2010-01-02 11:39 pm

What Drives Me...or Why I'll Probably Be a Better Writer Than an Economist

Justine Musk:
In his book on human motivation – titled, conveniently enough, DRIVE — Daniel Pink notes that “intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.” (He goes on to explain that as soon as you’re paid for creative work, what started out as ‘play’ begins to feel like “work”, which takes away the sense of autonomy that we need and crave. This wipes out the third drive and puts us back in the second drive, where we act simply to seek short-term rewards and avoid short-term pain.)

“In the early 1960s, researchers surveyed students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago about their attitudes toward work and whether they were more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated….The less evidence of extrinsic motivation during art school, the more success in professional art both several years after graduation and nearly twenty years later.” Painters and sculptors who were intrinsically motivated, those for whom the joy of discovery and the challenge of creation were their own rewards, were able to weather the tough times….”Those artists who pursued their painting and sculpture more for the pleasure of the activity itself than for extrinsic rewards have produced art that has been socially recognized as superior,” the study said. “It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.”

I see the difference very clearly. 

It's easy to want to be an economist. Easier than it is to be a writer. Economists tend to have stable livelihoods (never mind the current mess) and tend to be seen as 'respectable and safe' (especially from the point of view of Asian family). 

And it comes easy to me. Not super easy. I still have to work for it -- and because I'm a masochist, this is a bonus rather than a negative. But I get it easily enough that a career in economics seems possible, even more than likely. 

Writing, on the other hand...is none of those things. 

It's not that it's not easy. It is, because I have no deadlines and have temporarily given up setting deadlines for myself (well, I do have a goal of sorts, but 206 words a day is less than a page, right?). I don't struggle with the discipline either -- though, again, no deadlines to procrastinate etc. But after five years, I better have learnt how to make myself write every day, or nearly every day. 

Having said all that, I don't need to write. It's possible, and not unlikely, that I would gain more by turning all the time I spend writing towards economics. I could read more, absorb more, and skim less. 

I've tried to quit before. Nadia and I have had this conversation lots of times. But I'm still writing. The truth is that I miss it when I don't write, and I have yet to find something else that I can 'zone' into as well as writing. 
2009-12-23 12:26 am

You in Your Work: Pt. I

I have titled this on the assumption that there will be at least a Pt. II.

There probably will be, given how much time I've spent thinking about this lately.

I used to think that my stories were just that: stories. No deep, dark allegorical matter in them. Now I realise that it's kind of silly to assume that, given how much current affairs/economics stuff I read, my work would be completely and entirely apolitical.

Though, there is also the possibility that my work used to be that way.

I have...grown into my work, I think. I see more of what I think, believe and feel in TLOL than I have in any other WIP.

I wouldn't call it the book of my heart. That kind of book is the last thing in the world I want to write, and maybe, if I ever sought to write it, probably the last book I would ever write.

One of my favorite articles on writing is by Julie Leto:

A Book of My Voice allows me to explore the stories that spring from my psyche in their truest form. My voice may grow and change as I grow and change, but the essential foundation remains the same. My voice is mine and the more I write, the more I reveal of that voice.

Let me ponder this a bit more and I'll explain in Pt. II.
2009-12-15 02:44 pm

(no subject)

Elizabeth Bear:
I just need to remember that in an interesting novel, terrorism comes before politics, rather than politics before terrorism.
2009-11-28 11:50 pm

You Need to Be Honest

Justine Musk:
A young woman described the memoir she wanted to write.

The story gripped me: a bright and talented child struggling to assert herself against narcissistic parents, become the master of her own identity. Except every few minutes she would backtrack and say how her parents weren’t actually that bad, they had a lot of good qualities, she was grateful for the life they had given her…

When she talked like this, her body language became stiff and awkward, her voice a bit robotic.

It was like she was flipping between two personalities: the good daughter she had been trained to be, and the bad daughter, the rebel daughter, she wanted and needed to be.

I heard myself say, “You need to write like the bad daughter.”

Personally, I translate the last sentence to 'You need to be honest when you write.' 

Not just in a memoir, but when you write (fiction -- not sure it works the same way with, say, a newspaper article). 
2009-09-20 09:51 pm

Gaining Perspective


Writing fiction is serious business. It demands nothing less than everything you’ve got to give: your blood, sweat, heart and soul; your time; your ego. You expose yourself in your work and again when you show your work. It deserves to be taken seriously, and yet somehow we have to find a way to treat it lightly, hold it lightly, so it doesn’t slip away from us.

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but the fabulous Justine Musk gave me a little push. 

I am not nearly as eloquent as Justine.

For me, it has simply been a case of gaining a little perspective on my work, and in particular, how I approach it.

I wanted to stop and think. That's why I chose such a long time for my hiatus, 2.5 months. Perhaps, subconsciously I also knew that is how long The Pathmaker had been in my head before I wrote down the first word.

Taking that route has made me more objective. I have fewer 'I am a sucky writer' days. True, I believe I haven't had enough practice to be anything but a sucky writer, but you know, it doesn't make me suicidal/depressed or kick the vicious cycle in either.

On the craft side, it has given me a measure of restraint I didn't use to have, both in the stylistic and the 'OMG, this is so bad and it has to go Right Now' sense. Now, I have the mental space to consider 'Is this where I think the story is going, or just where my writing preferences are leading me to?'

When I am not in the grip of 'create or die,' as Justine puts it, I feel freer. I am freer, not just to do whatever I want, but to create. And isn't that exactly the point?

2009-09-16 12:32 am


Via the estimable Alison Kent, Cate from Cate's Folly

So, do you have one story that all your stories are about? And do you think it helps to know or would you rather not know?
Cate got the question from 'a conversation with the author' that was published at the back of Ann Patchett's Run.

(Incidentally, I read Patchett's Bel Canto years ago, and I adored it, which I rarely do for more literary work.)

The answer to that question, for me, is I think I do.

My works tend to be about a character finding their way in the world.

That's a theme that's very close to my heart as a 21yo who, in less than a year's time, will probably be unemployed and set free from the routine of school for the first time in her life.

If there's a question I'd like answered, it's 'what should I do with the rest of my life?' That's a question that each of my protagonists have to answer, and The Pathmaker (still needs a goddamn new title) is probably the WIP that's least allegorical and where the question is most In Your Face.

To answer the second part of Cate's question...well, I don't know.

I always knew, but at the same time, until somebody asked the right question, I wouldn't have been able to articulate it. At least for me, I'm not sure that it'll make that much of a difference.

Also, since I'm here, I've posted a review for Lynn Viehl's Shadowlight as well as my first post in my Evil Women of Romance series, Bad Mothers.
2009-09-14 05:43 pm

(no subject)

I need to figure out how to do the DW link to LJ link thing.

Anyway, the Bear:

A funny thing I've noticed. As I've become more secure in my craftswomanship, I've become a lot more slapdash in the sort of construct I am willing to call a draft. I mean, this one I have here needs an entie timeline ripped out and made into something else, and it needs several entire scenes written, and it's missing a denouement... but then again, I also understand now, as I did not ten years ago, exactly how much rewriting and reconstructing is going to go into making that second draft work on a structural level.

When I grow up, I wanna be like her.