February 1

Finding Motivation During A Difficult Rewrite

I’m realizing it’s a reward problem. Maybe a bit of an unwillingness to accept reality problem as well, but at the core, motivation is lacking atm because of how difficult it is to feel rewarded by the work of rewriting.

Normally, I see writing a book to have these specific rewards that push motivation:

1) Problem solving. This is probably one of my favorite rewards. It’s quick, full of energy, and life consuming to spend a week or two drafting a novel, finding all those plot and emotional points and connecting it to the story arcs to make it all work. I love the challenge of outlining a book, finding all the problems, and then getting that satisfying reward of solving those problems with nothing in the way. It’s a high like none other and is probably part of the problem as to why I’ve been writing more complicated plots. I keep seeking the same reward pattern, but the limit is pushed by how used to the task I become. If it’s not a challenge, I don’t get the same rush of reward to solve the problem (hence why I don’t bother with Sudoku anymore. The pattern is too obvious to reach the solution and it’s not a challenge, just grunt labor when you realize it.)

2) Watching characters and the world form. This is what gets me through a lot of the grunt labor of writing. It is not a rush, but a constant, mild sense of accomplishment when I read back what I’ve written and see the ideas I initially had are taking shape and forming a story that others can enjoy. It’s the satisfaction of knowing I as a writer am conveying the ideas entertainingly, even if it’s time consuming. This is what it means to be a crafter and appreciate each detail to the point of a trance, even if it’s not necessarily interesting to reread and rewrite the same scene again and again until it’s done. Thankfully, you can spice this part up with bursts of inspiration, but only if you’re doing the work to show up for this part of the job every single day. If you don’t show up, you can’t find the energy.

3) Finishing a book. Seriously, I think half the joy of this is realizing I can finally stop all the work and get back to the idea stage again. This place is an amazing place to be. It is euphoria (until you realize all the work ahead of you to get that book formatted, promoted and sold because, hey, self publisher here.) But finally being DONE is such a freaking rush. I think this is what really pushed me to write in a serial format for so long. I could finish an episode and be done, publish, and move on to something else. And then, when I came back, it was fresh again, bright and alive instead of being trapped in the middle of the drudgery of grunt writing.

Rewriting is being trapped in fleshing out the world after all the problems are solved. It’s editing, but without the reward of having the book done when you’re done, because editing is still waiting. So what I’ve been doing to spice things up is to add those creative bursts, get something in there to inspire me. Complicate the plot a bit more to inspire me to push forward with more problems to solve. But those techniques also lead to me being trapped in this place longer, because each individual problem in a story must be solved or at least resolved before you hit the end. Even in serial format, you can’t have too many plot cliffhangers or the book doesn’t feel like it’s a satisfying installment, but a total tease of leading readers on. It means more work and focus to ensure what you’re creating isn’t just a begining, but a complete story.

And I’m extra trapped here because of the commitment. Because the rewrite is required before I’m allowed to publish the second book. There is this fear to step away from the rewrite is to ensure I’m never going to return and finish this shit. I’m a creative. I chase the high of inspiration and problem solving. Grunt writing is capable of draining all the happiness out of anyone like that. It can feel like pointless busy work. So when you know yourself, have a track record of putting off the things that bore you compared to the things that challenge and spark your creativity, you understand how your very nature works against you when distractions look so shiny and interesting.

What if I wrote a book about a serial killer who makes his first move during the worst cold front to hit a country in over 50 years? All his victims look like natural causes from the cold when otherwise people would be wondering, seeking a pattern as to why so many healthy individuals were dropping dead in one area at once. What if it was through the eyes of a family member who knows that their loved one never would have left the house–they were agoraphobic–and while they’re trying to convince the police that something terrible is behind all these deaths, they too become a target to this madman who decides it’s much more interesting to stalk the person paying attention, littering their land with his freshest victims? And now the police are wondering if there is a pattern, but they already have a culprit, the desperate, seemingly crazy person who keeps insisting that there is a killer out there. Is it to warn the town and save everyone, or is this someone who is just projecting their own crimes while looking for a thrill to share how they got away with all those murders?

It’s new to my brain. It’s sexy and enticing because it’s new. A hot love affair with a story plot that I wouldn’t even look twice at normally, except I’m trapped in a boring relationship with my current rewrite. But the guilt! The guilt cripples just as much. I want to focus on another story when I have a commitment to my current novel? You think I’ll get anything done now? No, I’d be frozen, frustrated, and nothing would be written at all.

Ideas are sexy, brilliant little flames in the head promising immediate reward. The serial format has been the closest thing I’ve come up with to solve this problem, where you can have those bursts of inspiration that will power you through a 10-30,000 word episode, but the longer it takes, the harder it is to keep the energy. And it requires something to jump to to keep the mind engaged. Sometimes you find yourself working on the same project so long, you don’t want to look at the damn thing for a few months, so you need multiple stories to jump to. And then, suddenly, you realize you have ?!? many series half written and you gotta finish something, and dear fuck, when did writing become adulting!

I might need a cheering squad to see me through to the end. I have worked hard to cultivate my creativity and motivation from within (and I am still seeking solutions) but sometimes when you feel stuck in something for so long, it’s hard to even get up the energy to push through. This is why I keep looking at hiring content writers. I know my strengths and I see my limits. And although I always believe it’s important to focus on making your limits into strengths, sometimes we’re just limited human beings and it’s better to seek a creative, innovative solution. But I’m in the middle of this commitment to this novel, and I can’t even allow myself to fully look at other solutions at the moment because it pulls my mind away.

Ah, my love affairs with thoughts. My mind is a slut, no doubt about it, and the problem is guilt more than anything else. If I didn’t feel guilty, I’d have forged toward a solution, but no, guilt is a familiar cage.