I’m often fascinated by the psychology behind the way we do things, usually because there are all sorts of parallels between other things and writing.
Case in point: I was recently pointed towards Gretchen Reynold’s article about exercise while perusing Lifehacker, and was immediately struck by the similarities between the way she talked about regular exercise routines and the way I think about submitting short stories.
Endurance…fades if you skip exercising for too many days in a row. The same is true, sadly, with motivation. In study after study, researchers have found that one of the primary reasons people continue exercising is that they enjoyed yesterday’s exercise or the exertions of the day before; they felt healthier and more physically masterful afterward and wish to relive that sensation. Longer periods between exercise sessions potentially could dull that enthusiasm.
Now one look at my somewhat portly figure should tell you everything you need to know about the relationship between me and exercise, but that’s not why I latched onto this quote. ‘Cause it articulates something I’ve never really been able to nail down.
See, ever since I started submitting stories again, I’ve kinda noticed that things are…better. Over the last week or so I’ve been writing more, blogging regularly, and generally rocking my day-job with a little more energy than I had.
This isn’t a surprise; I knew this response would happen, ’cause I’ve been through this cycle before. When I’m not submitting work, I get all lethargic and it’s actually harder to start making things happen. The moment I get back into the habit of sending work out, things pick up speed. Submitting work begets more short-story submissions, which in turn begets more writing.
The longer I go between submitting stories, the harder it is to focus on writing. After fifteen plus years doing this, the act of putting words on a page for their own sake isn’t what gives me a charge (I know how easy it is to write without moving forward; it’s the latter that I’m chasing). Even having work accepted and published lacks the kind of energy that’ll keep me going, since that’s one of those aspects of the job that’s out of my control (outside of submitting the best work I can to the right markets).
Submitting new work is the thing that makes me feel productive and in control of my career, and it’s the sensation I want to relieve on a regular basis. Like most short-story writers, it’s one of those things I find hard to give up – the stretches where I’m submitting nothing, even if they’re filled with work on longer-form novellas or novel drafts, feel like dead spots in my writing calendar.
So, how about you guys? What are the psychological hot-spots that make you feel like you’ve got momentum and control over the things you love doing?