By Amy Courage
Motivational posters are often parodied (like the one with the kitty above). But without it you won’t get too far out of bed, off the couch, or reach your writing goals.
Speaking for myself, when I first started my picture book writing pilgrimage, I had a lot of energy and ideas, and I wouldn’t have thought for a moment about stopping. But now that I’m about six years in, I get a little tired sometimes. Occasionally, I want to throw in the towel and pick a passion slightly less demanding–like reading all the instruction manuals for the appliances in my home, cross-stitching a colonial sampler, or trying all the recipes in my crock pot cookbook.
Tempting though that may be, I have decided that writing is a part of my life, regardless of the form it takes, or how much recognition or reward I receive for it. This is a pretty big thing to realize for an approval-junkie like me.
So, in the hopes that others may find this helpful, I’d like to share some practices that keep me motivated and writing, even when I don’t feel like it.
1. Join a critique/writing group that meets in person.
I am continually grateful for the great feedback and support I receive from my critique group members. We only meet once a month and I don’t submit my work all the time, but just the act of getting together in a room, face to face, with other people who have the same burning desire I do, is tremendously encouraging.
2. Go to conferences and workshops at least once a year.
I’ve attended the NESCBWI conference for the last three years and have learned SO much about EVERYTHING, every time I’ve gone.
Another plus, each year I feel slightly less weird around agents and editors. So, maybe by year four, I’ll be able to have a normal, no-pressure conversation about the weather or my cats without feeling like I’m last one to be picked in junior high gym class.
This year, I’ve decided to try out the NESCBWI Encore! workshop being held at Mount Wachusett Community College on October 15th. I thought I’d give it a try for a few reasons–I can drive there in a day, the workshops looked interesting, and you get breakfast and lunch (very important), all for the sweet price of $50 for SCBWI members. If you’re interested, find more info about Encore! here. If you live outside Greater Boston, check SCBWI for a region near you–there are local chapters all over the world.
3. Watch and read all the stories you can.
I love watching movies. And I love reading books. Stories of any kind feed your imagination with characters, places, animals, costumes, landscapes, ways of life, and so much more. All that new information becomes fodder for your brain.
Recently, I saw the new stop-motion animation film from Laika Studios, Kubo and the Two Strings. It was pretty great. The characters and settings were so beautiful and the story spoke deeply about themes most films for families shy away from–things like loss, grief, forgiveness and redemption. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so happy it’s there rattling around in my brain. Maybe someday, some part of it will inspire a new and different picture book.
4. Give yourself some grace.
Sometimes I get impatient with myself because I compare where I am in my writing journey, with where I think I should be. That isn’t super helpful. So, I have to remind myself that it’s ok if I don’t write every day (more like every week for me). My journey is different from yours, and it’s not fair for me to compare myself to others.
5. Stay open to new ideas.
Not too long ago, a member of my critique group suggested I write a picture book about a historical subject I had previously avoided. This subject seemed overdone to me, so at first I didn’t think much about it. However, a few days later I realized that I had something to say, so I did some research and wrote a first draft. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my group.
You never know where inspiration will come from, and if someone whose opinion you trust notices something you don’t, write it down and think about it later.
I hope my five suggestions resonated with you in some small way. How do you keep yourself motivated? Please share your methods below.