Friday, April 12

Finding (the right) Motivation

I'm not going to lie; sometimes I need a lot of motivation to get anything done around here. I know a lot of you are probably shocked by that, but it’s true. I’m freakishly organized and I’m a bit of a workaholic (okay, a lot of a workaholic), but I always need motivation to accomplish anything.

"Okay, if I finish this English essay, I get to watch last night's episode of Law and Order: SVU." Or, "If I read this chapter for Anthropology, I get to have two cookies!" And the most common recently: "If I work on this chapter and get to this spot right here, I can read a book, or watch a movie, or go to sleep..."

It is a never-ending cycle of bribery.

Unfortunately, the fear tactic has never really worked on me. Of course, if I had a giant ass shark swimming behind me while I blithely kayaked in the middle of nowhere, I think it would work…maybe. But when I have a figurative gun to my head, my "Murphy" comes to the fore and tells it to screw off (although the language is a bit more “R” rated than that, I'm afraid). That’s not to say I can’t meet deadlines, because let’s be honest, my OCD side loves deadlines. It just means I’m going to kick and scream and beat at the shark with my paddle rather than hightailing it out of there like any sane person would do.

This often leaves me with a bit of debacle. How can I motivate myself without using junk food, or TV, or anything else that would ensure I’m five hundred pounds by the age of forty?

I’m sad to say, a lot of my motivation over the years has been how to prove to _______ that I can do it (fill in the blank with anyone from friends to extended family, to snobby, arrogant creative writing teachers who think the romance genre is for lonely old women).


Last night I got a bit of a kick in the pants. I know I’ve been busy with surgeries, university, my FiancĂ© Visa, moving to another country, getting married, setting up a house, raising a puppy etc… but it makes me sad when I think of all the years I could have been writing but didn’t have the time. As my close family and friends can attest, I’m happiest when I’m off in my own little world, typing away on my keyboard.

I used to forget that fact, but no more. Regardless of how busy I get, I will keep writing. I am going to finish A Highlander’s Ransom this year, no matter how much of a shark-beating tantrum I throw. I may need help with this endeavor (keeping me motivated, not hitting the shark with my paddle… because, really, I’ve got that part down), so any suggestions you have would be much appreciated.

Have you ever struggled with motivation? How did you work through it? Do fear tactics work on you, or are you more of the "chips and dip" kinda writer (like me)?


  1. Damn, now I want chips and dip :)

    Great post, Natalie - you were describing me every step of the way! Sad thing is, I do the bribery thing, then if I don't finish, I have the bribe anyway! So I have a hard time with motivation. Deadlines work, but no self-imposed (see above about bribery).

    Looking forward to seeing the other responses to your post (may help me) and following along on your quest to get your manuscript finished!!

  2. Janet-- Heheheh, sorry ;)

    Thank you! I do the exact same thing. The bribery doesn't really work when you get the reward no matter what you end up accomplishing lol. Yeah, I always need to enlist other people to keep me in line--my mum, my husband, my CPs, etc...

    I hope to be able to query late this summer, but we shall see ;)

  3. Great post, Nat! I love sharks and that photo is awesome!!

    Bribery works...up to a point. When it becomes all about the reward and not the work, it's definitely time to try something else. I think making writing a daily habit is the key. It needs to become an automatic part of your life, something you do every day like brushing your teeth or walking the dog. It may be that you write only three paragraphs or twenty pages -- whatever you can manage. Just write!

    When I think of all the time I wasted not writing, it makes me want to cry. I try not to dwell on what could have been. My new motto is NO MORE REGRET! I try to think like my beloved Doxies and live in the moment. I try to write every day. And if I don't, that's okay. Tomorrow is a new day.

  4. Jen- Thank you!!!

    I agree completely. That's why I'm trying to move away from bribing myself. I haven't been able to write every day, but I do open my story every single day, which I count as a win ;) (Hey, I'm *trying* hehehe)

    That's a great motto =)

  5. I have recently discovered that actual punishment works pretty good.

    Before you call the folks in the white coats, hear me out:

    I struggle to balance school and fitness. Want to do both, can't do it. Or so I thought.

    For a while a few weeks ago, though, I started a new tactic to make progress on some work I was dreading: work for an hour (or two, whatever you need) then take 10 minutes to do a mini-workout. And for every hour (or two) you work, you have to do a workout.

    It's definitely a motivator in terms of getting a project done quickly. I've slipped a bit with it as end of term approaches, because even sparing ten minutes seems like too much, but yeah. It works.

  6. Kels- Lol I'm still not quite sure how that works. Personally, I would dread when my time is up and I would probably avoid doing any of it.

    The only success I've had recently with writing and working out is when I put them into my daily routine (like Jena said) and don't give myself a choice:

    I have to write 500 words (or reach the end of this scene, etc...) and then I HAVE to workout for an hour, then I can have a 10 minute Facebook break, then I can have lunch...

    It's really structured, but it's the only way I can get anything done around here lol. I've always been that way--even in university.

  7. It's a similar process to what you've already established, except that instead of giving you time to hit a certain point - 500 words written, a scene finished, and so on - you're working with a particular time limit; once the time limit is up, you have to break for a workout. It means, unless you really want to do a thousand crunches in a day, you can't dawdle over those words that are sticking in your head.

    I definitely agree with the dreading time being up, and that's why it works for me. From the time I sit down at my desk to work on a project, every hour I spend at the desk = ten minutes working out. So if I waste time on Facebook or other distractions, I'm going to end up working out a LOT more than if I focused and got the project done quickly.

    I imagine it probably works best in cases like mine, where I have definite deadlines to meet all the time and so can't afford to take days off. It makes working out less daunting in terms of a time commitment when time is already scarce, and makes it pretty essential to make real progress with a project. Obviously, there's the problem of quantity over quality, but once you've got a draft written, you can decide if you need the punishment/bribery tactic to get you through edits.

  8. Kels- Ah okay, I understand. I can see where it would work, but I'm not sure I have the right personality for it. However, if I keep struggling, I will definitely give it a try! Can't hurt, right? ;)

    And I'm not the type to write a first draft quickly, so the quantity over quality doesn't tend to be an issue for me.


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