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I do a fair amount of writing, but it's pieces used in my teaching, which is on a fixed schedule.  That means I have hard deadlines, and gives me the power to declare things good enough even if I'm not really satisfied with them, in order to make those deadlines.  My readers (my students) are less discriminating than I am.

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12 minutes ago, JmOz said:

So curious for those who do a lot of writing, how do you keep yourself motivated?  

 

 

Man, your timing is awful.

 

I've had a bulk of time off -- five day weekend for Christmas; four-day weekend (-2 for my other job) at New Years.  My first thought was "I can start scanning that book Spence sent me!"  but that was not to be owing to my wife's sleeping schedule (scanning is noisy work, and the bed isn't far enough way from the office, apparently ), so I thought "I can catch up on at least two of those writing projects I started!"

 

And have sat here, faithfully, for hours, with the worst writer's block I've had in _years_.

 

Every single holiday since the first day off for Christmas.

 

 

It _sucks_!

 

Though I guess that's not really motivation.  I mean, it _feels_ like it, because it's the ideas that compel me to write.

 

 

But motivation itself?  That _drive_ to write?

 

The best things I have ever heard don't work on people enduring depression-- forgive me for being forward, Sir, but I recall you admitting to some depression just a few days back.  They don't work because one of the problems with depression is an inability to appreciate the value of personal goals or the importance of outside influences, so anything along the lines of "make it a priority to write x pages a day, no matter what else is going on" doesn't really work.  :(   Don't let that stop you from trying, though!  Seriously-- it might just work for you.

 

 

So motivation....   That really goes to why you _like_ to write, doesn't it?  What you get out of writing?  Study that.  Think about what it is that you enjoy about writing.  Maybe it's just watching your coffee cool in the monitor reflection; maybe it's time away from the television-- maybe it's just fighting the cat for desk space.  What makes writing pleasurable to you, specifically what is there about writing that you can't get out of anything else?

 

 

You don't have to tell me; I have already learned far too many things about far too many relative strangers these past few days, and I totally understand that personal things can embarrass you to talk about.

 

So I will embarrass myself first, if only to show you that this isn't a trick.  ;)

 

 

What do I get out of writing?

 

First and foremost, it slows my brain down.  No; I'm dead serious.  My jobs are both think heavy (at least, the larger parts are) where I have to track, extrapolate, analyze, project, and just flat-out guess for hours at a time.  There are nearly three hundred guys whose jobs are screwed if I botch something at mine.  As a result, I get really keyed up at that job, and I'm there eleven to thirteen hours a day.  When I come home, if I'm not careful, I'm still _doing_ that job, sometimes for hours.  It's really hard to shift out of it once you get deeply embroiled in it.  The second job is just as stressful, for different reasons.

 

So when I come home, my wife has already gone to work (nightshift nurse) and the kids are hungry.  So I dive right right into the whole cook supper for the kids, etc, etc, etc.

 

Insomnia is a serious problem for me, just because I get _that_ keyed up.  I can't relax.  I have, over the years, damaged my molars from grinding my teeth in my _sleep_.  No; I wish it was a joke.  I can't chew gum because it triggers the jaw muscles to resume their "work face" tension, and the pain of a few hours of that is _miserable_.

 

Writing slows my brain down.  It _forces_ me to pay attention to something that is outside of work.  Notice I said "pay attention to" and not "focus on."   That's because it's the one thing I can do in a day that _doesn't_ require me to focus.  Focus seems to reduce both the output and the quality, at least in the rough draft.  I pay attention to what I'm writing, because I just start with a notion, and I am looking for things in that notion that can set wheels spinning.  No; I'm not looking for anything deep or any hidden meanings or subtext or anything else.  I am just looking for things that either move the notion along or might be changed by that notion.  Mostly, I let that notion grow in ways that periodically surprise me.

 

I enjoy the characters, when there are characters, and I find that, given the chance, they will develop on their own and begin to express themselves in unique and interesting (at least to me) ways.  And most of all, the chance to _become_ them, for at least a little bit: to experience their problems, their frustrations, their personalities, their motivations and their triumphs-- it helps me to put the "work brain" problem to the side.  It teases the brain away from focusing on work problems to learning who these people are.  Even if it never comes out in the writing-- if the paperboy is just a paperboy-- a left-handed paperboy who has to throw across his body because the bike lane is on the right-hand side of the road, so he never gets the paper on the porch, and has to listen to complaints about the paper being in the grass or in a puddle or breaking a gladiolus stem every two weeks when he goes to collect for his route--  even if the only thing that comes from that is "and just like clockwork, the newspaper was waiting for him, in the impatiens planted in the shade of the live oak tree, soggy from the automated misters that kicked on every morning at five-thirty.  'Well,' he thought to himself, 'things aren't that bad.  At least this day is starting off like any other.'"

