How to Stay Motivated Even If You’re a Writer
A lot of writers hate writing. They sit and stare at the blank page or screen. They end up posting about how hard writing is, how torturous. Their post will get them a million likes.
But it wasn’t always like that for that.
Most of us write because at one point we really loved writing. Drawing? The same thing.
There was a study of little kids in a school setting and these little kids really loved to draw. They chose it as a free-time activity over and over again. So the researchers started to give them gold stars for drawing as a reward for the activity. The kids kept drawing. Then the researchers took the gold stars away. The kids stopped drawing—this thing they loved—because they were no longer getting an external reward and dopamine rush for it. Their internal reward that had compelled them to draw earlier? It no longer mattered.
We do this to ourselves all the time. We look to external rewards and validation instead of to the inside.
Dopamine is basically this feel good chemical (or neurotransmitter) that brings information from one neuron to another. Our brains let the dopamine loose into the nervous system when we do the horizontal mambo, when we eat something yummy, when we do cool things, even when we drink or do drugs (which is why those things can be so addictive, right?).
When we do painful things (like running or studying or writing our epic novel about two gerbils against the universe), our brain will release dopamine later for the reward, but in the moment you have to say:
- I am doing this by choice
- I am doing this because I love it.
- This is hard, but hard is good because hard means striving, hard means that I’m probably in a growth mindset.
You want to turn effort into reward and pull pleasure from the effort itself, not the reward that comes at the end because that makes you resent the effort. Or if you’re an overthinker (cough), you might realize that there may be no reward at the end, no seven-figure book contract, no marathon that you magically finish in the top ten.
You want the dopamine to be linked to the effort of training, of running, of studying itself, of putting your butt in chair and writing about Xena Gerbil Princess and her true love the gerbil bard, Gabby.
There’s a Navy Seal, David Goggins, retired, right? And he is all about this: about giving what you do everything you have so that you can achieve greatness and self discipline and toughness.
Now, a Navy Seal seems light years away from a writer sending out social media posts about how much they hate writing and how painful it is or about the writer who only looks toward the reward of publication (traditional) or massive sales (independent or traditional).
Why does this matter?
I work with a ton of authors who are so talented. But some can’t bring themselves to write any more. I work with a ton of authors who are so talented. But some are too afraid of rejection to lean in and enjoy their talent or process or even send out some pages.
“Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.”
― David Goggins, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Play for the love of playing. – Pogie Pup
LINKS WE MENTION
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!