I've mentioned here before that I am a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) not a plotter (plan the whole story ahead.) But that's not entirely the case. The vital thing I need to know before I start a story are my characters' inner workings. I need to KNOW them. All the good stuff. All the ugly stuff. Like a therapist doing a an in depth history. Otherwise, I inevitably hit writer's block early on. I'm character-driven and need to know how they'll react in a situation, what their motivations are, what happened in their past to create who they are today. And one way I get to know them is by figuring out their motto. I learned this trick from one of Michael Hauge's classes. His character stuff is the main structure I go to for developing my characters. I've used it for years.
So, for instance, in my current work in progress, my heroine's motto is "Get them before they get me." Now, that's not the healthiest outlook, and it's creating some problems for her. But it helps me to know how she's going to react when thrown into a scene. For her, that often means she's mean and defensive. That, of course, will have to change if she wants her happy ending. But now I know what her internal journey is going to involve. How can she get past that fear of being hurt again? What does she need to do to get there?
But as I've gotten into the habit of doing this exercise for my characters, I realized it can be a helpful exercise for real life, too. We all have mottos that probably guide us on a large, life level. Everything happens for a reason. Go into things with an open heart. Let go and let God. Live and let live. YOLO. Whatever it is, it's our outlook on life. That's not what I'm talking about today. Those are big and hard to change. But there are other layers of our life where mottos or mantras can come into play--smaller ones that maybe characterize what you want your year to look like, how you want to approach your business, how you want to parent.
As I've talked about recently, 2015 was a stressful year for me. So I've spent a lot of time trying to get 2016 off to a better, calmer, more organized start. And in doing that, I realized that I've picked some little mantras to keep me on track this year. These aren't ones I created myself but things I've read elsewhere and that resonated with me enough that I wrote it down and pinned it to my computer monitor.
My keep-me-sane Mottos for 2016
If the answer isn't "Hell yes!", it's no.
I can't find the original source for the quote, but it's everywhere. And this is in direct contrast to what I've been doing for the last few years to build my career. When you're starting out, you feel the need to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Do you want to guest blog? Do you want to speak at our meeting? Do you want to be in our anthology? Do you want to add short stories to your books? Do you want to try to write more books this year? Yes! Yes! Yes! However, as you get busier and busier over time, this ends up running you into the ground and burning you out. So, my goal this year is to only say yes to the things that really excite me and move the needle on my career. I don't want to get burnt out. And I don't want to end up filling time that could be used for things like writing more books with things that maybe are just time fillers.
Would I say yes if it were tomorrow?
Angela James brought this one up to me when I mentioned the first one. This is a good add on. When someone asks you to do something for a future date, ask yourself, would you want to do it tomorrow? This resonated with me because, like I said, I have a habit of wanting to say yes to everything. And it's especially easy to say yes to things for Future Roni. Present Roni doesn't have to worry about that right now. I can be a total a**hole to future Roni, loading up her schedule without thinking about how she might feel. Then when the day of whatever commitment finally gets there, I'm buried in deadlines or worn out or just wanting to have family time, and now there's this thing that I committed to doing and am now dreading. No more. If I think I'm going to dread something later on, if I wouldn't be excited about doing it tomorrow, I'm not going to add it to my schedule. (This of course only applies to optional things. Obviously, we all have things we dread doing that we MUST do despite the I-don't-wanna's.)
Frustration is a fundamental step in the creative process.
No matter how many books I've written, I think the idealist in me still expects the next one to go smoothly. This time it's going to be different! The words are just going to fall on the page! Maybe it's like childbirth. You have to forget the pain from the previous one in order to go forward with another one without abject terror. But I have to accept that writing is always going to be hard. In fact, it gets harder every time because I learn more and raise the expectations on myself. Frustration is part of the deal. And Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, goes even further to say "Frustration is the process." I need to remind myself of that when I inevitably start to struggle with a story.
So those are my three. Not life mottos per se but business, keep-me-sane mottos for this year. And I've already used them. And I can tell you, it's not easy. I still have the kneejerk reaction of wanting to say yes to everything. I'm a work in progress. :)
Do you have any quotes or mottos that keep you focused or that characterize your year?