 

It gives you a chance to say what you want to say, and to be creative saying it.   You can have the same conversation nine times in your head, but when you write it down, it comes alive.  Suddenly, it's not you talking to you, but two different people, with different backgrounds, different educations and backgrounds, and different motivations and goals.  The conversation in your head will never be as alive as the conversation between the two people you just made up.  Seriously.  I know: it doesn't make sense, but the more you learn about the characters, the more you understand them, the more "true to them" you want the conversation to be, and it will change in subtle, glorious ways that will never see until you read it back to yourself seven or eight times, making small, seemingly-insignificant changes each time, and each time learning more about the guy who said it.

 

I like to see where a story goes, and how it ends.  if you don't write it, you will never know.  You are literally  (literarily?) _trapped_ inside your head with a thousand-thousand maybes and branches and forks and alternate endings, all of which are "well, that would be okay," but will _never_ be right because you haven't weeded out all the forks and choices.  Nothing is concrete until you commit it to paper (or electrons, I suppose).  It is then, and _only_ then, that Thing X _happened_.  That Decision A _was made_.  That Character 4 _did_ the thing.  In your head, it's all could have, would have, maybe instead.  Let it out.  Make that choice, and let the world suffer for it.  Hell, you don't even know _how_ the world suffered yet, because The Thing has never actually happened; instead it might be The Other Thing, or perhaps No Thing At All---  

 

So there is nothingness.  The world plods along, uninteresting, and doomed to an endless uninterestingness, because no one recorded the _real_ history of your setting.  Nothing happened; no on persevered.  This _only_ happens when it is set in stone.

 

 

And even if you don't make that decision, what good is your setting?  Even if you have no story to tell, no characters to share-- you still have that place, pictured in your mind.  You know why it's a sit-com?  Because there are four, maybe six sets.  None of them are _truly_ connected the way they ought to be.  When you're done in the living room you drop a curtain, raise a curtain, step through a door and you're at your job.  Step through the next door and you're relaxing with your friends at that tavern across town, totally _killing_ 80s Trivia and racking up free drinks for the whole table.

 

Or maybe you completely _suck_ at 80s Trivia!  Maybe your friends are all low-key _pissed_ that you and you alone are the reason that they are in fourth place, behind even the twenty-somethings across the room.  We don't know.  Hell, _you_ don't know, because you haven't made that decision!  We don't even know that the tavern is across town, near the river bridge, in the old industrial district that saw a lot of "revitalizing" during the mid-nineties and now most of the old warehouses are trendy loft apartments and the place right next to the tavern is that smoothie shop you like to sober up at because they get all their ingredients fresh from the farmer's market across town, and there is _nothing_ like a kale a smoothie to make you vomit up excess alcohol still in your stomach.

 

We don't know that because these locations in your head _aren't_ those locations.  That set in your head is nothing more than a few stages for scenes that you haven't completely nailed down yet because you haven't started writing.  You don't even know there _is_ a river bridge, because in your mind's eye version of this setting, it hasn't come up.  _You_ haven't needed that information, so it doesn't exist.  You know what?  You will _never_ need that information until you start writing it down.  Seriously: you won't.  You won't, because as long as you keep it all in your head, all those unmade choices and uncertain decisions and the undeclarible results of undecided actions will simply adjust themselves to make you instant leap from place to place convenient.

 

Write it down.  Write it down.  When you can simply pop from the wall phone in the kitchen to the seedy bar located who knows where, you can have a few laughs with Joey then teleport to his place, have heartwarming discourse with him on the underrated value of friendship, then appear magically in your bed-- two days later!-- waking up to the alarm just in time to see your roommate sneak into the shower during your slot, then boom!  Your workday is halfway done.

 

If you have to write it down-- the events-- even just the _setting_!-- things change.

 

Let's look at just the setting, and how knowing certain things change the story completely:

 

Your apartment is a fifth-floor walk up.  Boom.  Setting.

 

 

Why is it a fifth floor walk-up?

