Some writers suffer from writer’s block. I suffer from motivation block.
Motivation, more than inspiration, is a slippery business for me. I’m never really lacking in inspiration (I think being fairly easy to please has something to do with that. That and a crappy memory which means I can watch something I love over and over and still experience the same tremors of surprise and joy that I did the first time, or at least shades of them. Bruce Willis has been dead this whole time? You guys, this is CRAZY). I enjoy the work of others more than a lot of people and so it’s fairly easy to be inspired. I find motivation far more difficult to grasp with two hands.
The grand, overarching motivation of “This is what I want to do” sometimes just isn’t enough. The carrot of “If I succeed in this, I can quit my other jobs and just focus on this” isn’t TANGIBLE enough to be effective. It could take years for this to come true. It might not ever happen- I might always have other jobs that I enjoy less, that frustrate me, to pay the bills and keep me independent. I’ve come to terms with that. I have to or I will go insane.
The “I need to escape my real life with creative work” motivation worked in high school and a bit in college but, truthfully, my adult life is pretty great- I make all the rules here. I have full control over where I live and who I spend my time with. I eat great food, I have an awesome dog, I’m close to my family, I have awesome friends, I get to travel, Parks and Recreation was not canceled- not really a lot to escape right now. Which is GOOD. I don’t think it should be necessary to move into a dungeon and flagellate myself just so I have a reason to write. Some writers may disagree (which is why we all drink whiskey and moan a lot, in case you were wondering) but I’m not going to miserable, not even for “art.” I refuse.
I bring this up now because motivation for finishing Book 2 had escaped me completely. I’ve been swallowed up by my real life- deadlines, personal stuff, friend stuff, other projects– and I let it slip away. For a month. A MONTH. When I saw the date of my last batch of notes, I swallowed hard. Not good. Really not good. I pledged to get back to work because I found that last date so disheartening. And in the course of going back to work, I made a little discovery:
Monday- I woke up early and got back to work. And I felt good. Really good. Better than I had in weeks. But I didn’t realize how good until Tuesday.
Tuesday- my least favorite day of the week, I found myself unable to get out of bed. And I went to day job without having written at all- I was a surly mess all day, a tangled mess of anxiety and ick.
This morning, I slapped the alarm when it went off at 5:20am and I had the same old internal debate I always have: Should I? I should. But what if? And then I could? But no. That won’t work. But? No. But if? No. I have to? I have to. If I don’t do it this morning, I won’t get it done. So I got up. It never feels like a small victory, not ever. It feels like I just won a marathon, winning that debate. This morning, I won. I worked. It felt good. I feel good now, as I type this.
And then it struck me- my motivation. I found it and it’s so simple, I feel like I just got smacked in the face with a frying pan. It’s the same one you use to eat well, to go to the gym, to call your mother first, to pay your bills on time. When I do this, I feel good. When I don’t, I feel bad. That’s it.
Suddenly, my motivation isn’t intangible at all- it’s the simplest answer to the most basic of questions: Do you want to feel good or bad? And I have always, always been good at answering that question.
When I don’t work in the morning, you can see it on my face the rest of the day. You hear it in my voice. I am heavier on those days, weightier, and I look it. What’s worse is that I feel that heaviness everywhere but especially on my heart. It’s bigger than guilt or shame, more complex and uneven and more… awful. I am failing myself on those days- pure and simple. And there is a cost, an actual, physical cost.
And there is just simply no excuse good enough, or big enough, for feeling that way. None. Not when I can help it. Not when the solution is staring me in the face at 5:20 in the morning, thin red lights blinking against blue.