Friday, March 11, 2011

Keeping Motivated Daily

trumpet-IMG_6105I talked last Saturday a little about setting reasonable goals to encourage ourselves to stay motivated.

I think it’s also important to find intrinsic rewards from writing. 

I was away most of the day yesterday, chaperoning the state’s middle school band competition at a North Carolina university.

For weeks, the kids’ lives have been dominated by band.  They’ve had extra practices after school and taped their individual practices at home for their teacher’s review.  They’ve mastered a rigorous program for the competition.

The school had won the state competition for 11 years in a row.  The teacher is very talented, but drives the kids hard.  And the kids, including my son, were complaining about it.  They all seemed completely burned out and were talking about not continuing band into high school.

We listened to the other bands all afternoon yesterday.  I know little about music, but I thought the bands sounded very good.  Their playing was strong, clean, lively.

Our band was last and when they played, I  could tell a difference.  It was remarkable, actually.  Their songs were complex, each piece several times longer than the other bands.  They played the selections expertly, effortlessly, drawing us into the music.

They won for the 12th year in a row.  Of course, they were absolutely ecstatic.  They’d worked incredibly hard for weeks on it, plus the months in class.

I could see that their wells had been filled again.  The work had been worth it.  Their success had justified the means.

To me, though, the push was a little too hard.  If it had been me, I’d have wanted to have a little more moderation…some daily successes to keep me going.  Because the big wins can’t be counted on.

Writers give up so much to write.  The only way to really improve is to work at it—work hard at it.  Frequent practice is crucial. 

The rewards are not always a published book and critical acclaim. In fact, many of us might not end up published until years down the road.  There are so many things that drain our creative wells—day jobs, family demands, setbacks, hectic schedules.  We’ve got to find some sort of reward in the writing itself to make us continue, despite the hard work.

For all the days when writing is a grind for me, there are the days that really keep me going.  Days when I’ve been really happy with a great turn of phrase, or a fitting subplot, or even just a nice word choice. 

There are days when everything I’ve written is total crap…I think.  Even on those days, though, I’ve found that there’s something I can salvage from the day…an insight into a character, a decent bit of description, a nice word choice. Or even, the fact that I wrote at all—even though I clearly wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

It’s an odd time to make a resolution, but after each writing session, I’m planning to note something positive from the experience…something that worked. It’s too easy to get burned out while writing.  A little positive reinforcement is a great motivator.

What keeps you motivated with your writing?