I wanted to do something a little different today. Motivational writing through prose.
Don’t ask me where I got the idea, it just sort of appeared. Immerse yourself in the classroom of a very critical motivational speaker. Most importantly, let me know what you thought of this story idea in a comment. If people like it, then it may become a more regular thing.
Bad Motivator Series 001 – First Class
“How is everyone doing today?”
The question sounded disingenuous from her chair. She nodded and smiled in response, almost robotically, as others in the room mumbled their good’s, fine’s, and one person exclaimed great. The room was filled with over a hundred aspiring writers, and this clean cut suit before them was supposed to be an accomplished professional from some medium sized publishing house. He was the guy that coached authors on promotion and assisted them in the editing process. If they had an issue with the editor, he was the guy they called.
“I see a lot of nods and smiles, and some enthusiasm. That shows that you’re all delusional.”
Her head cocked back like that of a chicken. The cold metal chair cooled her back.
“You see,” he continued. “If you were actually doing good, you wouldn’t be in this room. You’d be finishing your book. I see a bunch of notepads and pens and pencils, but nobody writing. You all think I’m going to deliver some five second quote that will solve your blocks. I won’t.”
Beads of sweat formed on her forehead.
“This group was selected based on filtered criteria. Everyone in here is a complete failure, and you’ll continue to be a failure. Many of you travelled hours to get here today, and you’ll travel hours back to your homes when we finish, and not one of you will pen a damn word. That’s why you aren’t writers.
“I’m not here to blow sunshine up your ass. I’m here to give you a self assessment and a reality check. You’re in this room because each of you has been working on a first draft for months, and none of you have finished anything. I can walk around this room, and based on nothing but the look in your eyes right now, put a sticker on your forehead, white or black. White for winners that need a boost, and black for those who will never become anything in the writing world. What color sticker do you think you’ll get?”
Her face surged with a flush of heat. His mention about her eyes forced her to think about them. Unconsciously, she was now staring sharply at this pompous asshole telling her that she’d never be good enough.
“Now that I have your attention, here’s your five second quote. Finish your book. Finish your draft, and then start revising. Rewrite the whole damn thing over, and then repeat. Spending more time on a first draft doesn’t speed up the process, it gives you an excuse to procrastinate.
“How many of you write every day? Show of hands.”
Her arm shot into the air as her lungs filled with cold air, which converted to steam in her chest before its slow release.
“Everyone that didn’t raise your hand just now, you have two options. Well, if you ever want any hope of success. You can start working on your stories every single day, or you can quit. Those with their hands up, how many have written something this morning?
“Only those that already had their hands up please.”
The muscles in her arm strained. She could feel the flex of the cheap plastic pen clenched in her raised fist. Remembering that she scribbled down a few ideas while waiting on the jack-ass to show up, that counted as words. And he was wrong about her. She had already planned to scribble a few paragraphs while eating lunch, before her hour-long journey home. She didn’t come here to be insulted. She came to learn, and he wasn’t teaching her anything about prose or process. He was just an insulting jerk.
“I want everyone with their hands down to take a look around the room. Look at the people with their hands up. This isn’t an optional thing. Look into the eyes of the nearest raised arm sitting next to you. You see what I see? That’s called determination. That’s what it takes to finish a book.
“I started the lecture with this little diatribe, because I wanted you all to see what we’re looking at now. Some of you are rolling your eyes or staring ahead in worry, but look at the eyes of the committed people who are going to finish their draft. That’s what everyone needs to look like. And the difference is quite simple. They make their craft a priority. That’s why they get angry when someone attacks their convictions.
“Next is the good part. You can all leave here with that same conviction, if writing is really what you want to do. It isn’t a matter of habits, necessarily, though daily writing is so influential that I’ll consider it a requirement during this talk. That passion is what makes great books.”
Her breathing had relaxed, and she noticed a softening in the tension of her facial muscles.
“For that reason, I’m not going to be talking about how to search-and-replace common typos, or grammar rules, or story structure, or anything of the sort. I’m going to talk about time management. You, miss.”
He pointed directly at her. The coolness of the chair back disappeared, and she flexed to perfect posture. “Yes?”
“How many words did you write this morning?”
Her hand dropped and her shoulders relaxed, sending a sinking feeling into her stomach. He was calling her out. He must have known that her protest wasn’t going to come with ten-thousand words as a response, but as much as she wanted to make him the fool, she had to be honest with herself and the others in the room. “I scribbled some notes about where I want the next scene to go. Just a few while I was waiting for the talk to begin.” She could feel her voice trembling. “Nothing on my actual manuscript.”
“When did you wake up?” he asked.
“Six,” she replied, now concerned that he would call her out for that hour of wake-up coffee this morning being a missed opportunity.
“How long was your drive?”
“About an hour.”
“So.” His attention turned to the crowd. “She woke up at six, left at seven thrity, and arrived here at eight thirty-ish. She found a parking spot, found the conference room, and in those extra few minutes before nine, she was thinking about her story, and writing notes down about it. Ma’am, if you’ll indulge me further. Do you have children?”
“A six-year-old, a four-year-old, a dog, and my husband. Yes, four.”
His straight face broke with a sly grin. “And you work?”
“Forty to forty-five hours per week.”
“Sounds like a busy life. Where, in the midst of that business do you find time to write?”
“My husband and I agreed that I have a half-hour every night after dinner where I can make the bedroom off-limits. I go in there with my notebook, and I write.”
“You pen your books by hand?” he asked.
“Yes. I’ve always done it that way. I’m not good at typing. Hubby is fast on the keyboard, and agreed to transcribe for me. He does that with my poetry when I post it online.”
“So.” He must have loved that word. “Here is a lady who has to take care of two kids, a dog, and a husband, works forty hours per week, cooks meals, and has found to write daily, despite all of it. Here’s a simple rhetorical for everyone in the room right now. What’s stopping you from doing the same? What’s really standing between you and your writing?
“You no doubt have questions about publishing. This lady is publishing right now, poetry on social media. That means she’s already cultivating an audience, maybe without even realizing she’s doing it?” His eyes returned to hers.
She’d never thought of it like that before, and connections sparked in her mind about asking John to start keeping a list of people who liked and shared her posts from now on. According to him, it wasn’t that many. She nodded, not knowing how else to respond.
“That’s called publishing, ladies and gentlemen. Strip away the fancy industry bullshit, namely my job, and that’s what publishing is. It’s putting something out there. It’s connecting with people who like your writing, and finding more people who like and appreciate your writing. Those are called fans, okay? That isn’t the subject of this talk, but she’s doing it, and it deserves to be mentioned. She gets a white sticker.”
His sad attempt at a compliment missed her. There was no pride, and in fact, she was still waiting for him to drop the hammer and call her worthless, or tell her that despite everything he was saying, she still wasn’t doing enough. But those words never came.
“So. I want to talk about two things today. Commitment and time management. Without those two things, you accomplish nothing. Commitment will be brief. You either want this life or you don’t. Here’s the simple test. Would you keep writing even if the book industry went open-source tomorrow. If copyright laws disappeared, and you would never earn money from a single word, would you keep doing it?
“While you’re deciding if you’re committed, let’s talk about time management. Every single one of you has time to write, I don’t care what your job is, what your home life is like, or how many stressors you have. You either want this and make it a priority over news, gossip, television, and video games, or you don’t. The ‘wind down’ excuse is tired too. If you love writing, you should wind down by writing. I’m going to ask each person that didn’t put their hand up to my initial question to come up here one at a time, and we’re going to work out a writing schedule for you.”