SUMMARY: Identifying the roots issues for feeling unmotivated can be difficult and requires a certain subtitles when looking inward; but, by determining how and why we feel certain ways, we can often improve our cognitive trains of thought and work towards a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
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Have you ever had the urge to just…not write? Or to quit your project and start something fresh, and new, and exciting? Or, maybe, you’ve pondered quitting altogether? I’m here to tell you to snap out of it! And get back to work!
Many people have days when they just don’t want to move forward in their chosen profession, or even their passion. It’s not always sunshine, blue water, and warm sand, and sometimes we should find other ways to keep us going. These are the times we need to find other ways to keep going.
Every writer has moments where they hate their work and question everything. Whether it’s while their staring at the blank page of a fresh manuscript or a mountain of an edit letter, we’ve all been there.
I don’t know about you, but I’m lacking motivation this very moment – and that’s why I’m writing this. I’ve always been more proficient with this type of writing when I’m lackluster, prosaic, and spiritless. It’s a rough state of mind, but we can all work through it with a little guidance.
The first thing you’ll need to do is determine why we feel the way we do and change the problem at the stem. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times but putting a band aid on an issue doesn’t make it go away. Just like creating consequences to your achievements, or lack thereof, won’t help you. We need to needle-down why you feel this way, and here are some reasons:
Reasons You Might Become Unmotivated
Reason #1 Boredom with a project/scene/character/idea.
I totally get you. When I’ve been chugging through a project for a particularly long number of days, weeks, months, I get burned out. I think everyone gets here at one point or another. We just have to realize that this won’t get done without the hard work – without the grind.
Reason #2 You’re passionless, lacking purpose, or unfulfilled in one or several ways.
Sometimes people mistake this one for boredom, but there’s a significant difference. With boredom, you can leave it alone for a while a comeback to it – there’s still the spark – with total lacking, there’s an underlying problem that won’t resolve itself until we confront it. Or…sometimes, we just haven’t found our actual passion yet.
Reason #3 Unwilling to work hard to reach your dreams.
This is probably the biggest reason people give up on their passions – they just didn’t realize it was such hard work. Or the first thing they tried didn’t work, so they give up confident that nothing they would have tried could change their outcome.
Reason #4 Alternative focuses that weigh heavily on your conscious (work, personal, school, etc.).
Writers can be burned out by alternative focuses…and they can be motivated by their alternative focuses. If you’re burned out by them, what can you do to change your lifestyle to bring yourself out of your slump? Can you rearrange your day? Make arrangements to have a day all to yourself? Cut out a few nights out? Whatever the solution, it might take less than you think.
Now, hopefully you’ve determined why you’re feeling rough around the edges, and with that, we can move into the next section. Once you acknowledge the reason behind the issue, you are conscious of that issue and can recognize it when it creeps back into your mind. What do I need to do if it comes back? Squash it.
Squash it hard and dig your feet into the ground a little bit – but don’t just mask the problem. Instead, find what works and actively resolve the problem so – hopefully – it doesn’t keep cropping up.
To ensure I remain in the proper mindset, there are things I actively do every day to keep my mind and body focused, invigorated, and refreshed. These things include:
- Start my day with 10 minutes outside with 16 ounces of citrus (lemon, usually) water.
- Daily stretches in the morning for 15-30 minutes.
- Morning pages to purge my mind.
- A morning skincare routine – nothing super fancy; just a facewash, with spritzer and creams afterwards.
- Infrequent journal entries throughout the day – sometimes you need it, sometimes you don’t.
- Exercising 3-4 times per week.
- Reading a book, playing games, or going for a ride in the evenings.
- Staying consistent with my active working times – and taking a 5-minute break every hour to walk around and stretch.
- Keeping my calendars up-to-day – this is mostly for my sanity.
These nine items are high on my self-care list of things to do on a daily – and sometimes weekly – basis because it keeps my heart happy and blood pumping. If you don’t have little things like this to keep you balanced throughout your days, I suggest coming up with a short list of things you can do daily to keep yourself a little more balanced.
But if you’re still feeling down and unenthusiastic, these are my go-to things to do to work through my problems and not let them overwhelm me more than they already are.
Tips for Being More Motivated
Tip #1 Break up your work.
Take your tasks for the day and work through them one at a time. Don’t look at the laundry list of things on your to-do list, or even the things you need to do next week. If you’re having troubles staying motivated right now, that stuff will do nothing but demotivate you more. Instead, take one task, tackle it, and take a 15-30-minute break. Then move on to the next checkbox on your list.
Tip #2 The Treat System
This is pretty easy to understand: finish a task, get a treat; don’t finish a task, don’t get a treat. Treats can be anything you enjoy: candy, phone time, TV time, a game, a book, a metaphor. Whatever your pleasure.
Tip #3 The Anti-treat System
This…one isn’t for the faint of heart. The theory is to take things away if you don’t finish tasks, or one or two items away for each item on your task list, and slowly give these things back to yourself as you check things off your to-do list. The trick is to take things away that will actually motivate you to complete some stuff!
Tip #4 Switch projects and tasks
I try to keep at least two – but usually three – active projects at once with one being the main project; that way, I can always rotate my projects to avoid getting bored of one. But the same theory can be used if you’re only working on one. Perhaps you’re working on marketing. If you’re feeling the lackluster sinking in, try switching tasks to editing or proofreading or research. Anything that isn’t marketing.
Tip #5 Take a break or hiatus… And mean it!
And when all else fails me, I just take a break from the writing, from everything. I take a break from my projects and just give myself a little time to recoup. This is often most difficult for people, because by stopping…you eventually have to get moving again and the “get moving again” part if HARD.
But Do These Tips Work?
I’ve used these tactics to get through almost every tragedy I’ve come across since starting my journey, and I hope they help you find the best you and stay there enough to make your dreams come true. The biggest difference I’ve found is to stay consistent with your approach to the writing process. Sometimes, when I get out of sorts, it’s difficult to flip the switch and go back to my daily routines.
By doing on of the five things above, you’ll not only stay productive through your slump and stay both practiced and aligned with your goals, but you’ll also recognize that you aren’t working at top effectiveness and realize you need some time to get back into you groove.
The main thing to note is that things don’t get done because we wish them to; things get done because we do them and even if we’re unmotivated, we need to stay on track. If you’re feeling particularly out of it, try something you haven’t done in a while: get a massage, go for pleasant, leisurely drive, or take a day-trip out of town.
Most writerly tasks are huge, like writing your novel, editing your novel, marketing your novel, but they’re also the whole reason writers can be writers and make a living simultaneously. Can you imagine a world where you weren’t able to do the things you loved?
Yeah…I didn’t do it either because that world would be crisis-mega-ultra. It would be as terrible as a crying puppy. You’d just want to pick it up, brush of the dirt, and help it in any way you know how. And if that ends with bringing it home and feeding and cuddling with it…then so be it.
The how? Keeping writing, even through unmotivated times.
Remember, at the beginning – and oftentimes in the middle and towards the end – every task or goal can seem like a mountain; but as you progress and hit various milestones, the mountain gets smaller and turns into a hill…and then a mound…and then a bump, until, finally, it’s just another flat piece for road.
That flat piece of road is what you need to look forward to.
To quote Dag Hammarskjold, “Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”
Staying Motivated Action Steps:
- Take a few steps backwards and determine why you aren’t feeling motivated.
- Create a short-list of self-care items you can action daily or weekly.
- Determine which tactic(s) work for you to help get your out of that slump, while still being productive.