J.F.D.I.: A Girl’s Guide To Motivation

Kate Morton: see what I mean about the hair?

Whenever I’m hesitating or procrastinating over something, I remind myself of something one of my old bosses used to say on a near daily basis, ‘J.F.D.I.’ The first time he said it to me, I remember looking at him in puzzlement – I was only twenty two and wasn’t familiar with the wonderful world of acronyms.

‘Just F*@!in’ Do It!’ he said, smiling.

For some reason the fact that he included the ‘F’ word in that little phrase made the order more palatable, less like an order, more like a friendly suggestion. Which is odd, because swearing in the work place is generally frowned upon, but anyway, I did just f’*@k’in’ do whatever it was I was wavering over and have incorporated the mantra into my general approach to  life ever since. So last month, when I realised that nearly a year has passed since I started the MA and I’m no closer to finishing my novel, I thought to myself, ‘Alex, J.F.D.I.!!!’

So I have and along the way I’ve been finding ways to keep my motivation levels up, because now the term is over, it would be pretty easy to take my foot off the gas and have myself a little well earned rest. But writing isn’t like that, at least not for me or for other writers I know. It’s something you can’t help doing. It’s on a par with sleeping and eating. And so, despite my idea that I would have a little rest for a week or so, it didn’t really work out like that.

First of all, I went to hear Kate Morton talk about her new book, The Distant Hours at Holker Hall in Cumbria. I’ve always been an advocate of learning from those who’ve done it, having done a lot of ‘best practice’ shadowing in my work life and I guess that’s what these author events are like to aspiring writers in a way: a chance to listen to how someone else did what you are striving to do. Anyway, I am a massive Kate Morton fan and now that I’ve met her in the flesh, I’m even more so. A mother of two, in her early thirties, she’s written three books and is already a best selling, multi-national, multimillion pound author, who also seems to be doing a doctorate, teaching a bit and leading a relatively normal family life. And did I mention her perfect hair? It’s perfect.  I asked her a couple of questions which she answered very eloquently but refrained from asking her where she got her boots from, for fear of coming across as not very literary. But, let me tell you, they were very pretty. And if dreams really do come true, then my life will one day look like hers and I will have good hair and great shoes on all the time.  Anyway, I came away from that event more determined than ever – I’ve got to get it finished! Also, I booked a hair appointment.

But I’ve been saying that for ages (not about the hair). What can I do that’s going to make it happen this time? How can I write the 70,000 words I need to finish in a very short time? I suddenly remembered NaNoWriMo, an annual novel writing project which takes place in November every year, with the aim of motivating writers to write 50,000 words in a month. Okay, so it’s not November I thought, but what’s to stop me trying to write 50,000 words in a month? The answer: nothing!

J.F.D.I!

So I’m doing it. 50,000 words in July. Wish me luck!

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2 thoughts on “J.F.D.I.: A Girl’s Guide To Motivation

  1. I was slow off the mark and missed out on tickets for afternoon tea with Kate Morton in Nottinghamshire, somehow I was completely unaware it was going on until the week prior and when I called the venue in a desperate ticket seeking ring-around there were no more to be had.

    Don’t mind telling you I’m a little green! I find her such an inspiring character and often dream about seeing my name in print. I started a blog with the aim of writing a little of what I fancy every day but somehow my inner magpie took over and ultimately I tend to tap away in a perfunctory fashion about my recent thrifty bargains while the wordiness is constrained to the laptop in dozens of half finished word docs that only I am aware of.

    I’m frightened to begin writing ‘officially’ – any tips on how to get past the glorious stage of jotting down masses of ideas?

    Jem xXx

    P.S – Great to come across your blog by the way!

    • Hi Jem,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s nice to get them. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like there is nobody else out there. There are lots of reasons to write blogs. For me it’s about trying to maintain my motivation levels to write. The more I talk about it in a public environment, the more pressure I put on myself to actually do it. Which is kind of my tip on how to get past the ideas stage of writing. I’ve found, that if you start talking about doing some writing (or whatever it is you would like to do) to actual people (not just in your head or on a list written on January 1st), it has the effect of guilt-tripping yourself into action. Brought up Catholic, this kind of thing works well for me. You may feel differently.

      The other thing that has worked for me is to sketch out a plan of some kind for what I want to write. Whether it’s a collection of poetry, a short story or a novel, if you an idea of how the collection should be linked by theme, or the way the action will unfold in a short sotry or novel, it helps to write it down. The process of writing it down can flag up inconsistencies in your idea or even new directions that you might not have thought of before. Some people would disagree with this method because ‘creativity can not be planned man!’ But honestly, you speak to any of the best selling authors, the people that actually have had a good idea, written it down and finished it, 90% of them spend a shed load of time planning what it is they are going to write and researching it. Kate Morton is in that 90%. I know, because I asked her when I went to listen to her at Holker Hall earlier this year. Similarly, Orange prize and Booker prize nominee, Carol Birch, who wrote Jamrach’s Menagerie – a major planner! Obviously, you might have to write a chapter, a few paragraphs or a poem to spark the creative planning process but whenever you start the planning aspect of writing, it’s never too late.

      Finally, once I’d got to a stage where I felt like needed some feedback on what I was writing, just for someone to tell me whether it was any good, worth continuing with, I went onto the internet and found myself a creative mentor. Randomly, my creative mentor turned out to be Jenn Ashworth, she of the most recent Granta List of the12 Best British Writers (although she wasn’t on the list when she was mentoring me). From this, I went on to apply for the Distance Learning MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, which I am half way through now and thoroughly enjoying. Both the mentoring and the MA have helped me to get some of my ideas into written form.

      So that’s been my path so far on my quest to become a published writer. It’s not necessarily the right way, but it was what I wanted to do. Everyone is different and everyone has to start somewhere. If it’s feedback / moral support you’re after why not start by trying to find a local writers group or even an online writers group? There are loads out there and lots of published writers have used them. Or keep to the confines of your own home and try the planning thing I mentioned, it might help. Also check out http://www.mslexia.co.uk a great site for budding writers with lots of tips and advice. Far better than anything I could give you.

      But really the best inspiration and motivation that I find comes in the shape of books written by other people, like Kate Morton, like Katherine Webb, like Essie Fox. When you read what they’ve written and you learn a little about them as people, how they’ve achieved publication mainly through sheer hard work and lots of knock backs), it spurs you on. At least it does for me.

      Hope this helps!
      .
      Alex

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