Motivation is a mysterious subject. You may have wondered why some days you can’t wait to dive into the writing while other days you simply don’t want to get your butt into the chair and do the work. What’s going on?
We’re raised with a lot of “shoulds” and “should nots.” You should wash your hands before meals. You should play fair. You should change your oil every 3000 miles. You shouldn’t cheat on your spouse. You shouldn’t take things without paying. You shouldn’t kick dogs.
Now you’re facing the challenge of writing. A good many “shoulds” and “should nots” lurk in this endeavor as well. You should write every day even if you don’t feel like it. You should take writing classes. You should learn the rules of punctuation. You shouldn’t avoid the piece you’re working on. You shouldn’t stop writing after only half an hour. You shouldn’t pretend that the rules don’t apply to you.
But what if we turn those “shoulds” and “should nots” on their heads. Consider these options:
- Write when you feel like it.
- Take writing classes, but only if you want to.
- Learn correct punctuation as you go, using reference books.
- Skip the piece you’re working on and write something else.
- Stop writing after half an hour and do something that pleases you.
- Pretend the rules don’t apply to you.
Hmmm. Now I’ve really mixed you up. Haven’t I repeatedly talked about habits, routines, and good time management? All along I’ve been encouraging you to “keep going!”
But what if part of the secret of getting some meaningful writing done is for you to find a path to wanting to do the work? Could it be that giving yourself the freedom to listen to your own urges and desires might be the most reliable guide to getting yourself into the chair and finding yourself eagerly struggling to get the words right?
My unprovable theory here is that forcing yourself to write may be exactly the wrong way to get the work done. Yesterday I didn’t write at all. I didn’t want to. Instead I ran errands, took care of some emails, weeded my garden, and made pork chops. Today I’m sitting in my desk chair, typing on my keyboard, thinking of ideas to put in this workbook because I want to. I enjoy doing it. Sitting in the chair and wrestling with the words pleases me. And I love it.
We’re not typically raised to listen to and honor that voice inside ourselves that says, “Today I want to….” And of course, each of us has numerous constraints on our choices and our time. We have jobs, children, parents, spouses, school, money issues, and health limitations. Each of these important considerations plays a part in how we operate.
But I urge you to add your wishes to your daily To Do list. What do you want to do? Over time I believe you will find that there is a rhythm, an ebb and flow to your writing. What doesn’t appeal one day can often lead to a heightened eagerness the next.
In this workbook you’ve learned to listen to your thoughts, to spend time in your head, searching for and capturing the words, characters, and scenes to put on the page that will mean something. All that effort looking inward is not wasted. Use those same skills to attend to your own thoughts, feelings, and wishes. Instead of doing only to what you should do, what you have to do, what you must do, consider what you want to do today.
The opposite of forcing yourself to do something may be to open you up to doing what you enjoy. I hope you can let writing be your joy.