Motivation for Writers… Wet or Dry

How hard are you working?  I mean, really working.

Not just working hard… but working smart?

“Welcome to the grind.”

Sometimes it’s tough to get up and write.  Or simply to square off with the keyboard at any time of day.

Athletes have coaches.  We, on the other hand, are quite alone with the task at hand.

And so I offer the following.  One of the reasons to watch it is the writing… it’s stellar.  Another is to see beyond the specificity of its target audience — competitive swimmers — and apply it to what YOU do.

These principles know no target audience.  They are universal, and unforgiving.  If you think writing is a gentle art… maybe.  But publishing, competing for readers, isn’t.

You are seeking excellence.  There are about 100,000 other writers out there seeking the same, and they are competing for YOUR publishing slot.

So the question becomes… what are YOU going to do about it?

Get motivated… HERE.

Welcome to the grind.

Rise and shine.


Read a review of Story Physics HERE, on Mindy Halleck’s great site, “Literary Liaisons.”


With thanks to my friend Wes Edwards, world class championship masters swimmer.  An inspiration.




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15 Responses to Motivation for Writers… Wet or Dry

  1. Kerry Boytzun

    Man if that ain’t the truth!

    Did you notice the shot at 3:05+ where the athlete is training amongst I think three coaches (advisers)? The point here is that you can NOT succeed ALONE.

    Nobody does! There are people to inspire you, coach you, analyze you, and tell you what’s working–and what is not. Maybe someone out there did do it all by themselves. I don’t know of any. Once the questions come out–the coaches and mentors are revealed. I’m talking about succeeding at the A Game, not just giving it the ol’ College Try.

    Besides finding mentors, coaches, and people who have your back–you need people who will call you on your BS. When you could have worked harder, smarter–but instead, you gave up.

    You and me–we are responsible for doing the work. It’s like quitting smoking. You have to set your mind to it and stop lighting the dang things and sticking them in your mouth. Easy? Not one bit. Simple? Ironically…yes.

    The challenges are when we fall off the horse. In the example of smoking, we light one up. What do you do then? The loser convinces himself that he failed and he may as well just “start” smoking again. That’s all a matter of POV, of perception. Perception IS your reality. My perception is that if I smoke one–so what. Stop smoking anymore. If you live your life to be “perfect”–you are setting yourself up to fail.

    Failure is giving up…quitting, after you screw up. Life’s “successes” are full of people who didn’t give up, but screwed up royally. The secret is simple: keep learning from your mistakes AND be open minded to get HELP.

    Coaches–other people–are there because you can’t step outside yourself (unless you film yourself–not a bad idea for certain fields) and see what you’re doing and not.

    In this video, the alarm clock represents (for writers) setting a schedule and sitting down and writing (or researching, or anything productive to the story). Do you show up, or not? Life will interrupt you. You have other obligations. But you can set aside time each week (maybe not each day) to “write”.

    Are you serious or just dreaming?

    The movie, Rocky 1976, has the best representation of what obstacles are in the way of one wanting to succeed, with a coach that’s trying to inspire the wanna be boxer, in this case. Watch this movie again.

    Coaches, information and other resources can be found for writing.

    I wanted to create a Master Mind Group for Writers–to assist each other. Frankly I need encouragement and a boot in the ass. Simple, eh?

    Good choice, Larry!

  2. That was great. Very much needed!

  3. Matt Duray

    I need to record this on my phone and set it as my alarm, so I start the day with an injection of urgency and motivation.

    I have a loose sort of routine where I come home from work at 6pm Monday-Friday, then eat, shower, and work on my outline for a few hours. I’m able to do more on the weekends. I also read as much as I can during the journey to work and on my breaks. Still, I feel like I’m far too relaxed right now. Maybe when I start the first draft, I’ll knuckle down properly. Does anyone else have trouble balancing their 9-5 with their writing?

