With NaNoWriMo about to storm surge the writer (and wannabe-writer) community, this seems a good time to both tickle your pink parts and jam my boot up your boothole in terms of getting your penmonkey asses motivated. So, here goes — 25 motivational thoughts for writers, starting in 3… 2… 1…
1. You Are The God Of This Place
The blank page is your world. You choose what goes into it. Anything at all. Upend the frothy cup that is your heart and see what spills out. Murder plots. Train crashes. Pterodactyl love interests. Vampire threesomes. Housewife bondage. Demon spies! Cake heists! Suburban ennui! You can destroy people. You can build things. You can create love, foster hate, foment rage, invoke sorrow. Anything you want in any order you care to present it. This is your story. This is your jam.
2. Infinite Power, Zero Responsibility
Not only are you god of this place, but you have none of the responsibility divine beings are supposed to possess. You have literally no responsibility to anyone but yourself — you’re like a chimp with a handgun. Run amok! Shoot things! Who cares? There exists this non-canonical infancy gospel where Jesus is actually a little kid and he’s like, running around with crazy Jesus wizard powers. He’s killing them and resurrecting them and he’s turning water into Kool-Aid and loaves into Goldfish crackers — he’s just going apeshit with his Godborn sorcery. BE LIKE CRAZY JESUS BABY. Run around zapping shit with your God lightning! You owe nobody anything in this space. It’s adult swim. It’s booze cruise.
3. The Rarest Bird Of Them All
The easiest way to separate yourself from the unformed blobby mass of “aspiring” writers is to a) actually write and b) actually finish. That’s how easy it is to clamber up the ladder to the second echelon. Write. And finish what you write. That’s how you break away from the pack and leave the rest of the sickly herd for the hungry wolves of shame and self-doubt. And for all I know, actual wolves.
4. You’re Not Cleaning Up Some Sixth Grader’s Vomit
You have worse ways to spend a day than to spend it writing. Here’s a short list: artificially inseminating tigers, getting shot at by an opposing army, getting eaten by a grue, mopping the floors of a strip club, digging ditches and then pooping in them, cleaning up the vomit of nervous elementary school children, being forced to dance by strange dance-obsessed captors, working in a Shanghai sweatshop making consumer electronics for greedy Americans, and being punched to death by a coked-up Jean-Claude Van Damme. Point is: writing is a pretty great way to spend a morning, afternoon, or night.
5. Abuse The Freedom To Suck
Writing is not about perfection — that’s editing you’re thinking of. Editing is about arrangement, elegance, cutting down instead of building up. Editing is Jenga. Writing is about putting all the pieces out there. It’s construction in the strangest, sloppiest form. It’s inelegant. And imperfect. And insane. It’s supposed to be this way. Writing is a first-time bike-ride. You’re meant to wobble and accidentally drive into some rose bushes. Allow yourself the freedom — nay, the pleasure — to suck. This is playtime. (Or, as I call it: “Whiskey and Hookers” time.) Playtime is supposed to be messy.
6. And Embrace The Authority To Be Fucking Awesome
It’s your rodeo, hoss. You have the authority to write with confidence, to puff your chest out, to slap your ink-smeared genitals on the table as you utter your barbaric yawp. Aim big. Go bold. Don’t hide from your own most kick-ass desires. Don’t unfurl the story with hands trembling from the fear of what others will think. You have the power to do different. Yours is the authority to choose the road with your name on it. Write the story the tangle of desires and neuroses that comprise you so desire: A love affair between a man and a parking meter! A civil war between robots and other robots! A SPACE OPERA STARRING ROOT VEGETABLES. Fortune favors the bold. And being fucking awesome favors being fucking awesome.
7. You Can Clean Up The Mess Later
Writers are afforded the glorious possibility of endless do-overs and take-backs. Every draft a new chance to go back and clean up messes and untangle the tangled wires that hide beneath the narrative. Can you imagine that privilege in real life? “Hey, when you go outside today, anything you do can be undone and the whole day can be recreated.” Holy crap, the day you’d have! Bath salts and dolphin sex, car crashes and muddy graves. I’d have an orgy at a candy factory. (So sticky!) I’d kill someone just because I could. I’D EAT DEEP-FRIED LIPO FAT AT A COUNTRY FAIR SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF AMERICA. If I didn’t like it, I’d go back and wipe the slate clean, start over again. That’s your story. Your story is a madcap day whose minutes and hours subject to your whims of rewriting — or unwriting.
