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Friday, June 2, 2017

Try Different Self-Motivation Strategies

There is little that is more satisfying in life than sitting back and taking a long look at the fruits of your hard work. Knowing that the discomfort and sometimes pain you put yourself through payed off, and was all worth it. Having a job sometimes does this for you, and sometimes does not, depending on whether or not your work is meaningful to you, among other things. In my experience, the best way to find meaningful work is to start your own project, such as a hobby. This is more meaningful because the motivation to do it is internal, rather than imposed upon you by someone else.

If you're like me, you sometimes find your self-motivation running low. and you've searched for advice. The advice you find on the internet almost always will say something like, “write every day and keep to a strict schedule.” Everywhere you look, it is the same advice. While this may be good for some people, whenever I try to get into a routine, I inevitably fail. I can usually get through a few days fine, but after that it gets harder and harder, and eventually I succumb to the fatigue.

I have found through experience that the creative part of my brain is subject to forces outside of my knowledge. Some days I am on top of the world, running at full throttle. On one of these days I might write an entire blog post draft, brainstorm three others, and make progress in one of my stories. On other days, I can't form a coherent sentence. If I try to force myself to write on these days, my work ends up looking like Lightning mcQueen's first attempt at building a road in Pixar’s first Cars movie.

My writing on a bad day.
A daily schedule does not work for me. What I need is to recognize when I am in the writing spirit and take advantage of it, so that when the low periods kick in I am covered. That is why right now I am writing this even though it is an hour later than I usually go to bed.

I would guess that the reason the advice you find tells you to have a schedule is because the people giving the advice looked at the lives of successful people and found that they keep to schedules. But I suspect many of them did not start out that way, but formed habits and fell into a routine. The advice-givers only look at people after they are successful, and not while they are starting out just like everyone else.

In my own writing quest, I have come up with several strategies of my own to push my boundaries and get the most out of my abilities.

  • I always publish SciFic on Fridays, but allow myself to miss one or two weeks here and there without feeling guilty. Sticking to a specific day of the week keeps me from the danger of putting it off till “some other day,” while letting myself off gets rid of the paralyzing effect that the pressure of deadlines has on me and keeps the quality of my work up to my current standards.
  • I keep a journal of daily micro-achievements, where I write everything I did that day that will have a lasting impact. Things like making progress on a story or blog post or my research go on this list, while household chores do not. If I don't do anything on a given day, I write “Rested” rather than leaving it blank. This journal has shown me that I do a lot more work with lasting value than I feel like I do.
  • I think in terms of cans instead of shoulds. I tell myself that I can write, rather than that I should write. I tell myself that I have the opportunity to work to make a positive impact, rather than the obligation to do so. This mindset cultivates feelings of optimism and energy rather than the paralysis of guilt.
  • Keep the goal in mind. Rather than sticking to the rules and myopically scrambling to keep SciFic updated on time, I remember that all my writing is for a purpose. I want to publish science fiction novels, and touch people with my characters and worlds and themes. It is that purpose that matters, so it is all right for me to relax a little along the way rather than trying to sprint the whole marathon.

Feel free to try these out, and don't worry if they don't work for you. You may need to find your own strategies, as I did. Searching for the right strategy doesn't just apply to writing, but everything that involves self-motivation. Try out expert advice that you find, but don't count yourself beat if it doesn't work for you. Try something else. Learn how your body and mind work, and figure out a strategy to get the most out of your strengths that you can.

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