    @Kerry – That’s a good idea at the end of your post, about creating a group to encourage and ass-kick. I need both, too!

    Thanks Larry.

  4. Morgyn

    While you’re at SwimSwam, click to 8 Questions Every Swimmer Should Ask Themselves. Tres wonderful.

    I’m in the pool as often as possible. Talk about preaching to the choir, Larry

    Pillow>coffee>laptop>ms>treadmill/pool. Is there another way to live?

    Raises a question: if you have the bar high for your writing, why not your body and the rest of your life?

  5. @Matt, I think for everyone it’s trouble, but the 9-5ers it’s a unique problem. The 9-5 routine does establish a routine, but the question becomes, How do you respond after 5? (Or before?) For some, the time outside 9-5 is a time to relax and unwind and go anti-routine. For others, it’s just a different routine. Sometimes I can fit my writing in easily outside my job because everything is flowing. Then Larry comes along and says, ‘Well, it could be good but you’re missing one of the core things here – concept, conflict, etc.’ and you step back to analyze the outline, the tentpoles, and realize you have a lot more work to do. And you don’t want to rush through it, so you stop and think and test some new ideas out, throwing them up against the wall–and none of them stick. So now what? Yeah, now you’re in the grind, and it’s no longer about how many words a day you’re making because you’re in the dumps on that one. It’s about are you spending time with your story? Any story? Because now you find that turning to a different story frees your mind to think about the one you will write. @Larry, thanks for the video. I love these motivational ones because they can really be a nice jumpstart. And as you implied, the grind is never over while you can still breathe.

  6. I am usually a lurker, not a commenter. But this video is so spot-on I had to say thank you for sharing. It’s so easy to get discouraged in this writing life, that reminders like this need to be part of our routine. There’s a reason we go to the keyboard even when it’s hard, because the voice we’ve chosen to listen to is the voice of defiance and because sweat is a choice. I’m going to sit at the keyboard now, because I’ve got work to do. So thanks and I’ll see you at the finish line.

  7. Bob

    I don’t find that the writing of sentences part of the story process requires that I hype myself up. It’s actually pretty easy. I tend to like writing that doesn’t draw much attention to itself which means I’m not sweating bullets trying to create Shakespearian wittiness in every sentence. I just let the words flow.

    The part that requires a large amount of effort for me is actually creating the story, the beats, the turning points, etc. in the outline before I set off to fill in the gaps with the sentences. I find myself daydreaming all the time about different angles to approach a story.

    If I need motivation for creating a story I think about how screwed up the world is. The gap between what the world is and what it should be is a primary source of anguish for me. This is what motivates me.

  8. Sara Davies

    The upside of marginal employment is I have four full days a week to work on my writing. Six hours, sometimes twelve hours, which is usually my limit. Not all hours are equal. Some days I produce thousands of words. Other days I can only wring out a couple of pages. I put in the time, but time is not word count. It would be like a little kid being forced to sit at the kitchen table half the night until they ate all their broccoli, and the broccoli would be cold, and I’d be dead because twelve hours in one say is the maximum I’ve got.

    During the week I try to do research so that by Friday morning, I have what I need to work with through Monday. But I have to say it is not possible to be “on” all the time. Sometimes I need to get away from what I’m doing – usually happens when things grind to a halt, when I feel spent, when I’ve stared at the same material for half the day and still have no idea what to do. When everything feels forced, trying harder makes it worse.

    My biggest enemy is internal pressure – fear leads to paralysis, plus a lack of clarity, overwhelm, confusion about what has to happen, getting bogged down in logistics, not knowing where to go, flooding.

    Immediate buzz kills include thinking about competition, as if this were an event I need to win or an arena where I need to prove something. Nobody’s waiting for me to deliver. I need to feel like I have forever – peaceful, calm, letting the words come from that green grassy dream place instead of trying to beat them into shape. Knowing the standards for getting published is critical, but thinking about publishing usually creates performance anxiety. I’m miles from that, anyway. I’m better when I can just be easy with it.

