Many times, motivation can be hard to find. We might be tired and just want to relax. We might feel stuck and unable to move forward. We might feel overwhelmed and think about giving up. Or any of a thousand other reasons.
The problem is that we often don’t know what’s holding us back. That lack of insight can make it difficult to overcome the issue.
We don’t want to ignore those little signals from our body or subconscious. Sometimes we need to sleep, relax, or play, and that’s okay. Sometimes we’re stuck because the story is going in the wrong direction, and we need to backtrack. And sometimes… What we really need is a kick in the pants. *smile*
Step 1: Figure Out What’s Causing the Resistance
When I find myself resisting doing something, I ask myself why. Once we understand the “why,” it’s usually easier to know how to fix the issue.
For example, let’s say we’re putting off doing something simply because it’s boring or not fun. If we’re procrastinating during drafting, that reason could be a clue that the scene might not be necessary or that we need more conflict.
But if that’s the case when we’re faced with a non-drafting task, we might simply have to suck it up. Marketing or editing or accounting might not be fun, but those tasks need to get done too.
(We can always set ourselves a goal of being able to afford paying someone to do some of those tasks for us later in our career, but until we reach that point, it’s all us. Sorry. *smile*)
Step 2: Figure Out What Motivates Us
None of us are perfect. We all stumble on the way to our goals. We all procrastinate (writers are expert procrastinators).
But at some point, we need to get serious. We might be more successful if we know how to get into that serious mode when it’s important.
Some writers find motivation in the social reward of knowing others are cheering for them. These writers might enjoy drafting in the social atmosphere of NaNoWriMo, Twitter’s #1k1hr, or one of the other writing groups in the blogosphere or social media. For non-writing tasks, maybe they have an accountability partner they report to with their progress.
Other writers find motivation from the stick of threats rather than the carrot of rewards. These writers answer to drafting programs like Write Or Die, which can be set to delete your words if you type too slow. For non-writing tasks, they might need deadlines with consequences hanging over their head.
Others find motivation in seeing tangible progress. For drafting tasks, these writers might write toward a daily word count and enjoy seeing their monitor fill with words. For non-writing tasks, they might enjoy scribbling items off a to-do list.
We also can take different paths to motivation with different tasks. Sometimes we might need a reward, and sometimes we might need the threat of punishment. The important thing is figuring out what works for us.
Step 3: Do What We Need to Do
Once we know the issue and know our needs, we do what we need to do. In other words, this step will often involve sucking it up and getting it done.
If we’re in need of a nap, that “getting it done” step might be a lot more fun than if we’re in need of coming up with a marketing plan. But if we know what motivates us, hopefully we’ll at least make progress on our project. Some progress is better than no progress, and we can try not to beat ourselves up too badly if we tried our best.
My Mixed Approach to Motivation
I respond to a mix of motivating forces. Social rewards sometimes work for me, deadlines definitely work for me, and breaking a big project into smaller chunks on a to-do list often helps.
On the social side, I enjoy NaNo and #1k1hr far more than Write Or Die for drafting. (Although to be honest, the social aspect, the progress calendar, and the one month deadline all appeal to me with NaNo.)
For non-writing tasks (or for drafting non-fiction like blog posts), I usually need a deadline hanging over my head. I present to you as evidence, my blog. *smile*
Almost every post on this blog was written the night before it went live. I simply can not find the motivation to write blog posts more than a day (or sometimes two) ahead. (I’d like to be one of those bloggers with a bank of completed posts to draw from when needed, but… *pshaw* That’s not going to happen.) I need deadlines for the “not as fun” stuff.
Other times, I work better when dividing a big project into smaller pieces. Big projects can be overwhelming, and we might not even know where to start. To-do lists can be great for seeing the dependencies and figuring out what needs to happen first.
I’m dealing with a couple of big projects now that are so overwhelming I’m too often procrastinating instead of making progress. I’m trying to break those projects down into smaller chunks. Then I’ll assign deadlines for each of those elements on a to-do list.
If It Works, It Works
Some people don’t like the last-minute feeling of deadline. Others suffer from poor quality work when stressed and under deadline. So I could easily feel like I’m “doing it wrong.”
But I’m going to stick with my approach because it works for me. After all, I have about 425 original posts and only a few re-runs in the four years of writing this blog. That’s 425 times I’ve met my deadline despite waiting until the threat of missing it is close enough to smack me upside the head.
Yesterday, I shared this image on Facebook with the note:
My deadlines might resemble this. 😉
Others commented on that post with notes like “I can relate to this.” So at least I’m not the only one. Yet whenever anyone asks me how I accomplish so much, I answer: “I flail randomly. I don’t recommend it.”
The point is figuring out what works for us. There’s no right or wrong way to motivate ourselves. Chocolate, wine, and movies or TV are frequent rewards for writers, and that works for some. Others need the threat of consequences. Still others need only an organized to-do list. Figure out what works and use it. *smile*
Do you sometimes struggle with finding motivation? Do you run into the same root cause, or does it change? Are you still searching for an approach that motivates you, or do you know what works? Does it depend on the circumstances? What works to motivate you?Pin It