Alright, this post is going to be unedited so it’ll be rough and ugly.
“Finding Motivations from Nothing.”
Phew, it took a long time for me to actually publish this blog entry. Too long.
When I started this blog I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t really out to teach anyone. I wanted to simply relay my experiences and if that happened to help anyone out there—fantastic. I’m pretty sure this blog is a desperate attempt for me to find some value in the mistakes I’ve made and the experiences that I had. Yes, I should admit this blog is, in a sense, my self-therapy.
I mean, did you know that it’s cheaper to buy alcohol and drugs than to get actual therapy? I do neither of those things but I’m just saying… I mean… doesn’t that say something about our society? I suppose Dr. Whoever deserves to be paid more than Billy-down-the-block-from-Wal-Mart but… wait….where was I? What was I talking about?
Yes. Motivation. Writing. Family friendly blog!
I’m certain—at some point—that many writers who’ve attempted to make a living with their work faced this problem. Deciding to dedicate/risk a significant portion of your life to writing changes the craft from being just about the craft. The perspective and the mindset transforms—it has to when your livelihood depends on it. I’m sure it’ll become about the craft again as time passes and we find our own happy places in our careers, but in the beginning it’s about the shift from a hobbyist to a professional.
That’s much more work and commitment than it sounds.
But for this transformation to actually happen and for the writer to have actually considered taking on the transformation in the first place, there are few key motivations that they would have had to have.
1) The dream. For some that may be seeing your book at a store. For some it may be simply having completed writing a novel. And for some it’s swimming in that sweet, sweet writing money. The pool of George Washingtons sprinkled with Lincolns. How soft or how hard that pool may be entirely depends on how big you can dream.
2) The joy. It’s immensely fun to create and lose yourself in your fantasy—to build and grow your characters and your world. It’s like that scene from the Matrix where they just stare at bunch of green numbers and letters flowing down the computer screen but in their eyes they see a woman in a red dress. We writers end up falling in love chasing after that woman in the red dress.
3) The drive. It’s the self-discipline to finish what you started. The desire to accomplish something with the short amount of time we have in this world. An ambition without drive won’t go anywhere.
If you lack “1,” you probably don’t want this enough.
If you lack “2,” this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.
If you lack “3,” it’s likely that you have a bigger problem on your hands than making writing your career.
But how far can these three motivations take you?
It sort of depends on how potent your “3” is, how long it takes you to finish your work, and the immediacy and the amount of reward you’ll receive for the work.
Let’s ignore the first factor I mentioned (the “3”) because that’s sort of the “x” factor. It can be used to basically overcome any trouble I’ve mentioned and didn’t mention as long as it’s strong enough.
So let’s dig into the second and the third factor.
If you’re a fortunate enough writer who finished their work within a few months (or whatever length of time that was short enough that you didn’t deplete your motivation powers and burn out) and who was accepted by a big publisher…. Or if you’re a self-publisher who already had the funds and the connections to have reviewers and advertisers promote your book (or simply not care much about your sales because you won’t be hungry at the end of the day if the book doesn’t sell well)… then you were probably lucky enough to not hit your breaking point during the writing process.
For you, maybe, lacking motivation only mattered to the extent of meeting deadlines.
But what if you’re a broke nobody whose work is taking longer than you ever anticipated for whatever reason? What if you are someone whose work just wasn’t flashy or (cold hard truth) good enough to catch the eyes of agents and publishers?
You write day after day as the visions of your dreams and the sense of joy in your work become muddled. Maybe you start feeling like you really should be spending your time doing better things with your life than wasting it on a childish dream. Because for the lot of us it’s “time” that’s really the most precious and the most lacking thing in our lives.
If you’re lucky it’s because you’re busy piling up successes in other areas of your life.
If you’re unlucky it’s because you’re busy mending holes and finding shelters from the hailstorms in your life.
The dream can only push you so far until it feels too much like just a dream. The joy can only entrance you for so long until the joy feels empty and unearned.
