How do we harness the power of our motivation and enthusiasm even when it feels like we can’t?
I’m sorry to say I don’t have a solution to this problem, at least not one that works every time. What I can offer is a few pieces of advice which you can add to your toolbox of things to ignite the spark of creativity within you.
The first is to jump on the train when it gets moving by itself. When you feel the writing flow, or the beautiful notes sing from your tongue, or feet get tapping all on their own, dive in! Pull out your pen and paper, push your fingerprints down on those frets, and let the story in your soul blossom into reality. This feeling may not appear as often as we’d like, so we must grab each opportunity when it comes. The few times a year this happens for me I can sit down and write the entire first draft of a short story or the chapter of a book in no time at all. What usually happens after that is I reward myself with a break that is just a tad too long, and I lose the thread of motivation to the unbidden pull of procrastination. If your muse is there, the words are flowing, and you aren’t going to put lives or your means of livelihood (i.e. current job security) at risk, keep going!
The second is to figure out what things fill your soul with energy. A lot of the time these may not be the same things that our creativity creates. Let me try to explain. Writing and making music are two things which I love doing, and some of the time give me motivation for other things. When I finish a successful writing session, for example, I might feel great and keen on doing the dishes. What my brain seldom does in these moments is think “Yeah! Let’s get straight back into writing.” And wouldn’t you know it, doing the dishes doesn’t quite have the same effect of filling my soul with energy. (You’re not getting off the hook that easy, the dishes are still a very worthwhile use of time.) More often though, it takes more front effort to overcome the resistance to picking up my guitar or to sit down at my keyboard than I get back from doing the thing.
Hence figuring out what things give us energy is important. No one thing will work every time, so I have a bunch of things for different situations. Listening to faster, heavier rock music can get me amped for writing fight sequences in fantasy stories. Calmer, more tranquil music can help me focus for writing blog posts and research. Eating regular meals helps give energy for most things, but specifically I find it helps me recognise and avoid distractions. Going for a walk, getting out into a nearby park, or getting some fresh air can help get blood flowing and keep our mind sharp. Watching live performance music videos from favourite bands hits me in the gut and reminds me that I love how live music can allow me to connect with people.
Two things have been added to this list fairly recently. One is conversation with my people I trust. If there’s something gnawing at my brain but I can’t quite figure out what, spending time working through it out loud helps me decipher what it is or peacefully let go of any unhelpful overthinking in that moment. Which brings me to number two, spending intentional time with God. Realising when my mind is looping around in harmful circles and laying this down to God helps me slowly release pressure I put on myself of having to solve problems right now. Because I don’t. This isn’t purposefully avoiding difficult thoughts and situations in my life, it’s realising when is a good time and when isn’t for my mind and I to approach, understand, and work through them.
Maybe you throw your thoughts out into the universe, maybe you pray like I am learning to do more frequently, maybe you keep a daily journal, maybe you meditate in the silence of your local park, maybe you put on your favourite tunes and do nothing but listen to them, tap your feet, and nod your head. Whatever it is, make sure you permit yourself to fill your soul with the good stuff.
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What things fill your tank when it’s getting down close to empty?
How do you know when it’s time to recharge?
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I’m still learning what it looks like to know what I want to do, when and for how long I want to do it, and being ok voicing this to myself and others. It is far more difficult than I thought it would be, but very worthwhile.
Keep on keeping on being awesome. PEACE.