Friday, October 24, 2014

Another excuse to buy stickers

Most writers know the adage that if you want to be a writer then you need to actually write. Seems pretty obvious, but I think all writers can find themselves struggling to actually sit down and write every single day. It can be hard finding the motivation once self-doubt starts trickling (or flooding) into your mind. Plus, we all have other things fighting for our attention…some important (like family) and some not (like Facebook).

 Ironically, I was on Facebook when I recently stumbled across a motivational technique that some other YA writers were trying. I can’t find the original post anymore because it got buried, but I’ll add it in here if I ever find it again. Now, given that all YA writers are very serious people, you can imagine that this is a pretty complex technique that they’ve created.

Naw, just kidding. They motivate themselves with—wait for it—stickers.

Stickers! I know, at first glance this might seem really silly. We’re not in third grade anymore. (I mean, it’s probably more like 11th or 12th grade since we’re always in the minds of our teen characters, but that’s besides the point.) Anyway, I actually really love this idea. It’s a simple extension of classic psychology research on behaviorism: you can increase a behavior by positively reinforcing it. In other words, if you get a little prize for doing something then you’re more likely to do it. That’s why kids get pizza parties for good behavior and students get cash for good grades. For some reason, although I teach these principles every semester, I never thought about applying them to writing in such an obvious fashion. I have to say though, so far I’m loving it!

For one thing, it’s cheap. I just printed out some free calendar pages I found online and then got a few packs of smiley face stickers at the store. Then I made a color-coded system (which sounds fancier than it actually is).  For instance, I get an orange sticker if I listen to my audiobook during my commute and a green sticker if I write a blog post. (Hello, green sticker!)

In my defense, I was super sick during that week with no stickers!
It’s weirdly addicting. I’ve hung the calendar page in my direct line-of-sight, and the sticker-less days judge me from across the room. I find myself coming up to write or read more often lately, not necessarily because it’s important (although it is!), but because I don’t want to miss out on getting my darn stickers!

So, if anyone is struggling for motivation, I’d say to go to the craft store and stock up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a green sticker that’s calling my name.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It’s All About Timing

I’ve been working on the current draft of my YA manuscript for many months now, and I’m this close to finally being finished with the draft.  Now, knowing my schedule, ‘this close’ probably still means another month, but I’m very excited. I’m also a little nervous.  I’m not sure why because it’s not like I’m going to be querying this project soon—it still needs a pretty decent overhaul on the next draft and then a lot of tidying up after that—but for some reason I’m finding it difficult to write the last few chapters. I guess it’s because the climax is such an important part of any book and I don’t want to completely mess it up…and finishing means I have to start all over again on my next draft. Blah.

Given my nerves, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that my brain went ahead and created a nifty little solution to my dilemma: Write something new!  I was writing multiple choice questions for one of my exams last week when—pop!—an idea for a new story materialized in my brain. It completely took me by surprise because I’m actually not one of those writers that has pages and pages of book ideas hidden away in journals and scribbled on receipts. I have a few things running around my brain, but nothing that really stands out as a truly viable next project (particularly if this manuscript goes unsold). 

When I do come up with ideas, I tend to just get the barest bones of an idea and then it takes me time to work through all the details before I feel comfortable with it. This new idea was so different from all that. It came to me with basically no effort on my part, all of my major characters and plot lines intact, and with the resolution of the story already clear to me.  What?! I can never clearly see the endings of my books while I’m writing them. I usually come up with something that I think is the ending and then get to the end and realize it’s crap and I need to come up with something else. Good Lord, I’m still working on the ending of my current WIP and this has been a story that’s consumed all my writing focus for the last year+! And, not only was this new plot clear to me, but I actually had to stay up late one night so that I could write out literal scenes and pieces of dialogue for the climax. Talk about unheard of.

It’s been almost a week and I’m still pretty excited for this new story, but another part of me is thinking seriously?! This is the worst timing to have this great new idea because all its doing is distracting me from finishing my current WIP. Actually, I think that’s exactly what my unconscious mind was going for, which means my brain is equal parts devious and lazy.

However, I’m not going to fall for it. I’ve put way too much time into this current project to be derailed right now. This next project is just going to have to wait…but in the meantime I might start making some pinterest inspiration boards. You know, just for fun.