Episode 46: Finding Your Motivation
Today I discuss what happens when you lose your motivation. We define the curse, look at what may cause it and how we can overcome it without falling deeper into the darkness.
You can listen to the episode right here. The transcription is below the player. Feel free to add your comments using the comment section below.
Episode 46 Transcript
Note: Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and humans, as such, it may contain errors. Please, double-check the audio file before quoting anything from this page.
00:00 [JT Pledger] I want you to imagine something with me for a moment. If you are able to close your eyes, do so. Picture yourself waking up with important things to do today. Perhaps you have some homework, or you want to finally start working on that novel. You get out of bed and get ready for the day, you make your tea or coffee, boot up the computer and sit down to work. Except, you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you can’t push the keys on the keyboard. No words come out and anything that does appear on the screen is gibberish. You can open your eyes. What you just imagined it what it feels like for millions every day. It’s a condition called lack of motivation. That’s what I will talk about today, right after the break.
01:32 [JT] With motivation, you can accomplish just about anything. The problem is, we don’t always have motivation. Sometimes, like in our introduction exercise, you want to do work, but you just can’t. No matter what you try, the words won’t come. Today, I want to discuss this mystical entity known as motivation. We will look at what it is, how it can come and go and what you can do to get it back.
Motivation, A Definition
02:07 First, a definition. Allow me to once again pull out my dictionary to give you the proper definition. Motivation is the reason someone has for behaving or acting in a particular way, or, it is also defined as a general desire to do something.
02:32 Now, let me put this dictionary away and tell you what it really means. Motivation, for a writer, is the longing, the itch, that overwhelming need to finish a project or work. When you have it, it is great, but when it is gone, well, that can be detrimental.
02:56 In a sudden twist of irony, I woke up this morning missing my motivation. Planning this podcast for over a week now, I knew it had to be done, and I had other projects to work on as well. I woke up, feeling like any other day, not quite ready to be out of bed, but too awake to fake sleeping any longer. I got up, made my bed and opened the windows while the coffee brewed.
It Started Like Any Other Day
03:26 I drank my first cup sitting at the computer, I had the podcast software up, the writing software open and everywhere there were blinking cursors taunting me. So, I had a second cup of joe, then a third. Still, the words I wanted to write eluded me. I was in a funk. I knew what the problem was, I had no desire. I didn’t want to do anything, there was no motivation.
04:00 Perhaps it was because that was, I don’t know. What I do know is that I had to stop it. I had to somehow overcome and persevere and make shit happen. But how? Honestly, I didn’t know. I am not unfamiliar with a lack of motivation. Actually attempting to overcome it though, was not on my agenda for the day.
04:30 Instead, I wanted to talk to you about motivation from a different point of view. Things work out in mysterious ways, and here we are. The first thing I did was crumple my notes for the original podcast format. I wasn’t going to force something that wasn’t there.
04:50 Then I got to thinking. What caused the sudden lack of drive? What was it that made me wake up feeling fine and all of a sudden, the muse was just gone? I will admit that I still do not have that answer. Since you are listening to the podcast now, I can tell you that I got it back, that much is obvious. But how?
Identify That I was Unmotivated
05:18 The first thing I did was identify the problem. I knew I had no desire. So, I began to think about the why and came up empty. After about half an hour I decided to change my focus. Instead of worrying about why something is, I will accept it as fact and move on from there. I think this is a good first step. It works for my depression, too. “Okay, I am currently suffering from depression, lack of motivation, an itchy nose;” whatever the case is, insert it into that sentence.
05:56 Now, admitting the problem is always a good start. Like I did this afternoon. “I do not have any motivation.” What can I do? I looked at my notes and my lists and my calendar. I have a project that needs doing, I have a podcast episode to produce, and I have time. So, the first thing I did was use some of that time to sit back and just breathe.
06:27 Of course I have other things I can work on, my novels and screenplays, the eBooks and video courses, but for this moment, right now, I have two pending projects due. I realized and admitted that I didn’t want to do either, but I had to. I will tell you that this little step, doesn’t do anything. We all have things we have to do, telling ourselves to just fucking do them! Well, that doesn’t do much to bring Uncle Mo back.
Can We Put Wants Ahead of Needs?
06:59 So, I thought about what I wanted to do. Assuming I had no pressures and nothing pending, what is it that I wanted to do? Go back to sleep? No, I wasn’t tired and even the thought of crawling back in bed wasn’t enough to even move me. I could eat, but I didn’t feel like doing that either.
