I was thinking about this today, as I sat on my comfortable couch, scrolling through random internet pages (damn you, StumbleUpon!), and trying to convince my lazy ass to get up and move. I did, eventually, and although my workout was long, sweaty, and painful, I was so glad I did it. Hm, what else does that sound like?
Not every writing session is painful, of course. If it was, I'm not sure that I could ever do it, no matter how great the end result. But just as there are some workouts where it feels like I've got 100 extra pounds strapped on my back, there are many times when every word feels tortured out of me. Yet even at those times, it is important to keep going. That is what I tell myself when I'm struggling up that hill, for one more rep, or just a little bit of extra speed. It's also what I tell myself when a blank page is staring me down, when my characters just won't do what I want, when my dialogue is unconvincing, and when my plot seems dumb and an ending hopeless.
There are two main ways I motivate myself when I am working out (or, more likely, when I am trying to convince myself to start a workout, because isn't that always the hardest part?). One is the immediate reward. If I do the workout I planned, then I get that swell of endorphins and that I can-do-anything feeling of accomplishment. Is there a moment quite like standing there, chest heaving, sweat dripping down your nose, knowing that it's over and you kicked ass? And that's just the immediate reward. The other motivator is the long-term goal. If I workout today, and tomorrow, and every day (with proper rest and recovery, of course), I'll get that body I want.
Not me. Yet.
So it also is with writing. When I get writing done, I feel like I've done something. I'm a real writer, and even if what I wrote is crap, it's still an entirely new creation that has never before existed. And when that happens today, and tomorrow, and every day (except, you know, I'm human, so maybe not), I'll make those novels that I will be proud of. Every writing session, I climb a little bit higher on the mountain. Does it have a summit? I don't know. But I'll never stop trying to find it.
Coincidentally, I started writing this post earlier today, and saved it. A little later, I was looking through my feedly when I came across this post on Storyfix. This video is exactly what I'm talking about! The same thing that drives elite athletes (and not elite athletes!) is the same thing that drives writers. We have that deep need that will never be sated unless we do our very best or die trying. How does this not make you want to knuckle down and pound out that last paragraph or just one more push-up? Welcome to the grind!