There are many motivations people have for sitting down to write: to express frustration, to describe something beautiful, to record ideas and concepts for posterity. I made a short video a while back entitled Fiction as Light which touched on some of the reasons why I write. But as far as the day to day motivation, sometimes the big picture is hard to see and you have to find practical, nose-to-the-grindstone reasons for hacking out another thousand words or editing and re-working that chapter for the fifth time.
Right now I’m knee deep in the first draft of my next book. And for me, writing as I do using the software program “Scrivener” (which I wrote about in this post), one of my secret weapons in the battle to stay motivated and to soldier on is the “Project Target” window, but which for me might be more aptly called “The Motivator”. It looks like this:
I discovered this little gem while writing my second book and it’s been such a great tool to keep me on track with my writing goals. Here’s how it works.
A Far Green Country
For most of my novels I set a goal of 100,000 words. So far I have not been able to stay under this, but it’s more of a ballpark figure, really. My progress towards that goal is displayed on the top line, “Manuscript Target”. The color of the line as well as the length let me know how I’m doing. The color starts off a very dismal and threatening red and gradually (very very gradually) shifts over time to amber, burnt yellow, chartreuse, and finally ends up a glorious and verdant green when the project is complete. That shade of green is especially dear, more precious than emeralds to behold.
The second line, which is titled, “Session Target”, tracks my progress for an individual session of continuous writing. I generally do all my writing in a single sitting per day. I don’t actually set specific goals for this because I like to keep things flexible, but I generally try for a thousand words. Seeing the word count accumulate for the session is just one more way to gauge my progress and keep me motivated.
Hitting the “Options” button lets you choose when the session count will reset (mine is set to the default which is midnight). Speaking of options, you can set a hard deadline if you want to, which I suppose would be helpful if you were in school. You can also tweet out your progress to your followers if you choose to.
I think most word processors have a word count and before I discovered “The Motivator” that was what I went by, but there’s something more concrete about having a visual representation. That little green bar becomes the elusive golden fleece and each word becomes a step towards achieving it. Certainly this is not the only tool I use for day to day motivation, but it’s certainly one of the more prominent ones.
It’s a long journey, this crafting of novels and tomes, but sometimes a simple little thing like a splash of color can ease the inevitable bumps that occur along the road and spur you on towards that shining city in the distance.