07:23 I sat here in my chair for several minutes and decided there wasn’t anything I wanted to do. I can admit I wanted to do nothing. I also admit that solves no problems. So, I decided to do something.
07:43 The first thing I made myself want to do was to stop feeling this way. I stood up, I stretched and I walked around the house for a bit. High-steps and a little bouncing to get the blood moving. It didn’t seem to do anything, to be honest, but it is a good thing to do now and then.
08:04 When I reentered the living room I looked at my stereo. I will put on a record. So, I did. I chose a 4-album set of Tchaikovsky that I have. Music without words is best for me to write with, otherwise I get distracted in lyrics. So, I put the first album on and returned to my desk.
Something is Better Than Nothing
08:25 I still didn’t have any motivation, but I at least had some drive. I opened my writing project and I started typing words. They sucked, of course, and I have since deleted and rewritten all of them. But I was working. After about a page and a half, I stopped. I just wasn’t feeling it.
08:46 What to do now? I thought. I knew that for myself, and maybe it is the same for you, but for me if this continues it will get bad. Depression will seep in, or worse, self-doubt. I have now gone almost 2 full years without a serious bout of depression. As for self-doubt, it has been much longer. In fact, if you ask anyone that knows me, I may even now be a bit conceited.
09:23 Having to battle depression while being unmotivated is shit. Dealing with that and self-doubt? I’ve been there before and it is not pretty. I have deleted entire novels under that duress and I was not going to allow myself to get back there. I hope you don’t either. So, we have to solve this.
09:47 I remember reading somewhere that the muse only appears when she is ready, and when you prove yourself worthy of her presence. I always thought it funny that for the muse to strike you have to be deep in the project, working your ass off. Like some cherub coming in at the last minute to take credit for everything. That always told me that ideas, motivation and work came from just doing the work. There wasn’t any magic little winged being going to come and do it for you.
10:21 Thinking about this made me smile. And I started clacking away at the keyboard once again. It was still slow, and it was miserable, but I did it. I kept going, too. I took my breaks as normal, I ate when I was hungry and I even sneaked in a little 45 minute nap because I was a little tired.
10:39 Let me be the first to tell you, it didn’t help. I wish there was a magic bullet to get rid of the lack of motivation, but I fear that there isn’t. Instead, the cure is perseverance. You just do it anyway.
10:58 The secret, though, is that you are allowed to whine and bitch and complain the entire time. I still have my notepad here next to me full of expletives and other words that I have screamed out a few times today. There isn’t a law against it. So, go for it.
11:18 Go slow, go fast, as long as you go. I don’t think the lack of motivation was the real problem. It happens to everyone, it happens daily, and you may have long stretches where you are completely motivated. However, that one day when you aren’t can feel like an eternity.
11:38 So we overcome. Personally, I needed to stay ahead of it so as not to slip into depression. For you, it may be different. But here are some things that help. Smile. Even fake smiles turn into real ones. Forcing a smile will release the endorphins and make us actually feel better. So smile, even if you have to fake it at first.
Where is Your Smile?
12:07 Find something that makes you happy, even temporarily. Perhaps there is a funny video on YouTube that makes you laugh, or a friend you can chat with that always helps you smile. Whatever it is for you, go and do it, even for a few minutes. Put on some Tchaikovsky, or Eminem, and listen to the music. Take a step back and watch a movie or one of your favorite television shows.
12:39 Whatever you do, though, the work still looms. You still have to sit down and write words. Smile though it and get it done. I still don’t have any cherub or winged being sitting on my shoulder making me type, but I do have a finished podcast to upload for you and I have a completed project, and those feel just as good.
13:05 Maybe tomorrow, I will wake up and feel motivated once again, may I won’t. What matters is that I find a reason to smile, I push through boring things that must be done anyway, and take time to enjoy the small things that are in my day.
You Can Do It!
13:25 You can do the same. Eventually, motivation will swing back your way, and you will be ready for it. Just stay ahead of the really bad things, depression, self-doubt, denial, anxiety. Uncle Mo may be a bastard at times, but he isn’t the worst thing out there.
13:47 Stay focused, find your smiles and your drive and push through. You can do it. With or without help, no one can stop you. Remember to breathe, do what needs doing and don’t worry so much about the things you cannot control.
14:08 Until next week, kids, Have fun; write words.