Why write when I can do something that’ll actually pay the bills?
Why write when I can catch up on some sleep?
Why write when I spend a little more time with my loved ones? Make the next page of my life with them instead of another page of me sitting in front of a computer all night.
Time passing by feels as if you are watching your life drive away and leaving you stranded at a rest stop somewhere.
Right around this time, reality sinks in.
Chance of succeeding as a writer? Slim-to-none.
As a self-published writer? Hope you know how to do things other than just writing.
Your work? It’s an untested product in an overly saturated market.
The field of your work? A senile beast that’s still desperately trying to hold onto its golden years while the whole world has already moved on.
Your competition? Ironically, too many.
Family and friends are split between those who know and those who don’t know. Split between those who give your their support and those who give you their concerns.
Your mind starts to play tricks.
The work you were satisfied with yesterday feels like they all need to be scrapped.
Other people’s works are unenjoyable because you end up analyzing it and breaking it down to science and wondering about your own work and how you’re doing.
At your most petty and ugly moments, you wonder how certain works could be so successful when they’re so trite, mundane, and cowardly. You know it’s wrong to think this way. You know it’s detrimental to yourself to think this way. But you can’t help it.
Because at the end of the day, you’re just tired and bored of writing for nothing. The motivations you had at the start are depleted. Maybe you’re even a little scared that you’re at the end already and things won’t change.
It gets harder to keep going even with your mind dangling a carrot in front of you because you realize maybe you’ll never get that carrot. Or because you realize there’s a reason why the carrot is dangling out of reach in the first place.
What do you mean the horse is already long dead? *wipes horse blood off*
What do you mean the point was already made like a page ago and I’m just writing to read my own voice? All I’m trying to say is it can get really tough to keep going and not being able to keep going can have much more dreadful implications to some than others.
Oops. *wipes horse blood off again*
The treatment I gave myself (other than binge eating Wendy’s to the point of the manager and I getting to know each other, pumping irons as if the weights owed me money, and taking vacations in fantasy lands of movies and videogames) was making my own motivations.
I don’t know what that would mean for others but for me it was making the decision that I may pay a great price for in the future. At the same time, that very decision was also the best thing I’ve done for my first project.
Even though I knew that this was the path I had to take to complete my project, but it took me a little while to have the muster up the courage to just do it.
I’m not really a shy person or someone who’s afraid embarrassing himself (I mean, of course, I’d rather not). But using English was, and to an extent it still is, a bit terrifying to me and it’s something that I never really managed to have a thick skin for. To be honest, I should really make some time to improve my English especially since I want to keep writing. Even though I became better about exposing my English abilities through Beta-Reading, I’m still to this day a bit insecure about it. I think it might be the only thing that I’m really insecure about these days other than my suspicions that I might be balding.
And I really don’t like being insecure about anything… I think it’s a weakness in character and something that I should really address anytime I feel that way. Especially since I think, to an extent (though apparently science says otherwise), English is something I can improve on. If I’m balding, I’m screwed. That may push me over the edge to try to crowdfund hair implants for myself.
My uncles on my mom’s side aren’t bald though. No one’s bald in either of the gene pools. I’d be the first and my descendants would curse me for it.
But anyways, normally beta-readings are done when the novel is polished to the point that it wouldn’t be too embarrassing to show anyone. The beta-readers would read what would be close to the finished product.
I wasn’t even done writing mine let alone had it gone through an editor or even proof-read. All there was were a few drafts of earlier chapters, notes, and general plans for the rest of the novel in my head.
But I always thought it’d be interesting to do a beta-reading in a serialized format. I’d send a batch of chapters out every week and have discussions with my beta-readers every other week. Since this was my first project and the project itself was fairly complex for someone who’s never written anything longer than a thesis paper, I thought this process would give me the compass that I needed. The feedback I’d receive would allow me see if the plot points, tools, and what not, were delivered to the readers the way I intended.
The only thing that held me back was the fear of being naked by revealing my kryptonite to the beta-readers while at the same time telling these people, “yeah, so I’m trying to make this into a thing in my life. Like, hopefully live off of it.”
