Suspend Your Disbelief

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Motivation… for the Unmotivated

Sumerleyton Hall and Gardens Lowestoft, Suffolk

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Easy for Mary Heaton Vorse to say, perhaps, but what if you need a little more help getting those two seats together?

Writers, being creative people, come up with lots of creative ways to get motivated. Two friends of mine from grad school would get together for enforced writing time; if one of them didn’t write, she would be forced to donate money to a cause she loathed, like the NRA. I don’t know if either of them ever actually had to donate—a bargain like that would certainly keep my pen on the paper.

And a fellow Grub Street instructor, Michael Marano, has come up with this unusual idea. In an email, he outlined a “writer’s tontine” :

It’s hard for me to be as productive as I’d like to be with my fiction without real external pressures of time and money. […] How do you put real money at stake to meet a deadline for a novel (or other project) you’re writing on spec? Simple. Put up your own money and create a deadline.

I’m thinking of starting a kitty, or maybe a riff on a Tontine. A bunch of writers working on projects each put in, say $200. The money is put into a bank account. Then we create a deadline for a set amount of work on each of our projects. For example, I need to finish the second draft of a novel I’m writing. Maybe someone else wants to finish five new stories and submit them. And maybe a third person wants to write a first draft of his or her novel. The money sits in the account, collecting interest. Whoever does not produce the agreed upon amount of work by the predetermined deadline loses his or her $200, which is then divided among or between the writers who do make the deadline. If we all make the deadline, we divide up the interest accrued (pennies, I’m sure–but we’d get our initial $200 back).

Or maybe the key to getting more writing done is just finding a muse more like this (NSFW).

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