The inevitable has occurred.
You read some article or post (such as this one, this one, or this one) about getting consistently motivated to write. You get all fired up, plan a new schedule, and turn over a new leaf with the greatest intentions.
Then one of four things happens:
A kid gets sick, a holiday comes around. You get a freelancing job you hate, or you’re writing a story or article that sucks all the confidence out of you. Writing suddenly takes so long, and you realize that along the way it stopped being fun.
You can’t seem to get yourself up in the morning. Or you keep getting up from your computer to eat another piece of chocolate or make another cup of tea. You forget why you wanted to become a writer, and you start thinking: “Why make life harder for myself than it already is?”
The myth of inspiration
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I am not an advocate of waiting for inspiration to write. I recommend just showing up, every day.
That is so not romantic, I know. But it really is the only way to be a writer. “Inspiration,” if there really is such a thing, comes while you’re in the trenches, writing away even if you don’t want to.
If you have a light bulb moment – an idea for an article, or a phrase you might be able to tease into a short story – for goodness’ sake, write it down in a dedicated notebook or in an app such as Evernote.
But don’t mistake a good idea with “inspiration.” Get those ideas down, but continue your daily writing as if they never emerged.
Motivating yourself to be motivated
To be perfectly honest, I also don’t believe in motivation. This is possibly because I have none.
Don’t tell anyone, but the only thing I’m motivated to do is drink tea, eat chocolate, and read.
Paradoxically, I have a strict wake-up time, and generally, as soon as my alarm rings I jump out of bed and go directly into the bathroom.
And that’s when the little red man with pointy ears and a pitchfork jumps onto my left shoulder and whispers, “Oh, come on, just go back to bed. You’re exhausted, and what does it matter if you start an hour later?”
The little white man is still sleeping, and he hasn’t yet landed on my right shoulder. In fact, I haven’t seen him in a while…
No lie: I have this exact conversation with the red man every single morning.
And then I go back to my bedroom, turn on the light, and start getting dressed. I’ve accepted the fact that the little red man will do this every single weekday without fail. Like lower back pain, I live with him.
For more bad news on motivation, read this.
There is no magic pill
And how I wish there were. Think how popular my blog would be if I had a pill to give you.
In lieu of drugs, there is but one solution to the “inspiration-motivation” issue, and here it is:
I kid you not. Just do. Know the night before exactly when you will get up the next morning, and what you will do from hour to hour. And then do it mindlessly. Pretend you’re in the army and your schedule is your sergeant.
had a bout of insanity was getting up to run at 5:00 in the morning, three times a week, for almost a year, turning off my brain was the only way I could do it (and anyway, who can think at 5:00 in the morning?).
Apply this to any activity, and it will get you closer to your goal.
Goals vs. consistency
Goals are essential, but don’t start worshiping them. It’s more important to be consistent. In other words,
Show up every day.
As I wrote in a recent post, articulate your goals. However, never allow them to become an excuse not to do. Don’t say to yourself, “I’ve forgotten why I’m doing this, so until I remember, I’ll just get another cup of coffee.”
Remember, don’t think. If you have no writing project or job, for instance, that is no reason not to write today. This is where consistency trumps goals.
When things get tough and you start to think, go ahead and ponder your goals. I used to do this at the beginning of my runs, when I hadn’t yet warmed up and was freezing to death. My micro goal was to finish the run without collapsing or getting mugged, and my macro goal was to run a 10K in the Jerusalem Marathon.
On the other hand, when I couldn’t care less about why I was running and thought, “Who am I kidding?” (actually, I thought, “Whom am I kidding?”), I would fall back on, “I run three times a week.” In other words, I was just showing up, being mindlessly consistent.
A few nice clichés
Here are four phrases hanging on the wall in back of my computer. Take your pick:
- Don’t chase goals; chase consistency.
- Done is better than perfect.
- Action trumps thinking.
- What I want is bigger and more important than the fear that prevents me from achieving it.
Putting systems in place
Creating systems makes it easier for you to write no matter what is going on in your life or in your head, because systems eliminate choice. Same leitmotif: The less you think about the noise, the easier it will be for you to act.
While I hope you never run out of “motivation” or “inspiration” to write, remember that at best you don’t need them, and at worst they don’t even exist. Write, don’t think; show up every day; kick that red man off your shoulder; sit down and feel your fear – and write anyway.
Are you experiencing a writing low after an initial spurt of motivational energy? Let this post help you take action in spite of all the obstacles. And let me know in the Comments what worked.