Why?

Continuing on a bit from my post last week, I wanted to touch a little bit on motivation. I’m currently reading Charles Duhigg’s Smarter, Faster, Betterso I’m sure I’ll be writing some posts based on what I’m learning from him over the next couple of weeks.

A common response when I tell people “Yes, you can” is “But how?” They can start working on something easily enough, but after a few weeks, days, hours, they lose interest or can’t find the oomph to keep going.

This is absolutely normal. I am currently working on my thirteenth novel, and I think I can safely say that with every single project I’ve worked on, I’ve hit the point of wanting to walk away from it. Not even give up, but just a “I’m not really in the mood today” or “I’ve already done so much this week, I think I’ll just take a break and come back to it later.”

And I have had it happen that later turns into two days, then turns into a week, and then turns into months, after I’ve completely forgotten I was even working on something until I open up a related file and it comes up on that sidebar of recent documents and I’m like “Ohhh yeaaah. Welp, I don’t even remember where I was going with that anymore.” So I trunk it and it fades into the distant memory of my past.

It’s normal.

But it’s also something you can prevent with a bit of self-compassion and discipline.

This is not a post against taking breaks. They are important and necessary, because artistic burnout can absolutely happen.

This is a post encouraging you to make sure you come back to it. This is often harder than getting started. At the beginning you’re all charged up by the idea of making A THING. But as you go, you realise THE THING is not turning out the way you saw it in your mind. It’s more work and taking more time than expected, and you’d rather be doing X. So you break, and finding the motivation to come back is hard.

The next time this happens, I challenge you to ask yourself WHY you started in the first place. What was it about the idea that sparked your excitement? Was it the idea of finishing something you’ve been thinking about for a while? The pride of hitting the last stroke and declaring The end? Was it this particular story you wanted to share with the world for the sake of a friend or because you felt the world needed a new interpretation on a classic tale?

Whatever the WHY, write it out and post it somewhere you can see it whenever you sit down to work. Keep it in your mind so whenever your motivation starts to flag, you can grab on to  your purpose again and plug through, even if it’s just one little section at a time.

Remember: motivation and self-discipline are skills that can be developed. It’s just about finding tricks to build up those muscles.

The doing is not always fun (you think I enjoy writing every single day? Ha! Yesterday, I played a game of picross for every three hundred words I wrote just to keep myself going), but that moment you hit your goal and reach your WHY — that’s the part that makes up for all the taxing work and off-days.

So go on, ask yourself WHY, and if you feel like it, share below the reasons that keep you going.

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