No one knew I was interested in writing or that I was capable of writing anything substantial.
Technically, I didn’t even know myself if I could write since this was my first venture into serious writing. I could very well be a terrible writer or even just a meh writer. If I could, I’d rather build a machine that’d hook up to my brain and simply create a movie or a book directly with what’s in my mind.
… I mean I suppose it’s possible that my imagination could also be crap and in that case the machine would be useless….
…But I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to be able to measure myself and see if I can improve—to find out where my limits are with this craft. For me this meant finding an audience and finding critics. That was my motivation. I’d accept that I am a crap writer as long as I knew for certain that I was crap.
I handpicked about eight people to be my beta-readers. Each of them selected for various reasons based on what I knew of them: their beliefs, insights, biases, tastes, and etc. The number I actually had in my mind was four, but I decided to double that amount because I wasn’t entirely sure how reliable beta-readers would be.
Ironically, out of the eight, only four read the whole novel and took the time to do the meet ups with me.
So, each week (or sometimes every couple of weeks with few hiatuses in between) I’d let my fingers puke out whatever was on my mind into the computer and once I had enough of piles of puke to form few chapters, I’d send them out to the beta-readers in a batch. I puked because it was a way to keep me writing instead of second-guessing and fixing every darn sentence and never making progress.
There were total of 22 batches and the beta-reading, including the meetings, took about a year to finish.
Most of these batches were only cleaned up and molded into what would closely resemble the final product after they were sent out. My beta-readers were troopers.
Eventually, after the beta-reading ended, the batches went through an editing process by me and then by my editor. Then we edited it again together over and over until we were at least happy enough to have it pried out of our hands. I was told that the first one will never feel complete and never feel good enough to publish… and that was true.
But I remember feeling an incredible contentment during one of the editing sessions knowing that I at least had some sort of a completed form of my novel.
I did it.
The days when I couldn’t even see the peak of this mountain flashed through my mind—when I was beaten, defeated, and at times even hopeless. But I was there now—at the peak—only a few steps away from planting the flag.
For me doing the beta-reading gave me the motivation I needed to keep writing. Not to mention the beta-reading meetings were some of the most fun and educational experiences I had with this project. They are also the fondest memories I have with my novel so far.
So how to find motivations from nothing? You can’t. But you can give yourself some new motivations.
Refuel that spark by giving meaning to your work again. I recommend finding something that’ll help you with your work in the long run—something that’ll be at least beneficial if not memorable.
I don’t think any of us should feel ashamed to feel overwhelmed and to find our selves lacking motivation to keep going. It’s like running a marathon—sometimes you hit your limit and you have to walk. You only lose if you quit. All the work you put into leaving all that road behind you would have been for naught only if you quit. But if you keep giving yourself a reason to walk forward you’re still in the race and every step you take is a step towards the finish line…. so on and so forth, yada, yada, maybe you’ll even find your second wind, yada, yada and when you finally get to cross the finish line whether your last place or not it won’t matter blah, blah, blah. Cliche, cliche, Powerade commercial, American-cheddar-cheese-cheesy, y’all get it.
The struggle is real for every single one of us but it’s also up to us to do whatever it takes to get something out of the struggle.
Keep Up With the Updates!
Shameless Plug: My book, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian (Young Adult Urban Fantasy), is out on November 21st 2014!
P.S. So… this should have been released earlier this week but I had trouble being comfortable enough with this entry to release it until now (holy cow it’s 5 am and I need get up in 2 hours). I’m going to keep that outdated(?) date on the “Shameless Plug” on there as a badge of shame. Good night everybody.
P.S. 2 (Oh, right. How could I pay the price for the beta-reading in the future? The abomination that is Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian ALPHA version that the beta-readers had to read is floating around somewhere on the internet. My editor and I actually discussed perhaps releasing samples of this version one day to discuss the power of editing and the changes I’ve/We’ve made)