 

Well, it's a much older building than you would have liked, but because it's older it was built with sturdier walls, affording you more "noise relief" from your neighbors.  Not only that, but the rent is lower, so for the same budget you actually get a lot more apartment than you would elsewhere.  The walk-up is a nuisance on Grocery Day, but you've adapted by stopping at the little market near where you work and you never buy more than you can carry up in one trip.  Stopping every day  wasn't a hard habit to get into--

 

why not?

 

Well because the market is located in a low-traffic area--  in fact, it's across the street from your job, and they don't mind if employees from your job park in their lot, so long as the stay out on the "road end" of the lot.  So you work in a low-traffic area, too; it's pretty easy to walk past your car-- what kind of car is it?  How much do you make, and how much would you spend on the means to get back and forth to work?  That's going to start nailing down some specifics about who you are, isn't it?  Before you know it, you've completely fleshed out your character without actually telling us a thing about him.

 

 

This _only_ works because you _wrote it down_.

 

Joey doesn't die when the setting isn't solid, and it's not going to be solid so long as it's just wetware in your head.

 

See, you love that apartment, because it's only about twenty minutes from work, it's quieter and larger than what you thought you could afford when you moved here, and the added bonus of an actual parking garage (though there is a fifty-bucks-a-month additional charge for that) made it a done deal for you.  Joey lives in a newer place, further in town, but then, he makes a lot more money than you.  Even in college, you understood that Joey had some kind of "it" that you didn't.  You weren't lazy; you just dreamed smaller than he did.  You've got decent income and a lifestyle that lets you keep setting aside a little for your retirement, and the land lady allows pets (no cats!  No cats, and no snakes!  You can have a dog, maybe some mice, but no cats and no snakes!).  In fact, you might get a dog.  A little companionship, and the exercise of walking him at least twice a day seems like something that would get you off the couch a bit.  it will certainly make sure you get some fresh air.  And even though Joey lives in the middle of town, in an upscale expensive corner apartment, you still see each other every other weekend over at Anchor Port, that little tavern in the renovated industrial district.  That's only thirty minutes across town, fifty if you take the bus.

 

Then you get that phone call.  Joey's drunk.  Bad drunk.  You've never seen him this drunk-- well, never really seen him _drunk_ at all, just that level of tipsy that lets you both know it's time to get some air and sober up a bit before calling it a night.  He's lost his wallet and his keys.  He's so blind drunk that they asked him to leave The Anchor.  He's calling from Bridgeshadow, that dive way on the outskirts-- literally named for the gloomy lack of sunshine because it's built literally under the river bridge.  You check your clock, and it's two AM.  What the Hell?

 

He tries to spill it out to you-- his massive screw up, how he got fired, how he started to call you then decided to just go get blind drunk.  He thinks he may have left his wallet at The Anchor, but he's go not cab fare, and the busses stop running at midnight.  He's not sure where his car keys are, and you are actually deeply relieved to hear that.  "Just sit tight, Joey.  Sit tight, and don't talk to anyone, Joey: you're a real ass when you've had too much, and you know the reputation that place has...."

 

"S'noght'pro'lum.  I cuh wa'sigh.  Cmm...  Cmm gi'meee."

 

You climb out of bed and get dressed quickly-- not in a panic, but quick enough that it's easier to slip on the clothes you took off and left on the chair than to hunt up fresh ones from the closet.  You know that since the steady renovating of that district that crime is nowhere near what it was, but you can't stop thinking about the rumors of how Bridgeshadow was once the worst biker bar in the city.  Still, it's only thirty-five, maybe forty minutes away.  How'd he walk that far in the shape he's in?  He can't still be drinking; he said he lost his wallet...    

 

Where?  How?   When?  Before or after getting there?  He's too drunk to know...

 

Your tires bark once as your car bumps onto the street-level exit of the parking garage and you head off to pick up the best friend you ever head.  Thirty five minutes.  What could happen to him in a bar in thirty five minutes?  Well, maybe he'd listen to you and keep his mouth shut.  You hope to God he was too drunk to actually go outside like he said he was going to do...

 

You arrive just ahead of the police car.  You go in, anxious, looking for Joey.  No one in this place is the sort of person you want to ask anything of, and you feel conspicuously over-dressed even in the wrinkled and cigarette-scented white shirt and grey slacks of yesterday's business suit.

 

The police find Joey.  He's still warm.  His heart has stopped, but the blood on the ground hasn't fully coagulated yet.  Minutes.  Just _minutes_ before you arrived.  You feel your stomach drop, and your heart falls completely through it.  Your breathing is ragged and for a few heartbeats your diaphragm can't decide between up or down and you stop breathing all together.