8. A Room Full Of Starving Story Addicts
For all the dire predictions about writing and publishing, I’m going to make a promise to you: the audience is waiting. They’re a subway car full of twitchy story tweakers going around and around, looking for any stop that will give them good story. They’re there for you. They’re waiting for your tale told. Writers often feel like they’re just sobbing into the void, but the audience will hear your plaintive cries, young storyteller. You may feel like a story flunky, but be sure that the audience is full of story junkies. Hey, snap, that rhymed and I didn’t even mean it to. FUCK YEAH WORDS.
9. I’m Talking About Motherfucking Ice Cream, Son
You are allowed to live a reward-driven life. You want me to motivate you? Go motivate yourself. (That is not code for “go fuck yourself,” unless I don’t like you, then it totally is.) Set a various goals and when you hit them, do something nice for yourself. I mean, the goal shouldn’t be, “Every time I write a sentence, I get an ice cream cone,” because that sir is a high-speed rail straight to the heart of Diabetesburg. But hit your mark of 2000 words a day? Write a chapter? Finish the book? Accept how kick-ass that is and reward yourself. It’s okay. You have my permission. (As long as you don’t bogart that ice cream. Dick.)
10. Nobody Else Writes Like You
When all your force fields and filters are down, when you’ve stripped yourself of your presuppositions and your fears and needs and your pants, you discover that nobody in the world writes like you. Nobody has your ideas. Nobody has your narrative memetic code. You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake, no. But your writing — your writing is your fingerprint. Your voice is yours and yours alone.
11. We’re Totally Built For This
Someone will look down on you at some point (or, if you’re me, at frequent points throughout your day) for being what you want to be. Writer. Author. Artist. Storyteller. Here’s why that’s a dumpster full of shitballs: we are built for this. One of the things that lashes us all together with rope and chain and psychic plasm is our desire — nay, our sacred fucking need — to tell stories. We’ve been doing it since we drew Neanderthals chasing unicorns on cave walls. We tell stories about the weather, about work, about family and friends, about pets and sex and about that time that friend we have at work had sex with his pet python while a hurricane raged outside. This is what we do. You’re just codifying it. Making it real.
12. One Word After The Other
The technical side of writing — by which I mean, the physical act itself — is one of the easiest things you can do. It’s literally one word placed after the other with some appropriate punctuation thrown in between breaths and ending thoughts. Yes, it gets more complex once you start thinking about narrative, character, meaning, text versus subtext — but for now, fuck all that. Just breathe. Let the tension go out of you (not so much you pee yourself). This is like LEGO. One block upon the other. One word after the next.
13. Just Write 100 More Words
A frequent phrase said when I was a child or a teenager: just ten more minutes. Meaning, it was time to go to sleep (as a child) or time to get up for school (as a teenager) and all I wanted to do was avoid sleep (child) or sleep longer (teenager). As a writer, play the same game with yourself: you want to give up, close the notebook, save the story? Just 100 more words. That’s all. Push yourself just a little. A hundred words ain’t much (it’s about the size of this text block). And you’d be amazed at how 100 words just isn’t enough.
14. This Is How You Get Better
Writing is a muscle: the more you use it the stronger it gets. Writing is like a dog: the more you train it, the smarter it becomes. Writing is like one of your orifices: every time you allow a bigger object to be inserted within (pinky, buttplug, fist, cucumber, wiffle ball bat, railroad tie) you train it to gape wider the next time. …okay, maybe not so much the last one. Still: writing begets writing. You may not be great — or even good — now. But effort yields fruit. Fruit you may later jam up your ass for pleasure. Wait, what?
15. The More You Do It, The Easier It Gets
It’s not just about getting better. It’s about it becoming easier. More natural. More intuitive. The act of writing cultivates both calluses (a metaphorical hardening the fuck up, Care Bear) and instinct (where your decisions as a word-captain and story-slinger are less the product of rigorous thought and more the result of you just having a gut feeling and going with it). Hard at first. Easier over time.
16. You Are Not The Omega Man
You are not alone. You are not Lonely Writer Person on Planet Nobody. We all get what you’re going through. We know your triumphs and terrors. The future of writing will be us uploading ourselves to The Cloud (probably on Amazon’s servers), our spirit animals glomming together to howl a single song, but for now, we’re all located at our individualized story pods, cranking out the words by ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We have community. We have shared understanding. Reiterate: You are not alone.
