“To whom it may inspire…”

This inspiring letter to young filmmakers is from Pixar animator Austin Madison. I think it speaks just as clearly to writers.

We’ve heard this time and again: it’s not just talent that makes a successful writer but true grit and staying power. Many writers think too much, write too little. They self-sabotage by talking too much about the half-formed stories, allowing the creative energy to dissipate before it even hits the page. Hemingway never  talked about his work in progress and Papa knew best. Bottling the creative genie may be a good thing.

Persist in telling your story. Persist in reaching your audience. Persist in staying true to your vision…

The writing process can be so frustrating at times that despair sets in. Stephen King says it best:”Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub.” There were times when I hit the  doldrums with such a thump, it took every bit of strength to pull myself out. My old foe, Procrastination, is always lurking. Suddenly everything, except the writing, becomes critically important. I need to do the laundry right now, I tell myself. Funny how the mind tries to trick you.

I thought this was inspiring. Somebody posted this on my Facebook page.

Discipline is a muscle I was not born with it. I’ve had to develop it, step by miserable step. Waving a carrot  or a stick does not work, because I have a cunning mind that can talk me out of things with arguments and persuasion. So I have had to resort to devious measures. Like I have to for exercise. Same principle. I trick myself. I tell myself, okay Shona we are going for a leeeetle walk – just down the road and back– When my body sets up a wail, I say, no, no, this is not exercise – goodness, whatever gave you that idea– this is just to clear your head a bit. When I reach the end of the road, I say, hey Shona let’s just see what around that corner, (then, we can go home and drink tea) When I round the corner, I say, ooooh look that nice flowering bush, wonder what plant that is? When I get to the bush, I say, let’s walk by that orange-colored house and see if that funny bulldog is still there. And so on and before I know it I have walked a mile or two.  Remember how Forest Gump ran down his road of his house, and ended up running though his town and out of the state of Alabama, and all over America? It began with a single step, didn’t it? That’s the idea. That’s how I write. Teeny goals, oodles of self-deception and lots of tea.

How do you keep on track with your writing? What do you do to stay motivated? Please share.

Cheers!

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Here’s a little bit about my upcoming book “Teatime for the Firefly” (to be published by MIRA/HARLEQUIN) You can read the synopsis and first chapter by CLICKING HERE. Please leave me a comment. Thank you!

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14 thoughts on ““To whom it may inspire…”

  1. What a brilliant post, Shona! I love it all, from the Pixar letter at the start to your tricks at the end. I see a lot of myself in your description of yourself, this business of needing to use tricks to make yourself do things, and the constant procrastination methods. When I really want to be writing, it’s amazing how clean the house gets…! I get very frustrated with myself, because I know that when I do sit down and get on with it I get a great feeling of satisfaction and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. Is it laziness, or a fear of failure that stops me? I don’t know, but it’s great to know that I’m not alone, thank you.

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    1. “Effort begets joy” is one of the oldest spiritual principles. There is something about pure effort (without expectations – that is key) that results in a feeling of well-being that is very akin to joy. It’s called “karma yoga” in Hindu spirituality. As for fear of failure, every writer suffers that – even the greatest. Knowing that has always been a comfort to me. We all bumble along the best we can.
      BTW thanks for the award nomination. More about that in a separate post. Cheers!

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  2. Great post! I am the world’s worst procrastinator (viz I am typing this in bed at 9am…school holidays are not good for me) but one thing I often remember is a comment I read years ago – ‘do you want your gravestone to say “she had a tidy house”?’ (substitute ‘clean laundry’ if appropriate!). It does make me think, and even occasionally get pen to paper.

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    1. Yes, I love the gravestone story/comment. It’s a very important thing remember. Funny thing is, how come I remember this wise saying when I am doing something fun and why does everything needs to be tidied up just when I hit a bad patch with my writing? Hmmm… I wonder.

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    1. Ahhhh the 3% day– when the writing skims like a deftly thrown stone across water– so few and far between. It is the memory of those sweet times that keep me going. Happy writing, friend!

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  3. another great post!
    ” Discipline is a muscle I was not born with it. I’ve had to develop it, step by miserable step. Waving a carrot or a stick does not work, because I have a cunning mind that can talk me out of things with arguments and persuasion.” ……… I think this totally resonant with me !!

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  4. Hahaha, I’m glad I’m not the only one that tricks myself. “Come on Kaitlin. Just 200 words. THat’s easy. No biggie.” *500 words later* “Oh no, don’t stop now. Look, just another 100 words…” and so on.

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