fill in the blank. And you don’t need a lot of time, but if you’re serious about it, you’ll block out an hour each day. If you’re smart, to start with at least, you’ll schedule it at about the same time of day and in the same location. Later you can work on becoming more of a writer and less of a (you fill in the blank here).
But that’s only part of it. The other part of it is motivation. You can’t want to be a writer, you must be one or not be one. Think about writing all the time? Good. You’re not a writer yet, you’re a thinker. If you’re finding opportunities during your normal day to jot down ideas, and steal moments to write dialogue or blog or whatever comes to mind. Yes, you’re a writer. You just need a bit of focus and a bit of discipline.
Where does that come from? It’s a business lesson. Say for instance I give you $50 if you write for an hour straight. Check it out. Nice isn’t it? Yes, you don’t see those bills very often. I got it from a ATM. No, you have to take out more than $40 to get one of these. Nice, eh? Go on. Write something. No, I don’t care what. No, I’m not going to read it. I just gave you $50. What the hell do you want from me?
Good, you’re done. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
Now, for the next hour, you’re going to write, but if you don’t reach 1,000 words, you’re going to lose $50. You need to pay me. Now that sucks. You just came face to face with intrinsic human nature. While we appreciate winning, we hate losing. For whatever reason. If we lose $50, we thing there’s something seriously wrong with ourselves. So you need discipline and motivation? You need to give up something. And don’t make it something you don’t care about. I had a friend whose father always swore off Eskimo women for Lent. Not really a motivating factor. But what about Xbox? Or a poker game? Or one of those other things you listed when you were listing things that weren’t writing. If you’re serious about it, you’ll give up something you really care about.
That way when you sit down at the keyboard, you’ll be motivated to not waste your time. What will you do? We’ll talk about that a bit later. But just like the guy who dropped fifty cents in the outhouse and then promptly tossed his wallet in after it. He wasn’t going down there just for fifty cents!
So this is a two-fer. Rule one: Make time. Rule two: Make it worth your time. Sometimes tricking our own minds into doing something can pay some serious dividends.
Yes, thanks. I’ll take the $50 back.
Yes, I do think you’re getting it now.
So, what worked for me? I gave up playing music. Once in a while I hear my guitars calling me. It’s difficult to ignore, but I’ve made some remarkable progress. When I do sit down to write, I have a greater sense of what that time is worth and do my best to use it appropriately.
But here’s the cool thing. It didn’t take that long before mentally, that new habit took hold. As the story developed on the page and the characters came to life, they motivated me. The more I got into the manuscript, the more I got into the manuscript. I no longer needed to trick myself. I’d done it. I’d switched addictions. There’s a woman in front of me this morning playing some virtual candy game. The guy across the aisle is snoring. Not me. I’m creating. And there’s something magic about it. I can’t explain it to you, but you’ll know when it happens, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.