Thursday, August 05, 2010

The carrot or the stick?

Oh, yeah, babe, a chocolate keyboard like the one here is EXACTLY what will make me BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard.)

On the other hand, I might be eating the keys instead of pounding them. So, hmh, that sounds like a less than optimum solution there.

While the spectre of breach of contract and being sued by a major publisher will get me to the keyboard every time, it doesn't make the creative juices flow or inspire me to whistle while I work. I wind up with the exact same work attitude as the recalcitrant old mule who has been dragged to the field only to sit down on his haunches, refusing to budge.

More positive motivations, the aforementioned carrot (or more aptly put for writers, the Hershey bar)?

Reading a good book: Almost nothing inspires me more than reading a book that moves me, a story that makes me see writing done right. Recently I read THE HUNGER GAMES at near gunpoint (yes, there are only two other people in the world that haven't read it), and despite my hesitation about the premise, I read it in one gulp and came away in awe. How had Suzanne Collins hooked me, a cynical writer-type who is past jaded? It excited me and made me want to polish up my own tricks.

Reading an awful book: This is the "almost nothing more" situation -- the only thing that inspires me to write more than a good book is a bad one. I read a bit of it, bang it against my forehead, read a few more pages, bang my head again ... and I think, "Self, you could write a better story than this. You HAVE written a better story than this." It sends me straight to the computer to prove to the world and to myself that I can and will write a better story.

(I feel at this point the urge to insert this caveat: I am fully aware that readers have used my very own books as aforementioned inspiration. Not all readers like all books, and as a published author, I can admit that not every book an author writes is one she is completely proud of. Sometimes it's just a miss, but I've done my best, my editor says it's approved, and so I cash the advance check anyway.)

Talking about writing: For me, whenever I get a chance to run my mouth about writing, I come away enthusiastic and pumped up, like a runner in a athletic shoe shop. With other writers, I feel understood and not like a long lost puppy who's really a kitty and doesn't know it. So writing conferences, writers groups, or just a bunch of writers meeting for a cup of coffee can serve to get me revived on writing.

Paying it forward: Helping newbie writers always reminds me why I fell in love with writing in the first place. I think it's sort of like how parents view the world through the eyes of their children -- yeah, they see the mistakes that can be made and the foolish ideas, but they also see the innocence, the joie de vivre, the excitement that they too experienced in a past lifetime.

Published authors have to be really careful not to sound like they have the market cornered on the Gospel Truth of Getting Published (because we don't) and they have to remember that their first obligation is to their families and their legal binding contracts (BREACH OF CONTRACT! AAACK! Away from me!)

But we can still pay it forward in small ways -- in random acts of kindness. Because really, when we're paying it forward, we're refilling our own motivation tank -- or at least I am.


Al said...

Reading a great book is such a pleasure, it makes up for any number of bad books. (well almost any number of bad books)

Piedmont Writer said...

(There are 3 other people in the world who haven't read HUNGER GAMES or TWILIGHT.)

I can't read good books for inspiration because then I come away with the "I suck"s. So I read bad books. I have one in particular that I particularly throw against the wall by the fifth chapter so it's kind of a fun read for me.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I just finished a bad book (yeah, I have to finish the books I start, even when they stink. I'm bull-headed that way :P), and it definitely boosted my self-confidence. I've started reading a great book and I'm inspired to write. All I need now is a chocolate keyboard...

Happy writing!

Lickety Splitter said...

OMG, is that marshmallows for the alphabet keys? I love marshmallows!

Sometimes books are so good I wish I could eat them like the tasty morsels they are. Others remind me of my first taste of a wasabi peas -- oooh that's hot, ooooh spit that out.

I was just thinking about the differences in people's reading preferences. This past week, my friend loaned me "South of Broad" by Pat Conroy. She loves his writing. I love his very descriptive style, but I find it sort of tiresome after about 100 pages. And Stephen King isn't everyone's cup of tea (and isn't always mine), but I practically devoured his book "Duma Key" the other week. Who knows why we love what we love.

Jessica said...

I'm with @ Piedmont Writer - when I read a really, really good book it does make me feel inept... but I'll add this, I've noticed it's when I read a really, really good book whose author has a style very dissimilar to my own. Flowery and eloquent I am not, so if I read that I immediately wonder if I should use their words instead of mine. The answer? NO. Use my own words, that I would say. Every time. ;)

Kelly Breakey said...

Just so you know you pay it forward every day when you publish to your blog and give us a little bit of a push southern style. Your blog is a must read for me and I am so glad we got to know each other through this medium we know as twitter.

kristina said...

Great carrot vs the stick imagery! I'm more of a fan of carrots, myself. It seems the older I get, the less patience I have for books that don't engage me. Remember "The Shipping News"? I just couldn't get over the funky punctuation in that one - so even tho I actually really liked the novel, I had to set it down. Just got too "sticky" for me.

Thanks for reminding me of the value of a good book for us as readers AND writers. Think I'll go read some Kingsolver now. Lover her voices. :)

Jamie D. said...

I haven't read "The Hunger Games" either, (or Twilight), and have no plans there may be more of us than you think. ;-)

And I really want that keyboard...

I have issues similar to yours both with my day job, and with ms's I'm trying to prepare for submission. It feels more like work some days than fun (well, the day job always feels like work anymore).

It helps me a lot to talk to my published friends, and know they're going through the same thing, made worse by deadlines & contracts. That keeps me grounded by reminding me that writing is still work, and not just this surreal "perfect" career that we unpublished tend to romanticize it as. That normally gets my head back in the right space for "work", and I tarry on.

Lola Sharp said...

I agree. Paying it forward is very important in all areas of our lives, including among writers. Daily good deeds make us all richer.

And, um...I WANT THAT KEYBOARD! Yum. Double yum.

Lovely post, Cynthia.
Happy Thursday!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Love, love this post!

I just started reading Hunger Games - it is AMAZING.

Under talking about writing, attending a conference with amazing writing talent also gets you juiced like no other.

Time to hit the keyboard...

Donna Hosie said...

Love this post because it is wonderfully positive and has the best image I have ever seen!