17. Your Love For Writing Is Enduring And Imperfect
Some days will be great and other days will be hard. Some days you will love the thing that you’re doing so intimately and so completely that you feel like you achieved some kind of narrative orgasmic apotheosis, whereas other days you will feel nothing but septic hate gurgling in your empty belly and every word slung will feel like a brick flung into your own nose. Your love for this thing you do needn’t be there every day. Every day won’t feel like winning the championship. But the love endures, imperfect as it is.
18. It’s Okay That Some Days Are Really Fucking Hard
Some days are difficult. The words feel like dead fish flopping out onto a dirty floor. Hell, maybe they don’t fall out at all but feel like they must be yanked one by one, the act both painful and slow, as if you’re extracting teeth. Some days are shitty. Is what it is. All writers go through it. You want to do this thing then don’t look at the shitty days as a problem: see them as a challenge that prove your pudding.
19. Writer’s Block Is Not A Real Thing
You can be blocked. Everybody gets blocked. But it’s not special. It’s not unique to writers. It doesn’t deserve its name or the credit it receives. More importantly, it isn’t a physical thing — it isn’t a gorilla with a croquet mallet who smashes your hand every time you reach for the keyboard. You can get past it. You think past it. You write past it. You kick it in the teeth and step over its twitching body.
20. How To Imagine The Haters
If there is one thing we have learned upon this old Internet of ours, it is: haters gonna hate. You will ever have disbelievers among your ranks, those who pop up like scowling gophers, boring holes through your well-being, your hopes, your dreams. It is very important not to prove the haters right. It is very important to know where to place the haters in rank of importance, which is to say, below telemarketers, below any television show on TLC, below crotch fungus and garbage fires and anal cankers. Imagine the haters herded into a pen. Eaten by the tigers of your own awesomeness. Then digested. Shat out. And burned with flamethrowers. The only power you should afford the haters is the power to eat curb.
21. Multiple Shots At Goal
Just as you get multiple chances to fix a single story, you get multiple stories to fill your life — as many as you care to cram into your days, months, years. Our lives are a series of stories untold, and it’s up to you to tell them. This one might not be successful. But the next one might.
22. The Leprechaun’s Gift
At the end of this rainbow are whatever rewards you want. Money? It’s there. Some say writers don’t earn out, that you can’t make a living doing this thing that we do. That’s a quiver of broken arrows: don’t sling it over your shoulder. I do it. I know a lot of writers who do it. So can you. But it’s not just money at the end: it’s self-fulfillment. It’s love. It’s confidence. It’s the things you’ve learned about yourself, about the craft of writing, about the art of storytelling. You never know what you’ll find until you climb that motherfucking rainbow. (One time I found a cardboard box of vintage porn and tasty grilled cheese sandwiches.) Writing is a journey. Each story just one leg of the trip. So start walking.
23. You Are Your Only Enemy
You have no enemy but yourself. You’re the only one that brings a story into existence, or, as it may turn out, fails to engineer that existence. Your enemy is not your spouse, your kids, your boss, your neighbor, your dog, your mother, your buddy. It is not time, work, addiction, distraction. It is not video games or Twitter, Facebook or television. Your enemy is fear. And indolence. And lack of discipline. And: uncertainty. And: lack of self-esteem. And all those things live inside your heart and your head. That’s hard to hear at first, but the trick is, that means you have the power to sweep all that shit off the table until it clatters and shatters against the floor. You’re the only one standing in your own way so, knock down your own worst inclinations and get to it. Disclaimer: actually, unicorns are frequently the writer’s enemy and if you got a unicorn problem best thing I can recommend is to call a priest. You can’t kill those things with weedkiller. And they deflect bullets with their horns. That’s no lie. Unicorns are pesky assholes.
24. This Matters
Story matters. Writing is important. Stories make the world go around. Many things begin as words on a page. It matters to the world. And it matters to you. Don’t let anyone rob you of that. Don’t rob yourself of it, either. Don’t diminish. Don’t dismiss. Embrace. Create. Accelerate.
25. Um, What Are You Still Doing Here?
Uh, hello? You should’ve bailed on me ten list items ago. What the fidgety fuck are you still doing here? Whatever it is you want to write — novel, script, short story, blog post, haiku out of fridge magnets — go forth and do it. Don’t wait for me. Don’t wait for all the answers. Don’t wait for permission, motivation, inspiration. It’s time to saddle up and gallop forth — through the white dust and the red sand, through the darkness of your own fears or inadequacies and into the light of a tale told to completion. Quit lookin’ at me. Quit looking for reasons. Quit dicking around. Close this browser and go tell a story, willya?
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