16 Apr What keeps me motivated
Staying motivated on a long project requires a particular sort of grit. There are strategies that help you hang in there for the long game. When I had my mini writing retreat at Bundanon, I was looking back over my ‘writing journal’. These are the notes I write about — not for — my project. I just create a separate document in Scrivener for this, but you could do it long-hand. I started this practice when writing Last Seen in Lhasa and again for The Pagoda Tree.
A writing journal helps for many reasons, the main one: it keeps you motivated.
How to use a writing journal to keep on track
- I use it as my ‘inner writing therapist’. It has no gender, it’s there for me to write whatever I want. Sometimes I’m ecstatic, yes, it does happen when writing! Other times I’m complaining about how hard it is or how far I still have to go. I notice I whinge less the more I write. That has to be a good thing.
- I think of it is a crucible: I pour emotions in there which gets them out of me, and, more importantly, out of the project. This is another form of ‘mental floss’ or brain dump. It’s a way to come fresh to the writing rather than carry over emotions that don’t belong to a particular scene or character.
- I get inspired by re-reading sections when I describe how the writing is working — especially on the staring-at-a-blank-page days.
- I forget what I’ve written, and when I come back to it, I’m filled up with good ideas. It’s my repository of important things to write down. Quotes. Excerpts from writing books or inspiring passages from novels.
- I can see my progress. I admit that at Bundanon I was shocked when I realised that it was three years, almost to the day, since I had written the first chunk of the novel… at Bundanon itself. At the same. OMG. Time flies. Then, I felt pleased that I knew that. There was a nice sense of completion that I was back there and working towards the finishing line.
- I re-read my writing journal from The Pagoda Tree and realise how far I’ve come. Phew. That’s a relief.
- I see how much ebb and flow there is in the creative process. Things take longer than you think, that’s okay. It’s better to know and accept that rather than beat yourself up.
- I know some stuff I write about the process of research and writing is helpful in publishing and promotion. I created an entire book on ‘How I wrote the Pagoda Tree’ from my writing journal.
- I can see that as I become more comfortable in writing fiction, writing about the process requires less work. This helps me relax more.