Killing and Kindling Motivation

“Oh you can just take today off” she says to me. I smile at her, knowing I can’t. That is the whole point of this 30 Day Writing Challenge. No excuses.

So I close myself in my room and let my visiting family members go enjoy the jacuzzi without me.

But then I think I should wash my face.
Might as well change into something more comfortable.
My room needs organizing.
I haven’t checked Facebook in awhile.
Cleaning out my inbox would also be good.
And I could use a snack.

I grumble that I’m not feeling very creative and I can’t think of anything worth saying. Most of the time, I cave to those reasons and don’t bother trying. I say I will wait till inspiration strikes next. Two weeks later I still didn’t write anything and I get depressed thinking I was completely uninspired for two weeks.

But that’s not true either. Inspiration is fleeting enough that we rarely catch it in time to do anything about it. When it shows up in the shower or the car or the grocery store, it takes a back seat to the current task and is quickly forgotten. Inspiration makes regular appearances in my life, but I squander it’s presence because I’m distracted by other things.

What kills your motivation is not a lack of inspiration. In my experience there are 3 main things that keep me from doing what I want:

  1. Distractions and shifting priorities: If I don’t make writing a priority it will easily get swept aside by other items on my to-do list. Even checking Facebook and watching Netflix can compete when I decide I’m too tired to write or it can wait till tomorrow. Chances are, it will end up waiting much longer than that.
  2. Low confidence and fear of failure: “Why bother if it’s not going to be good?” That question plagues all of us at some point. But imagine if we asked this instead: “What could happen if this turns out good?” Suddenly there is a reason to try. Don’t think of the reasons why you might fail—think of the reasons contributing to your chances of success.
  3. Lack of self-care: Little happens when I’m exhausted, anxious, sick, or depressed. If I am overworked, have said yes too much, or haven’t set aside time for rest, I have again compromised my priorities and forgotten about my own needs for general well being. I am in charge of my own well-being, even when that means asking others to help me with it.

When I find myself unmotivated I ask myself which of these three things is present. Sometimes it is all three. Once I acknowledge the problem I can find a way to resolve it. Simple right?

Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Some problems take much longer than a quick fix of food or a nap. Deep insecurity, the inability to say no, or even the need to work long hours in order to have something to eat at all. Sometimes there are other people or things that really do prevent us from doing what we want. But what we do to overcome those things and in spite those things is what defines our success. Tony Robbins, in his TED Talk on “Why We Do What We Do” says that “the defining factor is never resources; it’s resourcefulness.”

Every successful writer got to where they are solely because they showed up even when inspiration didn’t. They didn’t always have the resources or obvious amounts of time, but they found a way to make it happen.

The Renaissance scholar Erasmus said “The desire to write grows with writing.”

Stephen King’s blunt opinion is similar: 
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
I would argue that even for non-writers, success comes from showing up to work hard even on days when you don’t feel like it.

The more you do that, the more you realize that success doesn’t even mean getting published or promoted or paid highly. Success comes from the reward of knowing you showed up in the first place.

What gets in the way of your motivation?
How do you find a way to motivate yourself again?

Worry Less, Write More

This officially counts as my seventh day in my month long goal to write every day. Here are some things I’ve learned so far:
 
  1. Miracles happen: My computer dried out completely and is working like it’s normal, albeit slow, self!
  2. Seven days can feel like a lot: I’ve said multiple times that I think time is a fickle, relative rascal. This week proved it again. I love writing, but doing it daily can be a chore when I also have to work, go grocery shopping, and entertain the idea of exercising.
  3. I have a surprising number of things to talk about: I used to wonder if I would end up rehashing the same topics and run out of new things to say. Turns out, my brain just keeps chugging.
  4. It is better to worry less and write more: In the past when I prepared to post something on the blog, I would spend days or maybe even weeks reading it over and making adjustments until I felt like it was really the best it could be. That kind of detail is called for at times, but I don’t think blogging needs to be that stressful. The best part of having to write every day is that I have an excuse to not over-analyze or over-edit.
I’m looking forward to continuing in this challenge, even though I have a busy week ahead of me. Ideally I will establish a more regular daily writing routine, but for now I write when I can and accept that I’m doing my best.

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, not because I love every one of her books but because she writes boldly and wrestles with culture to discover what is really important. As I venture into my second week of daily writing, I am keeping this quote from her in my mind as inspiration:

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

How do you motivate yourself to meet your goals?