Motivation is a Muscle
The muse. The stimulus. The spark. All these are synonyms for that tumbleweed barrelling through the dark corners of your mind stretching through the crevices of your heart, aching to fall headfirst onto the blank page before you or dive out of your mouth in song.
Inspiration. An unexpected guest we find hard to turn away because of how precious a commodity it can be.
Motivation, on the other hand, comes and goes in waves. So how do we actively work towards making inspiration manifest into actual words beyond the blinking cursor staring back at us in our word processors?
ISMART – The Goals
The most common of all goal-setting guidelines is the SMART criteria, developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in their 1981 article There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives.
What does this mean?
Smart is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound goals.
These help us keep our expectations of an endeavour or task in line with how realistic and attainable they are for us. It’s a useful way of measuring what we are capable of at the time we set out said goal and what measures need to be put in place (skills needed, resources to acquire, etc.) in order to make a success of it.
Here at Chasing Dreams, we like to think that the real fuel behind these goal-setting methods can be found both within us and outside of our modus operandi. This is why the headlining act of our version of the SMART principles is none other than the vivacious I for Inspiration.
Ancient civilizations suggest that inspiration comes from divine outside forces bestowed upon the select and worthy few by favour of higher entities. New-age psychologists suggest it resides deep within the psyche, and the everyday man may convince you it lies in ordinary day-to-day encounters, the touch of a lover or a smile from a stranger. However inspiration finds its way into our lives, our duty to it is to channel these bursts of enthusiasm into something beautiful and make them matter.
As with most things we do in life, the ‘WHY’ factor holds a great deal of weight when trying to find motivation and keep it flowing.
Why are you writing? Is this a life-long dream? Are you trying your hand at a new hobby? Is the world you’re building a space you go to to get away, to fill your life with fantasy and leave reality behind? Whether you’re writing for catharsis or for that eventual paycheque, something is keeping you going. Once you figure out the why, the how tends to follow in quick succession.
It’s just you and the Muses.
Your eyes fixed fervently on your laptop screen, your fingers anticipating every character, shift, backspace, the only thing drowning the sound of the clacking of keys out is the whisper of creative divinity pouring into your ear without breaths, without apology.
And then the phone rings.
Make An Appointment With Your Dreams
The time you spend writing is sacred. The best thing you can do is switch off from the rest of the world, if only for a few minutes, to afford yourself the kind of uninterrupted timeslot where it’s just you and your book baby.
Sometimes the things that hold us back from putting pen to paper are bigger than we have control over. Full time jobs, young children, not to mention the life-long labour of ensuring our bodies are healthy as well as our minds.
If your diary is chock-a-block, try to steal a few minutes before bedtime to get some decent writing in. The writing process can be paralysing when we think about how much work goes into weaving together a complete and coherent manuscript. The easiest part comes after the writing is done, but the writing should also be the most fun!Often we find procrastination to be a fickle friend – good when you need a supposed well-deserved time-out from your duties, and GREAT when you want to hate yourself for the ever-growing stack of blank pages on your desk. Having a schedule helps you keep track of your progress and creates a sense of routine which tends to increase productivity. So remember: a handful of words typed is still progress.
Get The Write Mood Going
Changing your environment can do wonders for reopening the creative floodgates.
Whether you’re drawing the curtains, clearing the clutter off your desk, or moving out of that dedicated writing space entirely, a little change goes a long way.
Having nifty writing utensils and playing soothing music in the background with a steamy cuppa Joe can make the experience more stimulating by engaging a variety of your senses. And if all else fails indoors, you and your book baby will have to take a stroll or take a break.
Don’t feel guilty for separating yourself from the process. Engaging your mind with other activities you enjoy allows the brain to recalibrate and potentially find inspiration where you least expect it. Change that space, stretch those legs, listen to a podcast—just break away for a while.
Though extraordinary, you’re only human, Susan. You deserve a break.
There Is An “I” In Deserve
When the pressures of the world weigh down on us to achieve more and live less, we tend to look at the writing process through the eyes of exhaustion, anxiety, and oftentimes resentment.
When we think of writing goals, let them live in the definition that focuses on the destination and the journey rather than that of limits and boundaries. Goals are not meant to separate us from the joy and the learning but rather to keep that infinite fire burning, giving meaning, and placing value on how it feels and what it is to be a writer.
Celebrate the milestones along the way because the writing process, just like life itself, is about those little moments, mild-mannered and seemingly ordinary. But when we look back, we realize the significance of each of them, and without even one, our story wouldn’t be whole.
Inspiration comes from the Latin word inspirare, which means "to breathe into", and motivation is a muscle exercised every moment you keep your eyes on the prize and the fire in your heart alive. So why not breathe life into the things that keep your literary dreams ablaze? You deserve that much.