Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Writing is Going Pretty Well: How Do I Keep Up the Momentum?

Ah, that is the question! It's no secret that I have mental health problems which make it difficult for me to stay motivated, but I suspect keeping going would be a problem for me anyway. After an unusually productive period, there comes a point when writing requires more effort and making a effort requires more energy.  Then self-doubt takes root and I lose confidence in what I do write.

One of my strategies for combatting this malaise is keeping a portfolio of my work in display books. These are expensive, so help me to value my work and polish my stories before I put them in my portfolio. I then have a record of my work that I can re-read to inspire me - whether the inspiration takes the form of thinking 'actually, I can write quite well' or 'I can do better than this crap!'

The other advantage of using display books is they are very heavy and bulky. In case you're wondering, this is my display book of choice. I can see and feel how much effort I've put into my writing and feel compelled to keep writing.

I've also been trying to keep up momentum by giving myself deadlines (see prevous post), reading about writing, reading stories that inspire me and doing writing exercises. I'm worried my motivation will dry up completely.

What do you do to keep momentum or reinvigorate your writing? I need help!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

My Favourite Writing Advice

I just read this blog article http://saraheolson.com/2011/12/06/the-slush-readers-advice-for-writers/

It contains the best piece of writing advice I've read: 'Become more awesome.'

It made me laugh because it's simple, obvious and very true. I'm trying to become more awesome. Every word I write, every book I read and every seminar I attend is directed towards this goal. 'Become more awesome' serves as a reminder that I'm trying to reach this goal; it is now my mantra.

Become more awesome!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Writing More: Self-Imposed Deadlines

I recently discovered that when I'm forced to meet a deadline, I can write an enormous amount of words in a week. I've been thinking of how to motivate myself to write more and whether self-imposed (as opposed to MA course) deadlines could help. Since I tend to work well under pressure, I decided it's worth a try.

However, the deadlines I write in my diary/planner usually come and go without having been met. It seems I don't take them seriously because they are self-imposed, which is one of many examples of self-sabotage in my life! Needless to say, the power of motivation asserted by these deadlines is rather weak.

A compromise that has worked well for me in the past is to force myself to enter competitions. The problem is that even modest entry fees add up and I feel like I'm throwing away my money. Even free competitions seem a waste of time and/or postage. I believe I stand no chance of being placed in the competitions, no matter how small and niche, and the free ones tend to be organised by national publications with large readerships so attract more entrants anyway. The best I can do is persuade myself that entering is a way of donating money to the horribly-underfunded arts. Confidence is a huge issue for me...

New way of thinking: entering competitions forces/motivates me to write, so the entry fee pays for a finished short story. Investing a few pounds in writing makes fiscal sense - it's the same logic that persuaded me to do a Creative Writing MA, using my overdraft, savings and credit card to fund it. Only that was a few thousand pounds.

My theory: working on my craft will improve it and therefore improve my chances of earning a living from writing, one day. Competition deadlines are 'serious' enough to motivate me (if I miss one, that's an opportunity missed), but can be missed if I have too much MA work to do.

Action: there are several competitions with deadlines at the end of March, so I aim to write at least 3 decent stories to enter in some of them. One of my New Year's resolutions is to be more adventurous in my writing, so this is also an opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone.

Result: remains to be discovered.... Keep reading!

Friday, 13 January 2012

13,000 Words in a Week aka Deadline Madness

The deadline for my first formal MA assignments was on Wednesday and I would say it sneaked up on me, but I was hyper-aware that it was approaching. Christmas was part of the problem - not that I need an excuse to procrastinate. Writing slid down the priority list as I made mince pies, stollen, fudge and my first-ever attempt at a gingerbread house:

I also had a hard time mental-illness-wise. I have Borderline Personality Disorder with depression and anxiety and Christmas tends to aggravate my symptoms. Suffice to say, a week and a half ago I was in a panic as I realised I had typed 1500 words of a 5000 word film treatment, 6000 word piece of experimental fiction and self-reflexive essays of 1500 and 2000 words.

I had a choice: panic or work hard to produce something to submit, however crap it was. I chose the former, for a day or two, and then got to work.

I should add that I had been researching and freewriting around my ideas for over a month before Christmas, so at least I knew what I had to do. The tricky part was actually doing it. I survived with the aid of energy drinks and working late at night. I discovered that I could get more done in 3 hours from 11pm to 2am than in 6 hours during the daytime. I also found that when the going gets tough, I can write 13,000 words in one week.

That was a revelation, and it made me think about how much more work I could do on my non-MA writing. I couldn't work at last week's pace or intensity on a regular basis as it would kill me, but I'm certainly capable of writing more than I do. I've decided that I should force myself to follow more deadlines, whether it's to enter a short story in a contest or just to complete X words a week. I'm still ambivalent about whether I can produce good work this way, but I guess I'll find out when I get my marks back!