 

How--- how did this happen?  Why did this happen?   Why did you never tell him-- your best friend since high school.  You were on the baseball team together, you ran track together.  He never had secrets from you-- he'd even cancelled a date with the girl he claimed he was going to marry (and never did; turned out she would marry someone else, and leave him heartbroken) just because you needed company when your father died.  And you were there for him when Lydia dumped him for that computer sciences guy in college.  He never kept anything from you, and the only thing you never told him was just how much you were in love with him......

 

What's your next move?  What do you do?  

 

 

 

Do you become a police detective?  Are you already an attorney, or perhaps a DA with the clout to make this case a number one priority?  Does this motivate you to become the superhero this setting has been designed for?

 

Is this just the background that drives you to enlist in the military, traveling the universe, killing bug-eyed monsters on command?

 

Do you notice the tell-tale signs of witchcraft, and dive into the seedy world of the occult and the hidden-from-view fantastical that lives amongst us in the shadows?  Are the bikers disguised demons, the bar the church and headquarters of a vile army?  What did Joey learn when he came back in for "one more look" for his keys?

 

 

In your head, none of this could have happened, because you can pop from bed, to bar, to Joey's, then back to the apartment, where you play with the puppy you bought and named Joseph, after your secret love.

 

 

And all of this-- 

 

this is what motivates me to write.

 

 

I didn't know any of that stuff either, until I started banging it out.

 

 

 

Jm, I really don't know what to tell you; I don't believe that there really are any magical buttons that can be pushed for everyone. 

 

But I really hope something here help you, Sir.

 

 

 

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For me it's not a question of motivation so much as freeing up the time.  But one motivation challenge I do have is getting started.  That goes for any decent sized project, not just writing.  Often instead of writing down an entire project on my to-do list, I'll write down the getting started part.  Once I have some momentum going it's easy to keep up for a bit, so if I reduce the project to the first 5%, the next 95% is a bit easier.

 

For something like writing a novel, I'd ideally schedule a regular time to write and stick to it for a month so it becomes a habit.  Regular schedules are virtually impossible in my current circumstances, however.

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I write when things come to me, when a scene demands to be written, or they (the characters) complain that I'm not paying attention to them.

 

I have time, but with the past year, lacking a lot of motivation. My mother passed in March rather unexpectedly. I had to deal with Protective Services, a lawyer, a disowned adopted asshole. Mom was a hoarder, so trying to clear things out as I can. Mom never dealt with my little brother's or my father's clothing. So those are also on the 'to-do' pile. The detached garage gained a sunroof in May. It wasn't until September I had the funds to deal with that. Getting a new roof put on it and the house, along with some other things mom should have dealt with a few years ago. Some things, due to weather exposure, are destroyed and the garages need cleaning out.

Both pedestrian doors to the garage are to be replaced. In the coming year or two I am also looking at new flooring/carpeting throughout the house and probably the windows.

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Motivation varies from person to person, but setting deadlines helps me a lot. Of course, these are all self imposed, but knowing that I need to have something done by a certain date helps. This may be that I enjoy challenging myself when it comes to writing. In 2018 I made the decision to try and post 1 article a week to the House Dok web site. To pull this off, I had to decide on a format, and develop a production timeline.

 

As the pandemic was ramping up in the US, the artist for Metahumans Rising and I committed to a web comic we had talked about for some time. This was a lot of writing up front, and each week going back and reviewing a script, making changes based on how the story is developing and having the perspective of time. Let me go back to discussing articles, and this idea of having things written ahead of time. 

 

When I know I'm going to have a busy week, I try to get ahead of deadlines. This is a general truism, I'll push myself hard at work to help counterbalance whatever may be n the pipe for the next week. However, to apply this to writing, it means trying to work through as much content when I have time, if I know I might get backed up. The series I did on martial arts fell over a very busy period at work, I knew that I was going to have serval weeks where I was going to be putting in extra hours, so in the lead up to that I picked martial arts styles where I could easily find information and wrote on those first (reducing my research time). The same has been true for the series I'm currently doing on animal powered super heroes, I knew that virtually nothing was going to get done over December, so I tried to front load as much as possible. (I think I'm currently 2 or 3 articles ahead of the game.) 

 

Unrelated, we did make sure to cover Ninjutsu, and Turtles are in the pipeline. 

