Tag Archives: writing motivation

Self-Awareness: a writer’s greatest asset

The other day, my little boys and I worked on behavior modification. “Youngest,” I said, “what can you change about yourself to make it easier for your family, your teachers and your friends?”

With no hesitation, my eight-year-old said, “Anger management.”

Surprised he recognized this as his big behavior issue, I kept my face blank and my voice calm. “So, you need to work on anger management?”

With a sigh and all the honesty that such a small child can muster, he replied, “No mom. I need anger management classes.”

At this point I nearly wet myself–but I didn’t. “What does that mean exactly? What do you need to work on?”

“You know, pinching, hitting, kicking, screaming, squeezing….”

I wonder how long he would have tattled on himself if I hadn’t interrupted. I also wonder why we adults fail to have such a clear vision of ourselves and our down-falls.

Imagine what we could do as writers if we sat back and really took a look at the motivations behind our behaviors. What would happen if we isolated those behaviors into a single modification plan to increase our level of success?

At an SCBWI writer’s conference I attended this past weekend, literary agent Karen Grencik basically asked that question. After speaking on inspiration, she gave us an assignment: figure out the greatest lie you tell yourself that holds you back from reaching your potential.

Ugh. If only I’d had Youngest’s introspection at that point. But I didn’t. It wasn’t until my five-hour drive home from the conference that I realized the answer. It was a humbling experience to finally figure out what holds me back and why it has such a strong hold on me. It won’t be easy to debunk the myth and move past my motivational block, but it will be well worth it. Maybe even more so than Youngest learning to keep his fists at bay.

Thank you Youngest for showing me how to take a hard look at myself. And thanks to Karen for asking the question that made me do it.

What about you, dear readers, what myths and lies do you carry around that impact your level of motivation and success?

Curious minds want to know.

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Essential Writing Tool: Totems

National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner.  Literally.  It’s just seven days north and one day east.  Because, of course, the sun rises in the east and next Tuesday morning will find me glassy-eyed, caffeine injected and doggedly working to get my first 1,667 words done on my newest WIP.

I’m as prepared as I usually am for this crazy writing endeavor.  I have a working title, but no genre.  I know I’ll be penning a young adult novel, but I have no clue what, exactly, it will be about.  I also have my totem.

My writing totems act as mascots.  For instance, in 2007, my NaNoTotem was an elephant.  I had never heard of totems before, and my writing buddies all seemed to have one.  Then one day while shopping, a teeny elephant called to me from the grocery store bin.  Ellie, named after the elephant in my novel, Surviving Serengeti, became my first writing cheerleader.

She hung out on my desk in 2008 while I wrote Losing Time, and I believed she would simply be my official writing totem forever and ever, amen.  Imagine my surprise when a tiny carved bear demanded to join Ellie in 2009 while I penned Whispering Minds.

I found him while visiting our National Monument on a research trip for my YA novel.  I knew I needed a solid Native American perspective and found a wonderful stone carver to share his thoughts with me.  While looking for a book to further my research, I saw this bear.  Not a big deal, except I couldn’t seem to leave without purchasing it.  In Indian culture, the bear represents introspection, something I didn’t realize until much later.  Yet, I couldn’t have deliberately bought a more perfect totem for my psychological thriller than him.

And then the plot bunnies came.  A stuffed marshmallow peep joined Ellie and my bear for NaNo10 when my young MC unwittingly unleashed plot bunnies into her very practical world.  Hopefully, The Mixed-up Manuscripts of Martin Niggle will become the first in a chapter book series.

Hopefully, I will win my cheesy NaNo11 certificate with Haarper.  Writing 50,000 cohesive words in thirty days seems like a stretch, but I thrive off the quick deadline.  It seems to boost my adrenaline and my muse.  Which is good, because as of today, I still know very little about this year’s novel.

A giant (in terms of relative size to the real thing) stuffed E.coli will join the ranks of my NaNoTotems.  He was a Christmas present from my little brother and sister last year.  He hung out on my windowsill as a reminder for my kids to wash their hands.  He’s cute in a creepy kind of way and somehow wheedled his way into my novel.

Thanks to my Big Sis for downloading Germs, Genes and Civilization onto our shared kindle account, I got snookered into reading the history of infectious disease and its impact on society.  Yeah, I know.  Not typical light reading, but a fascinating book and very well written.  I would actually recommend it for any historical fiction writer–whether they write about genes and germs or not.

All of a sudden, the germ of an idea hit and Haarper was born.  So was Coli.

Isn’t he cute?  Aren’t they all?

Do you think I’m weird for having an entire cheerleading section of random objects while I pen my novels?  If so, I assure you, I’m quite normal.  Or at least as normal as many other writers across the globe.  If you don’t believe me, check out this post on Writing Superstitions and Rituals to see just how unsilly my totems are.

Comparatively speaking, of course.

Who cheers you on when you write?  Do you think having someone–anyone/thing–keeping a watchful eye on your progress is motivating or terrifying?  How do you reconcile your fear of not finishing when people actually know you’ve started a new project? 

Curious minds want to know.