Motivate. The Sensei, the Clock and the Elevator (Oversized Edition)

I apologise in advance for the size of this post.

Today's second post is about motivation, success and beating procrastination, just making you (the little white plastic guy on the left) defy all laws of physics and, Inception-style, walk up that ginormous arrow on the tip of that red carpet.

At school this morning, I sat through three seminars given to the Year 11s by a presenter from Elevated Education. Her name was Carmen and she was a sixth-year law student. Her seminars on study skills for the next two years inspired me to adapt the hand-outs and information and stories I was fed today and change it into a blog post on writing and authors. So, going off how I was given this information, this post will be divided into three: The Sensei, The Clock, and The Elevator. I hope you get motivated or inspired yourself. This is really just a self-help book shrunken down into a cheesy post. So, without further ado...


I want you to imagine a pyramid, in fact, draw a triangle on a piece of paper. Now, draw three lines, dividing this triangle into three sections (a la food pyramid). At the bottom, write "Dead Poets Society". Then, "Become a Maestro". Then, "Play God". These are the subsections to The Sensei. Now, to reach the greatest writing potential possible for you, you should be doing all three of these steps.

1 Dead Poets Society. You have to take your seat before your metaphoric teacher - which, for this post, is Robin Williams. This subsection is something that you are continually throwing yourself into, even once you've reached the next subsections. You might already do it.

It started with your education at school, from the very first "What is a noun?" to the first "Identify the paradox" question. Now, it's that blog post you read by this informed blogger, or it's the article you stumbled across by so-and-so Bestselling author. It's every scrap of information on the book industry or on writing or on the English language that you pick up. Furthering your knowledge is an integral part of being an author. You must continually teach yourself. The more you know, the more you can put into your work. The better and more informed and more skills you will have to better your work.

Also, use your "syllabus". Now, unlike a high schooler, you don't have a table that says exactly what is examinable. So knowing your syllabus as a writer means knowing your genre, knowing your archetypes and your own personal peeves and desires. By simply taking a few notes on notable books of your genre - those bestsellers that you personally think are over rated. Take notes on what's cheesy, what doesn't work and what you know you could improve.

2 Become a Maestro. This is the subsection that takes the most amount of time. For me? It's taken six years. It varies from person to person. Really, what's going to happen is that you're going to write. You're going to take your knowledge, all that you're acquired from others, books and movies, and just be inspired. Start WIPs, abandon them. Keep writing and don't force yourself to endure a story or characters that you're not dedicated to. If you don't feel that connection, you won't last through revisions and a publishing process. A reader can tell a mile away if an author is invested in their story or not. So just write. Revisit the first subsection, keep practicing. Gain experience.

But the most important thing is that you persist. As that folder on your desktop of all your abandoned WIPs gets bigger and bigger - you need to know that you are talented. Even when you're researching and you're swamped with information and it's just not fitting...You are talented. If you keep going, if you keep writing and creating and will only get more and more talented than you already are. The more and more you persist, the more and more you pack yourself with knowledge and experience...Eventually, you will become the Al Pacino/De Niro/Clooney of writing. *wink*

3 Play God. Alright, so you have all of this amazing knowledge, this incredible experience. You know what characters you love, what approaches to your writing are more efficient. You've been churning through WIP after WIP, never able to finish. Or if you have finished, the thought of revising is just too much. But then it all changes. You take another blind stab at creating man and you strike gold.

An idea comes to you. Characters, plot, setting. It all falls into place and you realise that you are in love with your idea. If you could become betrothed to your idea, it would've happened two minutes ago.

This WIP becomes a relationship. You have these amazing times together, and you've never felt more emotionally attached to a work before. You've also had your downs, but unlike before, there has always been something that pulls you back. This WIP differentiates itself from all the ones before it in some inexplicable manner. The quotes are snappier, more in depth ideas are pouring from you - you didn't even know you could be so deep! - and all you can see in the future are possibilities. All your previous work, learning and practicing, have come together in this encore performance.


I know the excuse. Oh, I don't have time to write, to revise or even plan; I have work, I have schoolwork, I have to catch up on all my shows, I have to go overseas. The path of being a writer has no ultimatum to your other life. You don't need to pick one or the other. Instead of trying to take a break from one or the other...Plan your writing around your life.

Now, the three elements of the clock are three easy steps.

1 Find the time to do the work. Look at your priorities. Sure, you've got work or you've got school. But then look at what else there is. Facebook. Youtube surfing. TV shows that you're not even dedicated to. Blindly dialling friends because you're bored. Uh, why aren't you writing?

2 Doing the most important work, or, prioritising. You need to figure out what is really necessary for you to do and what isn't. Writing that fight scene you're dead scared of, you really need to do. Watching the Bourne Identity over and over because you're "researching", you don't. Now if you're forced to devote writing time sparingly, don't you think it'll be more productive for you to knuckle down and write the damn scene? (Hint: You should be nodding in agreement).

3 Reducing the work you do. Can you see how picking time for writing and only doing really productive activities during these time periods will reduce the work you do? If you had all the time in the world for your writing and you weren't forced to sit your butt down and get work done (real work), what would you be doing? Writing the fight scene or watching Matt Damon blow shit up? Answer honestly. Following those two steps will most definitely help kill a lot of procrastination.


Now, I'm going to need you to draw again. I want you to draw two more triangles, one small and the other twice its size. Label the smaller one: "The Average Aspiring Writer". Label the bigger one: "The Author". Now split the bigger triangle in half (horizontally), naming the top bit "My Very Favourite Gun" and the lower bit "The Magical Kernel".

