Wherein I respond to a writing prompt.

“What are you putting off that would make your life better if you did it?”
What’s a concrete step you can take towards that goal?

Although I take issue with the phrasing of the question, the spirit of the question is basically, what are you dreaming about, and how can you start to accomplish it?

Answer? I’m dreaming about writing novels. I can go write one.

I’m giggling because that’s a bold statement on many levels, but it really boils down to action. I don’t need to think about it. I don’t need to wonder about it. I don’t need to keep researching it. I just need to start (or continue, because I have, at least, begun).

Easier said than done. A recent Facebook exchange illustrates my thinking on the matter. “Him” was impressed by my unwavering status updates about exercising.

Him:    You are my hero :-). I wish I could become as motivated.
Me:     Ha. I think motivation is a byproduct of commitment.
Him:    I’m definitely committed… To eating.
Me:     Lol. Exactly. I bet it’s easy to get motivated to do it, too. 🙂

In short, I’m coming around to thinking that the motivation to continue comes after the decision (and action) to start. Actually, I would extend that and say, the motivation to continue comes after repeated decisions followed by repeated actions. Sometimes, you just have to do it, motivation or not. You have to will yourself against the inertia of inactivity.

I’m torn with my own revelation. I do many things based on inspiration, gut feelings, sixth senses, and the like. If something doesn’t feel good, or not quite right, I often won’t do it, continue it, etc.

The flip side is, sometimes I don’t follow through on things that do feel right. In those moments, I use procrastination, confusion, or many other tricks of self-sabotage to avoid doing the thing I claim I really want to do.

It begs the question… if I’m working this hard not to do something, is that thing really for me to do? Without getting into the psychology of why we prevent ourselves from doing things we actually want to do (I’m not a psychologist), I’ll say yes. That thing is often still for you, despite your reasons, excuses for not getting to it. And this is where my commitment first idea comes into play. A brief diversion is necessary to explain my point.

I have not always exercised daily – opting instead for three days per week. This was fine for a level of fitness, but it created many opportunities for procrastination. I mean four days off per week!? But I started to notice that the days I pushed myself to exercise anyway, I was always SO GLAD I did! And the days I didn’t? I was sluggish all day. If I had those choices to do over again, I’d drag myself kicking and screaming out of bed most of those off days.

Since I already knew the reward, or the benefit of exercise, the only thing missing was my commitment to it. I already knew I’d be happier on the other side, but getting over the hump was the trick.

Deciding to exercise, no matter what, and following through, no matter what, paid in dividends that made it EASY to continue! There was that previously elusive quality – motivation – in abundance! I had momentum on my side, the wind at my back, and all of that. Once I was committed, the motivation was there.

I hope this makes sense to someone other than me.

So back to the novel writing, or whatever it is you’d like to do…

Sitting around waiting for motivation to strike first is like waiting for the perfect breeze on a summer day in Georgia. It may come if you’re lucky, but then again, maybe not. For the daily grind, the motivation to continue comes after active commitment to begin.

I sometimes avoid writing like the plague. Even though I love it! Once I get in a groove, I’m in it, man! Once I have written a satisfying piece, I’m overjoyed. Even in the midst of thinking my way through a piece, when things get messy and confusing, I still enjoy it. I’m excited. I’m – you guessed it – motivated!

But getting started?

Hell no.

So should I wait until I feel like it to start? Welp. Let’s just say a certain 200 page document might still be unwritten if I had only worked the days on which I was “motivated” at the outset.

But here’s the deal. Clean water won’t flow through barely used pipes until the rusty water flows first. And no water, not even dirty water, is flowing through a closed tap.

So sit down. Open the tap. That small action, that active commitment, is what (eventually) creates the motivation. Your life, like that thirst-quenching water, is simply waiting on you!

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2 thoughts on “Wherein I respond to a writing prompt.

  1. I’ve been thinking about giving up writing altogether. Not the writing I do for work – which is a lot – but the writing I always thought I’d do. Short stories, novels plays. I haven’t even tried in months (a year or more?), so I think I’m not committed enough to make it happen. Nothing is stopping me, but me. I’ve workshoped, researched and studied. But maybe I shouldn’t give up yet.

  2. Definitely don’t give up. I always thought I’d write short stories, novels and plays, too. And I have a million reasons why I haven’t. But I’m over all of that. The world is waiting for our stories! Let’s figure out a structure that works for us, and birth them.

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