Want to write, but having trouble getting (and staying) motivated?
Written by comedian and writer, Catherine Deveny, Use Your Words is a book full of tips, advice and information to help writers overcome common obstacles and become more productive.
Deveny runs successful writing workshops, which she calls 'Gunna Writing Masterclasses' ('Gunnas' are "people who keep saying they are gunna write, but don't"). This book is designed for 'Gunnas', and contains everything Deveny knows about writing.
It's written in a conversational style, which makes it easy and enjoyable to read, and there are quotes scattered throughout the book.
Part One: The Truth about Writing This section begins with a chapter called, 'Writing sucks', and looks at the myths and realities surrounding writing.
Deveny explains that she never feels joyful when she starts writing, but that "motivation follows action", and that writing can be "horrible, thankless torture...[but] in the process of writing, I [have also found] happiness, completeness, satisfaction, enlightenment, peace, insight, escape and triumph" (p. 19)
I found this part of the book very refreshing, in that it was good to know that many of the challenges of writing are common amongst all writers.
Part Two: Principles In this section, Deveny discusses time management and making time for writing, advice (and not taking directions from anyone unless they have been there), motivation, creativity and more.
Some of the topics include:
Writing is a Magnet
"The writing magnet is a bit of magic that is created when you set your mind on what you are going to write" (p. 155)
As Deveny explains, often once you have an idea for your writing, you'll notice coincidences occurring (eg. if you decide to write about poodles, you may suddenly notice a lot of poodles when you're going for a walk, or notice an influx of other poodle-related things in your life).
Find Your Heroes
Deveny shares success stories about some of her 'Gunnas' from her workshops, and advises readers to be their own creative hero.
Deveny provides examples of exercises she gets her 'gunnas' to do in her writing workshops, to help get them unstuck
Part Three: Writing Toolkit
I found this section very useful. It looks at methods, tricks and tools to increase your productivity, as well as physical items that you can use while writing (eg. standing desks, NadaChairs etc) and rituals and routines.
Deveny discusses popular methods for getting people to write:
"A lot of the most popular tricks for getting yourself to write are either stick methods or carrot methods - a stick to hit you or a carrot to entice you...Are you a stick or a carrot person? Or a bit of both? I'm a carrot person. I will do anything for a medal, a trophy or a ribbon" (p.202)
Some of the methods listed include:
Carrot Method - Cherry Ripe
Leave a Cherry Ripe (or other chocolate) on the desk in front of you and eat it as a reward once you've reached your word goal.
Stick Method - Shower Cap
Once it's time to write, put on your shower cap. You can't take it off until you've reached your word goal. As Deveny explains, she doesn't care if you have to wear it to the supermarket, or to pick up the kids from school - you cannot take it off until you finish writing.
I've previously used some of the tools and methods mentioned in this section, such as the Pomodoro technique and the Write or Die program (nothing makes you type faster than your words being deleted), but there were plenty of other great tools and tips that I hadn't heard of before.
Methods for productivity: 'The Cherry Ripe Method', and 'The Shower Cap Method'
Part Four: Overcoming Obstacles
This section begins with a chapter on writing while dyslexic.
Deveny and two of her sons are dyslexic, and Deveny discusses the assumptions that are often made about people with dyslexia and the challenges that she and her children have overcome, particularly within the education system. I found this chapter really interesting and insightful.
The rest of this section discusses 'Haters, Trolls and Critics', 'Fear, Deprivation, Guilt and Rejection', issues for female writers, and the importance of following your own path and pursuing writing.
At the end of the book, there's a list of resources, and some frequently asked questions.
I really enjoyed this book and got a lot out of it.
I would definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to write and is having trouble getting started, or for those who already write but want to be more productive and/or discover some new ways to get motivated and overcome psychological barriers to writing.