During my days covering business I was present at a Zig Ziglar motivational speech when he said something like this: there comes a time when people seek motivation, and will go to meetings and seminars again and again. He said attending seminars and conferences inspires and educates. Successful people do it often, just like washing their hair.
I did not quite know what to make of that until some time later, when I thought about it in terms of of my breakthrough moments as a writer. One was realizing I had to write every day. The other was I had to finish a manuscript. The big one was giving my work to others to read. I needed the support and criticism of others, in writers groups. writers forums, beta readers, or trusted editors. I needed to be motivated in order to make those breakthroughs. It came from reading authors I trusted and the advice they gave: Stephen King’s “On Writing” or Roy Peter Clark’s “Writing Tools” or Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird.”
Writing is a process, and the one that tears at me is the part that is turning the work over to someone to copy edit, critique, provide feedback or guidance.
I should be used to all of this by now. All throughout my newspaper career, I have had my work edited and proofed, the stories I had written or the pages I designed marked in red, the mistakes pointed out, the suggestions offered. Even now, I die a little when those pages come back, but I know it’s part of the process, and it is essential in order to produce a good newspaper.
It’s the same when it comes to the realm of creative writing. It’s tough to get the manuscript back and read the notes, but good and trusted readers, advisers and editors honor that trust. My detective novel is now in the hands of an editor. I know a little piece of me will die when I receive the notes, but I will recover.
Still, sometimes it takes some motivation to get through it all, day after day, project after project. So I lather, rinse, repeat: King, Clark. Lamott. Like Zig Ziglar beseeching his business brethren, these books and others motivate me, set me right and prepare me to get back to work in the knowledge I will endure the small deaths we all go through in order to rise and write another day.