    When I get stuck, I try to remind myself that nothing matters more than the pursuit of my aesthetic ideals. Art is about the pursuit of aesthetic ideals for their own sake. A lot of people don’t share that orientation, but it’s what gets me out of bed every day.

    If I need ideas, I look at the ideas of great thinkers, past and present. If I need inspiration, I look at the magic worked by great writers and story tellers. If I get lost, I do exercises. I go for walks.

    Not everyone can be a factory. I show up four days, all day, and do what I can. The result is kind of an organic thing with a life of its own. Beyond that? I don’t have an answer to how to get more done. Not sure there is one.

  9. This sure felt good today.

  10. Kari Wolfe

    This hit me exactly where I needed to be hit today. Thanks!

  11. Olga Oliver

    I don’t think about my publishing slot now. Used to.
    I think about learning GOOD story crafting. Note, I didn’t say EXCELLENT.
    I think about my story being WORTHWHILE reading.
    I am not competing for readers.
    I am competing with myself. Can I write a WORTHWHILE read?
    Considering my mindset in our world of today, you might never see my name on a published novel, but please know should you happen to meet one, it definitely will be worth your time. It’s come from the sweetest time of my every day–from fifteen minutes to eight and nine hour days.

  12. Sara Davies

    @ Olga:

    Same for me. Good story, good craft, worthwhile read, “personal best.”

  13. Robert Jones

    I bookmarked the video. Sometimes you need that “Rocky” type of inspirational adrenaline. Other times, you do need to find your ground.

    Most of us have numerous routines in life, both productive and counterproductive. Noting your own productive qualities is a good place to start forming some type of regular “writing schedule.” Noting what other successful people do, or have done, can be helpful too. It gives us new things to try that we may not have thought of on our own. And finding those coaches and mentors Kerry wrote about is important. Finding the right coach, even more so. But what is a “schedule,” and how does it differ from a “routine?”

    A schedule is something we usually think of in terms of work, giving us a certain amount to accomplish within a given time frame. Failure to meet that schedule, to meet a certain quota, is like that addict trying to quite smoking. How many lapses, or failures does it take before you just give up trying? Some people are very good with schedules. It’s a way to keep count of production, to witness progress in daily increments. This makes us feel good, gives us a sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t matter in that mindset if one is producing good writing, or total crap, just so long as a habit is formed and maintained. They can always go back over the work in subsequent drafts until they’ve perfected. And keeping to a schedule is a way of keeping track of growth, which happens in spurts so long as the schedule is maintained. On the other hand, what do you do if the schedule thing isn’t working, or adding more stress to your life?

    What most of us think about in terms of a routine, however, is a task that is “already” being performed done habitually. It’s more of a “have to” thing. Eating breakfast, having that first cup of coffee, excercising, taking a shower–some, or all of which, is considered by most to be a part of their morning routine. Eating dinner after a long day at whatever we each do to fill our “schedule” that day is not considered optional. I’m talking about the non-negotiable parts of our day. The things that have not only become a habit, but something we ordinarily don’t consider skipping. Or if we do skip a meal (for eample), it is not likely we will act as the cigerette smoker who fell off the wagon. We will not become discouraged if a few meals get skipped this month and decide to never eat again. That would be absurd. Yet, isn’t that what we do with many important life essentials that don’t fit into our busy “schedule,” like exercise, proper nutrition–writing?

    This is not how artists view what they do. Like breathing, our craft is an immutable part of existence. Not something we try on like a new pair of shoes to see if it fits comfortably into our lives, or allow a busy schedule to decide whether of not we have time for it. The idea of the suffering artist is not the popular image of the starving artist. Because whatever else we may have done to suvive each day, we have a need to get back to our craft–for how ever long we are able. And we work at this just as the writers coming into craft late in life are doing now. Unfortunately, many do not start young. We are not brought up to think about writing, or being creative as very essential. It’s a hobby, an extra, and too often a waste of time because that’s not how our parents thought we could make an acceptable living. As if you need to be making great money to enjoy writing. Money, the eternal attachment that makes everything worthwhile, or not, dictates. So thoughts of being creative on most levels are usually our own personal notions to either put aside, or embrace. It’s rarely encouraged.

    Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, the learning is time consuming and frequently difficult. You only need to look at Amazon to see how most faired who thought otherwise. But I am constantly amazed by the people who come into a creative outlet late in life. Maybe they’ve always wanted to, but life and well meaning instructions on life from lesser coaches got in the way. And they will admit they felt more alive while writing. Then stopped anyway because it didn’t fit like those comfortable shoes, work like a production schedule. or yield a quick profit.

    When I was learning art (art being my early creative interest…though writing was always a part of it, it took a backseat when it came to choosing which to pursue most avidly), I worked a 9-5 for a number of years. I practiced 2-3 hours per night. Well, sometimes. Other times, I was too tired. I tried to cram as much time into my weekends as possible. Then I would occasionally go weeks without practicing at all when the need to get out and do something to offset the work-a-day doldrums overrode my creative ambitions. But the funny thing is, just by keeping up with it over those years and thinking about it during the times when I wasn’t practicing, growth still happened. Because it was in my blood, nothing kept me away for too long, and I never stopped thinking about it.

    After I had worked in the art field for a number of years, writing, my second love, started becoming my first. I like to think my art matured and grew into another interest. One that had been around but just needed to ripen. But now I had no 9-5 job. People think that’s a tough schedule, I know. But I was working 12-15 hour days, and sometimes half a day on Saturday. When did I have time to write? My wife, still working the 9-5er, began working an early shift. And I found my already dragging butt up a couple of hours earlier than usual so I could make breakfast and eat it together, drive her to work (she’s one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t drive) get back to my studio and begin my day. So this was one of those “have to” situations, not an elective. At least not innitially. When I found my work day was beginning an hour earlier than usual anyway by the time I got back to my studio, I used that extra hour to write.

    Just and hour each day. I would sometimes push it to an hour and a half. I kept a notebook next to my art table to write down any ideas I had during the day. Plus I had began my notebook in planning an outline for 2-3 months prior. A always had several new ideas to move on with each morning, and I grew more and more anxious to start each day. Once I began drafting, I completed my first draft in 4-6 months–just working that hour or so each morning. It doesn’t take all that long to write a draft once the planning stages are completed and you have a handle on craft. It’s the learning that takes time. Sometimes its own sweet time. After my wife’s work schedule changed, I kept up my routine because I had fallen in love.

    So I’ve come to think of determination as more important than the length of one’s creative schedule. It’s determination and a love of the creative process that makes it as immutable as breathing. If you have those two ingredients going for you, life eventually finds a way to make things happen. Just don’t quit like a smoker falling off the wagon, write like it is nourishment that you will die without. Maybe not a physical death, but a creative death can be even worse once it has gotten under your skin.

    So are you a production worker, or an artist who loves craft? Because you can keep on producing crap, or go through the pains of love, the discomfort, because you want the craft to be stronger and have your relationship with it to mean something more than a stack of pages accumulating each day…or floundering on Amazon because you had to meet you schedule to get it up there by the end of six months, or a year. I’m in agreement with Sara on backing off on the pressure while learning. How can you push ahead when you’re not entirely sure what you’re pushing for? That doesn’t mean you don’t put in the time and effort. Part of that time is feeding your brain and developing the relationship if you want it to last. You could rush into marriage and hope for the best, but isn’t the courting better if savored?

    You may even find the hours flying by and pages adding up quicker if you love spending time with your craft.

  14. Sara Davies

    Someone said don’t worry about what goes on the page, worry about what stays on the page. First draft is no time for perfectionism.

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