Be Accountable … to Yourself
Jack London reputedly locked himself in a room for three days and came out with the completed manuscript of CALL OF THE WILD. His family was destitute with no food in the house. He was motivated by desperation. I know of a struggling screenwriter who devotes a Friday evening through Monday morning to the first draft of a new screenplay then spends the next three months polishing it. Author Nora Roberts pounds out a novel just about every month and Diana Gabaldon takes years to release one of her lengthy, detail-rich tomes.
Most of us can identify with any of these examples in one way or another. Why? Because creativity boils down to motivation, the need to translate what’s in the mind to a tangible form.
Here are some critical questions to ask yourself:
- What motivates me?
- How strongly am I motivated to make writing a priority?
- Am I willing to discipline myself day in and day out to attain a goal?
- When critical life issues intervene, am I capable of mentally adjusting and getting back on track?
- What part of my writing process and daily routine beats me down with its drudgery . . . when I would rather be writing?
Who wouldn’t love to be financially successful enough to pay a personal assistant to the handle the tedious tasks like research, social networking, marketing details, bookwork and < groan> line editing. Most of us must look to those matters on our own. And it can all become daunting . . . unless you can joyfully play the Accountability Game. Yes, I called it a game.
Remember the thrill when you FIRST realized you could write? Most of us knew we had a lot to learn but the “fire in the belly” excited us every time we poured words onto a page. However, reality eventually intervened. Rare is the writer who has never grown tired of the demands of the art form. We found out we can never let our guard down when it comes to those elementary school Rules of Grammar. As we became more competent and stretched ourselves we discovered the Rules of Storytelling necessary for a story to be understood. And when we were introduced to marketing our work, we encountered Genre Rules (as in the expectations of readers who are devout aficionados of a specific genre). Day in-day out attention to all this has been known to chip away at a writer’s initial enthusiasm, but it doesn’t have to. If you want to play the game badly enough.
Remember that adage “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” When we turn our motivation toward the light of knowledge every single day, we can be like a morning glory flower opening to the revitalizing sun. We can race through the drudgery–the I-have-to-do-this stuff–to play with words once again.
You will never know everything about your craft (or about life itself, for that matter) and therein is the perpetual challenge of the Accountability Game. You must honor the life force within you screaming to create. You must perpetually learn, discipline your foibles and excuses, and identify what motivates you in order to play your word game.
You can do it if you want to do it badly enough. Perhaps you aren’t destitute like Jack London or as driven to be as prolific as Nora Roberts, but does that matter? What really matters is that only you can tell your stories. No one else can. Acceptance of your own Accountability Game status readies you to move into the next phase: Taking control of your writing as if it is a pragmatic business and actually enjoying that challenge, too.
Coming up in February for FF&P, I am offering my course, “The Business of Writing” that addresses the steps of this process. Here is where the tenuous amateur turns into the determined professional. Here is where the Accountability Game takes a serious turn that demands another round of learning, self-discipline and self-examination. Are you ready to play?