On Sunday afternoon, Sarah and I went to see YA author Carrie Ryan speak at our local Joseph-Beth bookstore. She was cute, eloquent, and engaging. No “um”s (maybe because she used to be a lawyer?), just lots of honesty and wit. She didn’t try to spin her story as a fairytale, full of suffering and magic. She said, “This might sound kind of obvious, because it is, but I realized that the one thing I had to do in order to become a writer was… sit down and write.”

Carrie Ryan 014 Carrie Ryan 018
(You get 2 pics because the one of us is blurry, so it has to stay small.)

After we got our books signed, Sarah and I headed over to Joseph-Beth’s café, Brontë, to chit and chat. At some point Sarah said, “You know, Kristan, sometimes I get really frustrated with you. I want to read more of your story — now! But I know I can’t say anything because you’re so self-motivated. My whining and threatening won’t make a difference.”

My first reaction was, PSCHAW. Me? Self-motivated? What was she smoking?

But after I thought about it, I realized she was right. I had been focusing on the “motivated” part, because although I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 9 years old, I’m really good at wasting time, and thus I don’t feel qualified to be called motivated. But Sarah was talking about the “self-” part. She was saying that no one can make me work, no one can push or pull or pressure me into being productive. I either will or I won’t.

(Sarah calls it self-motivated. My mother calls it stubborn.)

I’ve heard variations of those two things before, but that night they finally clicked. Carrie Ryan’s “sit down and write” and Sarah’s “self-motivated.” They bounced around in my brain as I walked my dog, as I showered, as I slept. They looked me in the eye and they said, It’s all up to you. They wouldn’t let me hide anymore.

So. On Monday I said to myself, “From 10 to 11, you will write.” And I did. I wrote 600 words that morning, and another 1700 words that afternoon. 2300 words in one day! The last time I did that, I was sitting at Panera nursing a Five Hour Energy and a pins-and-needles exhaustion, with the name St. Martin’s Press flashing red behind my eyes.

Today I have written over 1000 words again. Tomorrow, who knows. Every time I think I’ve found The Method for me, it breaks. So I’m not holding my breath. I’m just going to ride this spree as long as I can, and be grateful for it. And if/when it ends, I’m going to remind myself that it’s okay. That I will find some other method. That I am self-motivated. That I just have to sit down and write.

12 responses to “Self-motivated”

  1. jmanni32 Avatar

    Simple yet excellent advice I know. And someone like Carrie Ryan makes it sound so easy (a lawyer AND a writer? come on!). But it really is that simple: just sit down and write. The ideas are all up there, waiting on us to let them out. We just have to take the time to do it. Congrats on your writing success, and here’s wishing you many more 1,000+ days!

  2. T.S. Bazelli Avatar

    I find that thinking about the people waiting for the story makes me write faster, but you’re right, no one can make you actually set down and do it but you. I’ve been so tempted to stop the last few days, but I know if I do I’ll lose momentum.

    Go you! You can keep it up. I know you can :)

  3. Sonja Avatar

    “sit down and write”

    “frustrated with you”

    Hmm, why haven’t I ever said anything like that to you? Oh, wait…


  4. Shari Avatar

    “Sit down and write” … such simple advice, but so profound at the same time. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we set our minds to it. Your writing spree is proof of that! :)

  5. Sarah Avatar

    Um, I totally benefited from all this too–your story! 2300 words (or less) for my greedy eyes. Her advice hit home for me too…I won’t forget that.

  6. Les Avatar

    I’m the most unmotivated person in the world, sometimes it takes quite a kick to get me going so you’re lucky ;)

  7. E.J. Apostrophe Avatar

    Kristan, there isn’t any magic wand to automagically produce your book. You just need to cut open your vein and bleed unto the pages. Writing is the most beautiful art in the world and to be able to share your art with others is the highest calling and responsibility.

    With the above commentary in mind, I would like to present to you Brian Clark’s 10 steps to Become a Better Writer if I may:

  8. Kristan Avatar

    It’s always easier said than done, isn’t it? And yet it’s never quite as hard as we think. ;)

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    It’s a positive feedback loop. I write more; y’all ask more questions (and maybe gush a bit); I get excited; I write more! :D

    LOL! Love it, thank you for sharing.

  9. Meghan Ward Avatar

    We all need to sit down and write more! The social media stuff is important, but not as important as writing good work. I am guilty of spending too much time online, and I don’t feel I spend nearly as much time as a lot of bloggers do.

  10. Joelle Avatar

    “That I just have to sit down and write.” So very true.

  11. Natalia Sylvester Avatar

    I love your take on self-motivated. It reminds me a lot of what I tell myself when I’m feeling like I can’t take another day of waking up extra early so I can write: “If you want it to happen, make it happen.” No one else is going to do it for us, so we gotta push ourselves if we really, truly want it.

    And of course, it always helps to read about other writers making it happen. 2300 words in one day? Go you!

  12. Sherrie Petersen Avatar

    2300 in one day is awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever written that much in a day. I’m such a slow writer. But we all plug along. Keep it up!