It’s time for another question. An interesting one from Sheila…
Are you an artist/illustrator/teacher/caricature artist? What motivates you to be creative? What do you do when you’re stuck?
A lot of writers talk about writer’s block. I think it goes so much deeper than that. I really like this question because it’s not just how do you avoid writer’s block, or any kind of creative block, but what pushes me to do all this in the first place. Very interesting!
First, no. I am not a creative person by nature. I was a nerd growing up. I excelled in math and always loved reading, but ask me to do an art project and you wouldn’t be able to tell which one was mine and which came from a child. I never thought I was creative because I didn’t have talent for art. My sister is an artist, a very talented one, and I was never nearly as good as she was.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that creativity is different than art. I am creative, but I don’t have the talent to put that into a work of art, such as a painting or a sculpture or a light display like my sister does. I do have the talent to put my creativity into a written form, and I do enjoy art on the computer. I design my own books covers and I love doing it. It’s a different outlet for me that I’ve really enjoyed learning.
Do I consider myself an artist? I guess I could be stretched to say yes. I’m an artist of the written word, and I think I’d enjoy graphic design, but I have no training. Just don’t hand me paint brushes. Seriously, I think my kids’ artwork, at six and eight, is better than mine!
Motivation… That’s a tough one. I’m a big believer in intrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from within – and extrinsic motivation – motivation driven by outside forces. I love my job, that’s my intrinsic motivation. I’m very fortunate that I have a career that is so enjoyable for me. I do have days where I want to read or watch Netflix all day. And there are days I do exactly that.
When I was going through chemo, I had a huge issue getting Bulky & Beauteous written. I started writing it shortly before I was diagnosed, and I couldn’t finish it until after I’d finished treatment. I tried to write, and constantly told myself I was busy, but I know there was a part of me that figured there was no point if I wasn’t going to be around to finish it. I knew I wanted to write, but there was something stopping me.
I’m in remission now, and I’m ready to work. I want to get the stories in my head out onto my computer so I can share them. That’s the extrinsic part of my motivation. My readers. I save comments from readers. If you send me an email that says how much you loved my book, or how excited you are to read what’s coming, or how something I wrote really connected with you, I save it. If I’m really feeling down and struggling to get moving again, I read those emails. I remind myself of my readers, the people who keep coming back for my books, the people who love my characters as much as I do, and it helps motivate me to get back into it.
Once the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators start to work their magic, the task before me can seem daunting. A 90,000 word novel is huge when I’m staring at a blank page. That’s when I get stuck. But forty-five minutes to write while my daughter is in gymnastics is manageable. Even ten minutes, or five, can get me started. Usually I find myself getting sucked in and I want to do more, but that can only happen if I start with those five or ten minutes. I’m always working on something, but if the scene I’m writing isn’t fleshed out enough that I feel confident writing it, I’ll write a scene that has already played in my head. It’s about getting something done, even if it gets scrapped later. I’ve learned to start small and accept it, because small parts add up in a hurry!
Now tell me, where do you find your motivation?
Thanks so much, Sheila, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!