In the immortal words of the mighty Sum 41:
“Motivation, such an aggravation”
Now, I can’t claim to be a wordsmith like whatever idiot writes songs for Sum 41, but I do know that “motivation” is probably the number one cause of people not doing what they want to do. It’s like a disease.
It’s something we all suffer from. Personally, a lack of motivation holds me back from writing more frequently, but it can be anything. I’ve suffered from a lack of motivation when it has come to getting fit, eating well, carrying out certain projects at work, and doing my homework when I was at school. So pretty much everything.
In fact, if you Google “get motivated”, you get 174,000,000 results. #mondaymotivation trends at the start of every week. Everyone wants to tell you how to get better motivated, because we believe that we can only set out to achieve our goals when we have it.
The problem here is that “motivation” isn’t really anything. It’s abstract. You never really have it, and you never really lose it. There’s no-one who can teach you how to “have it”, when “it” never actually exists.
If it’s anything, it’s a crutch. We lean on it as an excuse for why we don’t do things, and a way to reason why we occasionally do. “I was feeling motivated today” isn’t something that should go in the tick box in favour of it any more than not having it is a downside.
You may have seen my post last month that detailed my experiences of having finished my first ever first draft. From first putting virtual pen to virtual paper, it took over fourteen months to write. When you add in planning, you can add several months on top of that. If you go back to when I first had the idea, we’re looking at years.
For this, I was heavily reliant on feeling motivated. When I was feeling motivated, I was unstoppable. I’d tear through the word count like I had a university assignment due in two hours, even though I hadn’t yet started it, hadn’t read the textbooks and hadn’t properly listened in class. Which is purely a hypothetical situation should my mother ever find her way to this site.
However, sometimes I just really wouldn’t be feeling it. Maybe I had a lot on at work, maybe I was tired, maybe I’d fallen out of love with the project. I’d go weeks, if not months at a time without even looking at it. How it only took me fourteen months I’ll never know.
So, if motivation really is a disease, what is the cure?
Easy. It’s a routine.
For my second project, I’ve decided to start going to bed an hour earlier, and wake up an hour earlier. With that extra hour, I’ll write. I also try to not mess around on my phone before I go to sleep or when I first wake up. It’s no coincidence my Tweeting frequency has dropped since then.
It really hasn’t been easy. I’m about as far as you imagine from being a “morning person”, and there have admittedly been the occasional mornings where I’ve awoken an hour earlier and spent it alternating between hitting the snooze button on my Sleep App and drifting off in to a light sleep. I’ve also found it hard to write anything all that cohesive at times, especially given my brain often doesn’t kick in to gear until about 11.30am.
But all of this is far preferable to trying to start at 9pm after a busy day at work, praying that I feel up for it but usually ending up on Reddit for a couple of hours.
So has this worked for me?
Let me put it this way: for my first project, it took me fourteen months to write 79,000 words. For my second, it has taken me just over a month to write 37,000.
If it sounds like I’m bragging I apologise. What I’m feeling isn’t smug satisfaction, but rather an excitable realisation of how in control of my own attitudes I am. If feeling motivated is no longer the main influencer of whether I do anything, I can achieve so much more.
It’s not always been easy, but the things that matter to you rarely will be. My job can involve long hours, and is often pretty stressful. I tend to come home exhausted, hoping to put my feet up on the sofa and lose myself in an episode of Making a Murderer. I’m also trying to buy a house for the first time, in London, which is like a Boxing Day sale meets eBay.
But by forcing myself up an hour earlier every day, by forcing myself to bed an hour earlier, I’ve been able to put the time aside where I have HAD to write. Whether I’ve wanted to or not is irrelevant. Maybe I’ve been tired, maybe the ideas just weren’t flowing or feeling right. None of this matters. Pushing through is all that matters. It’s the same with exercise. It’s the same with everything.
As Ernest Hemingway put it:
“You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless. There is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.”
I may not become a bestselling author. Hell, I’ll likely never even get published. But the knowledge that I can force myself to achieve things I didn’t think were possible for myself is more than enough.
Getting A Routine: I am pretty tired, though.
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