Seize the day.
Get your butt in the chair.
You can’t edit a blank page.
Just do it.
We writers tell each other these things. We tell ourselves these things. Sometimes daily. We mean well; we really do. But like all clichés, these word glommed together and uttered repeatedly tend to lose their meaning. They end up not motivating us after all. We still manage to shut off our minds. We ignore our WIPs. We’re easily distracted, and next thing we know we’ve spent two hours watching adorable animal videos on YouTube, or doing household chores that under any other circumstances would drop to the bottom of the to-do list, or spending just a few more hours on the day job.
A few days ago, I found myself muttering some of these well-worn phrases to myself while diving into the project of organizing six boxes of books onto my new office bookcase. I turned to see my computer sitting on the desk, its indicator light blinking its hibernation status. My husband was busy with his own tasks. My consultant clients had all the documents they needed from me for the day. The cats were napping. It was just me. Me and my computer.
And that’s when it hit me. All the clichés and best intentions were not making me seize the day nor get my butt in the chair nor create new words to edit later. I wasn’t just doing it. My plan was to cross all the other things off my to-do list first. Writing would come after that. That’s the way it had to be; after all, those other things were on the schedule for that afternoon (you might recall that I discussed my compulsive need to develop and follow a Schedule a few weeks ago).
I couldn’t come up with any pat words to make me ignore the Schedule and just write. Today is the first day of the rest of your life? Um, no. Write (or dance, or paint, or just generally create) as though no one is watching? Not exactly.
I gave up on motivational quotes, tossed the Schedule aside, and sat down with my computer. I opened the WIP, went to the first yellow highlight (my color coding that tells me where I identified a missing scene in my first draft read-through), and started writing the scene. Forty-five minutes later, I had 1300 new words and a plan for the next missing scene.
I used a similar approach the next day, and the day after that. Three days does not a writing streak make, but in a few days I’d written more than 4000 words, and now I only have a handful of new scenes to write for this first full revision.
In 1964, a young Mick Jagger fronting the Rolling Stones, sang, Time is on my side. Ten years later, an older and possible wiser Jagger sang, Time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me. Yeah, it’s not a very uplifting quote, but it’s a true one, and sometimes a good, swift kick in the ass from the truth can be motivating in its own right.
For the next few weeks, I’m giving up quotes. I can’t totally give up the Schedule (my client and husband and cats do get dibs on some of my hours, and that requires scheduling!), but I can be more aware of those little breaks in the action when I’m alone with my computer or with paper and pen, and I can seize the day, get my butt in the chair, and get words on the page that I can later edit.
Obviously, I’m not giving up motivational quotes and clichés completely. They have their place. They can be mantras that get us into the writing zone or help us focus on the path so we can back to it when we lose our way. What quotes or words of wisdom have meaning for you? Have you found any that sparked your creativity or led you back to your creative path?