We all have those days when we feel like a tiny grain of sand on a beach as vast as the universe itself, when delving for that great work that we believe lives inside us seems an impossible endeavor, even, yikes … uh … pointless. But we all believe that great work is there, waiting to poke out its award-winning head; that’s what keeps us moving forward on that life quest to find it, and, once we have dug it up, seek to publish it feverishly the way that Kudzu ravishes the Georgia countryside. But what do we do when nothing seems to motivate us at all, no matter how hard we try?
Here are ten great ways you can motivate yourself, when you need it the most.
1. Read great work by great literary artists. It is not just about honing your craft, but when you see an author’s years of beautiful passion and anguish on the printed page, one who has won the awards and stadiums of readers, has survived the test of time like the Rock of Gibraltar, it makes you want to stretch yourself, reach deep in your soul and unveil that masterpiece. I read about 3-4 contemporary authors at the same time, as well as one classic author (right now Ray Bradbury).
2. Commune with Nature. This is not just for the landscape painters and the eccentric transcendentalists like Thoreau; it is also for any artist. After all, think about it, who is the greatest artist of all? Hmm …
3. Find a great view. This used to be West Georgia countryside for me, but now it is a view of Atlanta from twenty-three stories up. I can even see the future now (well, I can see what’s around the corner for folks down there who do not possess my frame of reference; does that make me sort of a window washer demigod?!).
4. I know this one is going to sound a little weird, but, try hanging posters on your wall of your favorite writers. I have this great poster by Hemingway from Life Magazine, “Old Man and the Sea.” He has this intense, inhabited look in his eyes, so haunting. When I look at the poster, he seems to say, “Is that all you got? What are you going to do now?”
5. Remove all distractions! Remove all distractions!
6. OK, watch out, I am going to wax a little New World with you now, but, you need to clear the channels to your heart, mind, and soul. What the hell does that mean?! Well, you see, literary art is a painting of a landscape with words. The views of this landscape come from your heart, mind, and soul; if you can’t see the view because of feelings that you have not dealt with, stresses, doubts, life problems, etc, the vistas are going to be foggy and distorted.
7. Allot a consistent time every day. Then breathe deep. And let it come. We do not have to be Jack Londons (in his prime, he wrote 1000 words a day), but we need to have a sacred time set aside. Even a half-hour a day could yield a masterpiece novel in less than a year. As Stephen King believes, once you start inviting The Muse on a regular basis, he will begin to show up routinely (even if he is scary, hairy, incredibly odd, etc, you will get use to him!).
8. Share your newest novel’s vision with at least one person who will encourage you. You would be surprised how far this can take you (I hope right to the top!).
9. Go where other creators are and soak up their energy. Writers conferences, art shows, even concerts (I was once motivated to write a novel just by listening to Avenged Sevenfold at a metal fest I took my nephews to: they were so focused and dedicated to their own craft that I thought, “Oh my God, I need to go home and write!).
10. Ask yourself why you are writing. And keep asking that question until you have a solid answer. If your answer does not involve a commitment for the rest of your life, I hate to say it, but, you may want to start thinking about spending your time doing something else.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have others to add, please reply to my blog; I would love to hear them!
Yours in literature,