Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sacrifice and Robotics

By Mayowa Atte

You have a story, a dollop of your inner pudding that you have decided to share with the world. You have outlines, notes, character bios, plot sketches and countless late night/early morning/during showers/during meals/during anything ponderings. More importantly, you have words -- a line or ten thousand of blessed prose that you are sure will destroy the reader’s world and make it anew. There is only one problem; you can’t seem to write enough, can’t make significant progress, can’t finish.

Why is it so hard to finish? Two dragons guard the road to writing productivity; the first is a lack of time to write. With day jobs, night jobs, families, friends, church, lovers and pets it’s a miracle that anyone ever finishes a draft. The other is the writer’s mental attitude; there is enough time to write but you don’t feel like writing. Maybe you are like me and your writing productivity mirrors your love life, or you want to spend your one free hour watching the Lakers. The truth is that there will always be something else, someone else, and someplace else that needs or demands your attention.

How do you finish then? How do you reach the half-naked pleasure of that last page? The answer lies in Sacrifice and Robotics. To slay the first dragon, you take one of the many other things that require or demand your attention and you sacrifice it. You wake up an hour earlier every day or stay in instead of going out with friends. You sacrifice a favorite TV show or order takeout instead of making dinner. Maybe you tell your boss that you absolutely have to reduce your overtime (please proceed along this path with caution).

To slay the second dragon, you find your best writing atmosphere (place, time, noise level, etc.) and you write in that atmosphere on an unbreakable schedule (using time carved out with your sacrifices). The goal is to make writing robotic, more than a habit, but an automatic, ingrained activity that you perform whether or not you are in the creative mood, regardless of the state of your love life, or how happy, restless, horny, sad, bored…anyhow you feel. Sacrifice and Robotics.

Why will you sacrifice the things and people that are dear to you? Why will you turn the writing you do for pleasure into another must-do task? The answer lies in another question, why are you writing? Why must you tell this story? Do you need to right a social wrong? Do you want your bodice ripper to be a national guilty pleasure? Do you want additional income or a cadre of adoring female MFA students? Whatever your reason, it has to be strong enough to make these sacrifices worthwhile.

It is impossible to make all these sacrifices or adopt every good writing habit but one or two is doable and will bring immense benefits. On most days in August, I left work on time, went straight to the same coffee shop and wrote for a few hours before going home. That month, I went way over my food budget, gained seven pounds (lost my gym time), frustrated my boss and alienated a few friends and romantic interests.

I wrote more in those 31 days than I had in the previous eight months.

5 comments:

Riley said...

Mayo, your blog entry really spoke to me. You have a devoted fan now. I am well acquainted with the two dragons you mentioned and want to thank you for your strategies for dealing with them. Your insights and your obvious writing talent are much appreciated by this struggling novelist.

Anonymous said...

Atte, I hope you can slay those two dragons because the world is awaiting your work....you have a lot of talent and I can't wait to read your work entirely. Dave

Ginny said...

Mayo, you already have a fan club and count me in! Imagine what it will be like when you're published.

Nicole said...

Wow, I needed to read that. Thank you so much.

Jason said...

Great post Mayo! It's a real kick in the pants for those of us who haven't made writing a "robotic" habit yet.