The Magical Kernel. So, I guess a kernel is just another way of saying essentials. This is the foundations of the Elevator. So there are four parts to the Kernel: Beliefs, Goals, Planning and Hard Work.

1. Beliefs. I'm not necessarily talking about religious beliefs here. The beliefs of someone very close to the end of the track, close to making it to where we're all headed, believes three things.

i) there is no such thing as a naturally perfect writer. James Patterson, Stephen King and JK Rowling do not churn out perfect manuscripts. They still need their editors, they still need all the people necessary to create a book. And guess what? The first time around, they didn't get those people until they sold their book. That means that once upon a time, they were just like you. Where right where you are. Writing and struggling. Revising and struggling. Querying and struggling.

ii) it's never too late. I'm particularly addressing this to the young writers out there. I know how you feel. You read that some sixteen-year-old sold their novel and you think "Holy shit. Sixteen? I'm a failure at life. There is no chance that I'll ever amount to anything. I'll get old and no one will be interested in me". Seriously? I know that when you're young, everything could easily be the end of the world. It is never too late to be published. Unlike acting, etc., you don't need your looks to make it. Only your mind. (So, yes, I guess that once you've lost that, it is too late...) It doesn't matter whether you're published when you're fifteen or when you're fifty. That shouldn't be your goal - getting it done ASAP. No. Take as much time as it takes to create that perfect manuscript. You have all the time in the world.

iii) i can. I know, I know. A couple months ago, my friend's Mum starting reading self-help books. You know, the ones about "how you can help your child" and whatever. Yesterday was our tenth day of Year 11. Her Mum walks into the lounge room, positions herself between my friend and the TV and says: "You can do anything you want to do. You are capable and I believe in you. You can do it". Of course, my friend just said: "Yeah Mum, sure. You're blocking the TV. Bye Mum". But like it or not, her Mum was right. And you should pay attention to this. Are you ready? You sure? Okay. Here it is: you can do it. Again. You can do it. You can. You can. You can. You can.

Now, before I move on, something else on belief. Self-belief. Think about your aspirations to write that novel, to get it published. Now think of anything you can think of that makes you think: I can't. It could be that your characters have never been better than 2D, or that your dialogue has never sounded realistic, or your novel is riddled with plot holes. Got it? Now, it you say "I can't" to any of these points, you: 1) Won't try, and 2) Are sabotaging yourself. Now think to yourself: What do I need to do to fix this? You need to revisit things I've already talked about. Educating yourself in your weak field, practicing, and then executing and writing that killer example. Remember, you can.

2. Goals.

There are a lot of reasons to set goals. For one, they work. They really do. They make you focus and they make you motivated. But your goals should be written down and they should specific. By writing them down, make a list. All your goals. Your most important goal. If you want to finish the best book in you, then write that down. If you want to be published, write that down. Now, put those goals up everywhere. On the shower glass. On the back of your door. On the ceiling of your bedroom. On your car dashboard.

Here's a brief story. There's this boy, Rob Cannon Paris Bartlett III, who attended one of those prestigious schools. For his eighteenth birthday, his parents bought him a Porsche and let him customise his number-plates. He put RCPB 97. He was going to score a 97 in his HSC (End of school exams). When he went out to the car in the morning, he'd see it and think "97. That's my mark". When the valet took it in the school lot, he looked at it and thought "97". When he drove home and got out, he'd look back and think "97". What mark did he get? 97.

3. Planning.

So you have your goal. Let's say that it's make it to the NYT Bestseller List. What I want you to do is break down your goal into smaller goals. For this goal, it might be finish book, revise book, finish revisions, get an agent, further revisions, sell the book, work butt off to create best version, make the list. Now, imagine Mt. Everest. Big-ass mountain, kay? Now, all up the mountain, there are camps, check points. Think of your BIG GOAL as the peak. Now all the smaller goals are the camps. Don't look at the peak. Focus on the next camp. Just get to the next camp. And then keep going until there's nothing else in front of you.

The great thing about planning out your goals is that it releases pressure and allows you to shine. Let's revisit out NYT Bestseller List. The thought of creating a novel that's good enough to make the list is daunting, it's scary, it's a lot of pressure. Now look at the mini-goals I put down in the paragraph above. See all the revisions? Now, think about making a book agent-ready. Not NYT ready. Agent ready. Remember, you're going to have revisions after that with their ideas as well. At the moment, all you need to think about is you. Not your editor, or your team at Insert Publishing Company, or the general public. You, first. Then, your agent. An agent will invest in a book they believe in, an idea they believe in. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be the best thing since sliced bread in regard to grammar. There are some bestselling authors who are atrocious with their grammar. Remember: you love your novel. Someone else out there will love your novel.

I thank any of your who made it this far. Three seminars in one post is ENORMOUS. But I don't know if I'm really the Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3 type. If you made it all the way through, I hope all of this information helped.

If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below. Any advice, any personal experiences. And remember guys, we're all a community of writers, and we need to remind each other that we can all do it. You can do it.


Madeline at: February 10, 2011 at 3:16 PM said...

This was fantastic, thank you so much! One thing I'm struggling with right now is the characterization process is taking so long. Thanks for reminding me I have all the time in the world. ;) I have nothing else to add, I loved this! Very inspirational. :D

M Pax at: February 11, 2011 at 8:12 AM said...

I hope they love it.

Fantastic information. Thanks for takiing the time to share it.

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