When I interview authors, I always ask them what advice have they received and what advice would they give. The most common piece of advice is "Put your butt in the chair and write." Writing is a very solitary job with rejection lurking at the end of every page. So how do you keep motivated? How do you keep your butt in the chair? Here are some tips I've picked up for myself and from other people.
The creative muse can be very childish, and like a child, sometimes you have to bribe it into performing. Promise yourself a token of appreciation if you can just get this chapter done or mail that proposal off. The token can be anything from a walk in the sun with your dog to an hour of guilt-free Internet surfing to your favorite Starbucks diet-busting specialty coffee on the way home from the post office. Make the promise when you sit down and watch how that little incentive can get your fingers flying on the keyboard.
Writers get rejected. There's no way around it. Not everybody is going to think you're the second coming of Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth or Virginia Woolf. When I had my first play reading at a writer's conference nearly 20 years ago, five people got up and walked out halfway through. I was upset when I told my sister about it later. An actress, she had rejection in her life, too, but she put a positive spin on it. "At least you made them do something. You got a reaction."
A speaker at a conference told of a man who put every rejection slip he got up on the wall so he could see them when he worked. He wanted to paper the whole office because it showed how hard he was working. Another writer friend took that idea and modified it slightly. You've heard the saying "You've got to eat a peck of dirt before you die." She says you have to be rejected 100 times before you make a sale and she sees each rejection as taking her one step closer to her next sale.
Try to find the positive in every rejection. It isn't personal so turn it around and make it a motivating force in your writing life.
Identify Your Villain
I'm not talking about a character for your hero to battle in your next book. You need a villain in your writing life. Mine is a journalism professor who asked me to leave his magazine writing class because I was "only an English major" and didn't have the journalistic background for his class. So where have I sold most of my work? To magazines, and the kicker is that five years after that class, I was at a workshop where he was teaching. My work had begun appearing in local publications, and on a break between sessions, he sat down beside me and said he had been talking to an editor of a new magazine, then asked if he could give him my number. How do you like me now?
I truly believe that it is human nature, especially American human nature, to strive to prove somebody wrong. Find your villain - the one who doesn't believe in you - and use him or her to motivate you to keep your butt in that chair writing. Force him to believe with every publication you add to your résumé.