 

The one where it gets tricky is with our Adventure Seeds. Each month I do a one shot adventure idea, because there is not a set length or format here, they can really vary. More so, with the Patreon we solicit feedback from people before writing them. So these are where I really sweet. Here I'm writing a mini-adventure for the general public, then an expansion for the Patrons. This can be additional story content, like with Poisoned Apples where it goes from a one shot to a two shot, or expanded story details like Spider Jack, where we added Elder Speech, new ways to resolve the story, and a bonus post on how to handle sanity checks in spandex. That is to say, this bonus content can vary. So I really have to push myself on these, and that's a fun change of pace, like going form a run to a sprint, as these can't be written ahead of time. 

 

Hope this helps. 

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On 1/2/2021 at 11:06 AM, archer said:

I could highly recommend the "manic" phase of a manic/depressive cycle.

 

But I don't know how you could voluntarily get that if you don't already have it. 

The err... down side of that is obvious. You need to finish before the depressive phase starts. There's a serious risk that you won't care about what you were writing by the time the next manic phase starts, and will instead chase some other butterfly.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I consider one o the qualifiers of my current body of work such as it is) is being invited to go on panels at SF/Fantasy conventions aimed at readers and 2writers. I'm worried that some of the small, fan run cons are going to go away under two years waiting in vain for the vaccine/cure to bring down the death rate. Events like Orycon and GameStorm are the highlights of my year. O fear they may go away completely after the pandemic.

 

I will miss them so bloody much, but I must keep the faith and keep t the keyboard.

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If you want to get consistent output, there are two steps:

 

1. Commit to either a daily word count goal or a time goal. Starting small is fine.

2. Apply ass to chair and turn off your filters and write whatever comes out.

 

Of course, both of these are devilishly hard to do. Simple isn't always easy.

 

Turning off your filters and resisting the urge to self edit as you go is especially difficult. One thing that makes it really hard is when you have a project built up in your head as "the big one" or "my best idea yet" or whatever. Then you're afraid to screw it up. The truth is, ideas are cheap and practice makes perfect, or at least moves you closer to perfect if it's good practice. So, don't elevate any bit of writing over the next, and don't psyche yourself out. You can always go back and edit, preferably after you've finished the next couple of projects.

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Hemingway is alleged to have said, "Write drunk, edit sober."

 

While I doubt that this is exactly true, largely due to my inability to picture Hemingway sober, it does make a good point. Writing and editing need to be separate processes. In my case, I find that writing and editing need to be done by different people. I am largely too fond of my own work to apply the ruthless editing it so often desperately needs.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 1/24/2021 at 7:42 PM, Pattern Ghost said:

If you want to get consistent output, there are two steps:

 

1. Commit to either a daily word count goal or a time goal. Starting small is fine.

2. Apply ass to chair and turn off your filters and write whatever comes out.

 

Of course, both of these are devilishly hard to do. Simple isn't always easy.

 

Turning off your filters and resisting the urge to self edit as you go is especially difficult. One thing that makes it really hard is when you have a project built up in your head as "the big one" or "my best idea yet" or whatever. Then you're afraid to screw it up. The truth is, ideas are cheap and practice makes perfect, or at least moves you closer to perfect if it's good practice. So, don't elevate any bit of writing over the next, and don't psyche yourself out. You can always go back and edit, preferably after you've finished the next couple of projects.

 

One of the best ways to avoid self-editing while you're writing is to do it longhand instead of digital.

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I don't so a lot of writing, though I hope to do some when I retire.  I have a tetrology about half written (one full book and large chunks of two more), though due to hard drive failures it'll all have to be retyped in.

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I can, and it was with one such that I found that most of the floppies are no longer readable.  So I have a mess of typing to do.  (I did keep the old original handwritten manuscript notebooks, so those still exist.)   I started on that back before pandemic, and free time over the last 12 months more or less vanished.

 

The Great Extinction Event for old data was something I have gone through before as well.  Half-inch mag tapes did a good job holding data over ten-to-twenty-year timespans, but in the mid-1990s every facility in sight could not divest themselves of their half-inch tape drives fast enough, and they tended to do so before they had any facility of adequate capacity to accept the data on the box of old tapes that each of a lot of users had.

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Yeah, I have hopes for OCR, since the first book manuscript is in printed form in Courier typeface.  My handwriting is something else.  When I was younger, I used to write very lightly in Hairball 3 font.  More recently I've shifted to Adenocarcinoma 6.

 

This will wait until I have time, which I think will be after retirement.

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