Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Motivation, Balance, and Discipline

For the last five years, "writer" has been a part of my day-job title. I feel fortunate to be working in a field that I enjoy and my writing has only improved because of it. I've seen tremendous growth in my fiction writing, as well, and in more ways than one. Not only has the writing itself improved, but so has the discipline.

While a paycheck is probably the most powerful motivation to get a project done at the day-job and with freelance work, you don't quite have that same motivation when you're an unpublished writer.

So how do you do it?

For me, it's come down to one thing. I have to want it bad enough. I have to want to succeed, whatever my definition of success may be. And my definition is to be a published author. That means I balance my time. I don't spend hours watching mindless t.v. (I don't have cable anyway). I don't spent gobs of time on the internet when I'm at home. I don't spend hours reading a book (this hurts sometimes, especially if it's a good book!).

During the weekdays, my time is pretty regimented. There's the day job from 8-5, then I go work out three times a week, pick my daughter up from daycare, make supper, and then I have approximately 3 1/2 hours before bedtime. I have to devote at least an hour or two to the writing - and right now, I'm in research/plotting mode for the next novel, so that could include reading a research book, tapping notes on the computer, or doing online research. When it comes time to write, I often will make my schedule accomodate a good two hours of writing time during the weekdays.

Do I stick to this rigid schedule? Not always. I allow myself plenty of flexibility. When you're a mother, you have to. And my daughter is my most important priority. If she wants to play a game of UNO, then by golly, that's what we'll do. If we decide to enjoy the unexpectedly cool summer evening with a walk over to the duck pond, we'll do that, too. A shopping trip to the mall on a Friday night complete with a yummy homemade cookie from the Cookie Company? We're there!

Stay balanced. Keep your discipline. Allow yourself off days. And don't beat yourself up when you get off track. That's not good for the motivation! Just shrug your shoulders, say, "Life happens" and get back to your schedule tomorrow. Or, completely throw my advice out the window and do it whatever way works for you. If you want it bad enough, you'll figure out a way to make it work - your way.


  1. Great writing advice! Very true that everyone has to find their own balance; not every regimen will work for every writer. Or even at every stage of a project. When I'm revising, I can squeeze in as little as 15 minutes of work and make it count; when I'm starting a novel, I do better with b-i-i-g stretches of time. I'll be posting about that soon, in fact...

    Very, very impressive that you can get a couple of hours of work most weekdays, in addition to a full-time job. You've got the chops! :)

  2. I love that your daughter is your number one priority:) You both are blessed!
    I try to make goals and get them done some way even if not in the way I originally plan--it usually works and if not--at least I tried!

  3. Wow, Melissa, another fab post!

    I'm awed by your determination.

    I'm so glad I'm back 'virtually' but I'm taking note from your self-discipline and keeping my internet times secondary to my family and writing.

    Thanks for being such a great inspiration! ~ xx

  4. Great advice, especially allowing for the off-days. They happen, and rather than fret about them, might as well go with it. I work a lot with itineraries, and as long as progress is made, the routine isn't particularly set in stone.

  5. This appears to be a theme today. Maybe it's because it's the first of the month, but alot of us running our blogs are taking reflective looks at what we're doing and making proactive goals for getting things done. Good job with this one.

  6. Very important when there's a family at home - or anytime, really! We need to do our best, but understand that our best comes in different forms, whether it's writing one day and mothering the next, etc. Great post!

  7. Great post. I always think about Tim McGraw's song "How bad do you want it?" when I'm feeling not-so-motivated. Check it out if you havnen't heard it. It's good stuff!

  8. I agree. If we want to write badly enough, then we will figure out a way to make it happen. Everyone has a myriad of responsibilities and life-happenings. We can make excuses or we can make it happen.

  9. awesome advice! Since being in the US I've definitely spent much more time not writing than writing, and I'm enjoying myself immensely! And the kids are having a blast too. But I do have a down day every week no matter what and that's Sunday. I never write on Sunday, and it's so great to know i've got that day to rest even when i'm in the middle of a must finish book. Jenni

  10. You're right - we have to find our own way. I've been going in circles lately though, I just want it to stop!!

  11. Great advice. We all have ways that work best for us, but it is important to have rest times without beating yourself up. We have to recharge the batteries.

  12. I agree that you have to want something badly enough to keep on working on it for the length of time we do. I love my writing and for the past couple of years it has been a part of my daily routine. Some days are far better than others, but I do keep going.

  13. Yes, keeping things in balance is really important if you want to stay with healthy mind. I am undergoing such stuffs too.


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