"Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint" -- blah, blah, blah. I've heard it before. Doubtless you have as well.
I'm on marathon mile ten ... no, that's far too optimistic: it's more like mile six ... and I'm walking. I've been walking since mile four. Jog? Run? Run a marathon -- who needs that? Pfft.
I am, perhaps, feeling a little jaded.
Getting to mile marker four was exhilarating. The impetus to get started was strong. But now I have to start wondering what's going to be the impetus to keep going. Because frankly this walking-the-marathon thing is getting old and the Dunkin Donuts along the marathon route is singing its siren song of frosted, fatty goodness.
So my question today is not what gets you writing, but what keeps you writing?
Recently one of my friends said she needed to think of some big, dreaded punishment for not achieving her February writing goals. I instantly thought of a tip I'd read about in No Plot? No Problem! for people who don't do their best work when working to "improve themselves" but when they're working to avoid a negative consequence like unemployment.
The tip says, set a firm goal and then write out a check to an organization or charity that you firmly disagree with. Forward date the check for the end of the month, and give it to a friend you trust to not let you off the hook. Tell your friend that if, at the end of the month, you've not hit your goal, your friend is to mail that check. If you do make your goal, your friend gives you back the check and you get to rip it up into tiny confetti flakes of joy to shower over both of you for your awesomeness.
The idea isn't to write out such a big check that it bankrupts you or causes you to get behind on the rent -- this isn't supposed to be a financial burden -- but that you make it a large enough amount that you'd really regret sending it to (for example) the NRA if you're a peacenick, or Planned Parenthood if you're a prolifer.
I didn't actually think my friend would embrace the idea; it's always seemed a little drastic to me. And frankly, I don't have enough cash on hand to give to charities I like let alone send punishment cash to ones I don't like. So when she wandered away from her computer where we were chatting and I thought nothing of it. She came back twenty minutes later and told me it was done.
She'd written out a check to the presidential candidate she absolutely won't vote for and had handed it over to her roommate.
She was locked in. Ready to do or die. Or at least ready to do or donate.
I was impressed.
So far I'm just using "check ins" with my writing friends to try and keep myself going. Every two weeks we chat primarily to discuss what we've accomplished and where we're going. We set goals and then feel guilty if we don't achieve them. However the guilt works best when one of us achieves the goal, because if neither of us achieves the goal then it's a bit more like a slacker's club.
Photo by koalazymonkeyon flickr.