Thursday, September 02, 2010

Stupid Motivational Tricks (Ongoing Series?)

I've decided to browse old posts periodically at Stupid Motivational Tricks, both to get motivated and to find some provocations--ideas or tricks of the trade that I can use to put my writing back on track. When I have groups that interest me, I'll post them here, with or without commentary.

(The present / future tense is a Mayhew mode. It interests me.)

Since there are several clicks involved in linking each of these to its parent post, my inclination is to go without. If you want to track one down, go to the SMT blog and search for a phrase from the passage you like, or simply start at the top and scroll down. (I'm working my way backwards--am only around August 15 at the moment.)

I may change my mind about linkage as this goes on. And I may repost bits of these as questions I'll answer--writing prompts, in a sense--as the weeks go by.

Writing, unfortunately, is highly dependent on states of mind. That is kind of a curse, because having to be "in the mood" can eliminate 90% of times when you have a spare moment or a free afternoon to write. Moods can be triggered, however. The best way to enter a state conducive to writing is to begin writing. The right mood will kick in--or not--after you've started.
You want to seek out those flow states of intense concentration, cultivate that ability in yourself. But you don't want to be so dependent on those states that you can't work unless you are in the flow. The flow can't be your fetish. The flow comes more from habitual action than from random, muse-like inspiration. On days when the flow is completely absent, there is still plenty to do: correct format and bibliography, read over completed drafts of other chapters.
Do you want to be known as X's disciple, or as the Y's teacher? Do you see yourself as a theorist, a critic, or a scholar? Are you mainly an expert on Joyce or Twain, or on Ireland or Sweden? Do you define yourself by period or by theoretical approach?

In my case, I don't want disciples, nor to be known for whom I worked with. I'd like to be thought of as someone who defined the terms of the debate in my field, someone who raised the standard for what excellent work is in my subfield, and made this subfield relevant to those for whom it would otherwise not be so important.

I'm intrigued by this 16-Week Challenge, which was linked to on the SMT blog. It's designed to spur research and writing productivity, not least by making the progress systematic. Not sure the math is right for someone like me, on a quarter system. (10 week challenge?) Worth thinking about, however. What would my challenge parameters be?


If there's housework going on, I can't do academic work (writing, reading, you name it). When I hear housework, I stop what I'm doing and go clean, vacuum, tidy, scrub a bathroom, etc. This isn't a conscious decision; it's visceral. Years of training go into it, including a childhood of watching (and helping) my mother clean house while my father was off in his study, smoking and grading or reading.

This leaves me at the mercy of everyone else in the house, of course. But it's the bed I've made, and by god, I'm going to sleep in it. Or, in this case, go change the sheets.


Song o' the day? A lovely one by a short-lived "supergroup," Little Village:

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