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A writer’s tools: Carrots, contests and chocolates

The ability to self-motivate is a skill most writers need to cultivate. Staring out a window or glaring at a blinking cursor can hypnotize a writer right into a blank page coma. And while sharpening twenty pencils might help some well-known writers, how many of us are able to realize a rite from a distraction? So what’s a writer to do? Well, a few well-placed carrots or a series of self-imposed deadlines can activate a dead butt-in-the-chair a lot faster than the promise of a chunk of chocolate at the end of a writing session. Okay, maybe not if it’s dark chocolate but you get my drift. Like many writers I spent a number of years using contest deadlines as a means to getting words on the page. Nothing fuels a white heat draft more than an approaching contest deadline—except maybe a publishing house contract. Suddenly the words pour out across the page and characters who’d absolutely refused to come out before now dance and prance all the while spouting monologues and sharpening dialogue. 

What else can be used? The gathering of two or three writers over manuscripts and coffee is a well-worn carrot. But, really, who goes to gather critiques when the opportunity to vent and rant and rave over coffee, lunch, or even drinks beckon? I don’t think I’ve ever made it to a writing meet-up yet that didn’t involve at least a half hour of kvetching. But after the buzz the pages come out and few folks want to be empty-handed. Trips and retreats are useful especially for those major goals. This year I’ve linked a couple of self-imposed draft deadlines to self-styled writing retreats where I’m meeting with two of my writing buddies. Since our agreed intention is to discuss our drafts, said drafts have to have been written and sent off before we gather. Not only have we linked accountability, but, because of the airfare we have a monetary investment to up the ante even more. The reward of an afternoon at a day spa on the last day is bubbling as a potential pay-off for work drafts delivered and work done. We all have times when the river of words dries up and pages refuse to come. Tell me, what do you do?

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