Wednesday 24 February 2021

The Major Components of Motivation, by Saviour Pirotta

I have to admit that, like many others I've found the three lockdowns very difficult to deal with. I'd assumed that if I had no distractions, no school visits, no flea markets and charity shops to waste precious writing time in and - most importantly, no money worries - I would sit in my garden or my office and tap away on my macbook like the mean, lean writing machine I know I can be.

Nothing could have turned out further from the truth. I very quickly discovered that my house is a minefield of procrastinating opportunities. Bread to bake, seeds to sew, plants to water and grow, furniture to restore, an attic to sort out, ephemera collections to catalogue. The list was endless. To make matters worse, publishing schedules were put on hold, deadlines pushed back. Suddenly there seemed to be no urgency to keep to a tight writing schedules or a timetable.

I also missed the contact with school children and the chance to bounce my ideas off them. I missed my frequent research trips abroad from whence I returned buzzing with ideas and notebooks full of sketches and notes. As month after month of procrastination rolled by, I decided to pull myself up by the bootstraps, knuckle down and tackle one of the pet projects that I'd put aside for years in favour of more bread and butter work.

To get me through, I adopted a three-pronged motivation approach from my gym days:


This is the decision to put aside thinking about the project and to actually START working on the project. To go past the 'that would make a brilliant story' stage. Give yourself a deadline. See the finished result in your head. Visualise the merits. See the book in the shops, in libraries. Visualise yourself showing it off at festivals, in schools. 

Gather all the bits you have so far. A mood board, notes, cuttings from papers and magazines, printouts off the internet. I collate mine in a scrapbook. Treasure that scrapbook. Make it your best friend. I haul mine around withe me (yes, I even took it to the Scarborough Rugby Club where I had my first covid vaccine.) I paste things in it, I make it look pretty.

Write the name of your project along the top of an A4 sheet of paper. And a pair of footsteps at the bottom. Draw another pair, getting closer to the name (the goal) every time your work on your project. 


There's always that Eureka moment when you see something or hear something or read about something that gives you an idea. And there's the rush that follows as you start jotting down ideas. This usually happens to me on trips abroad. I see something in a museum and - ping - my imagination goes into overdrive.

Then other things in life take precedence - that contracted book you have to finish, those school visits you have to plan for - and the vision starts to fade. This is where persistence comes in. Keep on working on the project. Make little steps towards the goal. It might be reading up on the subject at the heart of the story, making a character sketch. It might not be much as things go but it takes you further along the path. Persist! Your motivation will grow stronger with each step.


At some point the motivation will become so strong, you will move the project from the back burner to the forefront. As those footsteps get you closer to the goal, break into a run. Focus on the golden apple on the tree and pelt towards it. Drop everything else. Ignore the pain. I stop cooking, stop reading anything unconnected to the project, sometimes I even miss sleep. But boy is it worth it when your hands close around the golden apple and you find you have reached your goal. 

It's mad being a writer sometimes so I hope this helps.

Saviour Pirotta's third book in the Wolfsong series is out now. It's called The Mysterious Island.  It's also available as an audiobook on the cloudaloud app. Firebird comes out on kindle on the 28th Feb. Follow Saviour on @spirotta and on instagram @saviour2858. 


Moira Butterfield said...

Boy did I need this! Thank you. Going to the garden centre now for a scrapbook or two (currently rating as an exciting trip out)!

Saviour Pirotta said...

Glad to be of help, Moira. I know how you feel about going to the garden centre. I keep nipping out to the Yorkshire Trading Company for bits and pieces but mainly to be able to say hello to someone, usually the cashier.

Gaurav said...
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Sue Purkiss said...

Excellent advice!

Anne Booth said...

Great advice!

Saviour Pirotta said...

Thanks, Anne. Hope you had a nice birthday.