Some Musings on Motivation and #ROW80

And when I say musings, I mean that I’m looking at some things that I’ve done right, and trying to figure out how the hell that happened.

There are three big things I’ve done in the last several years that I can easily point to and say: these are things which required a lot of motivation and I made them happen.

  1. Got my house together– When my daughter was finally done nursing and I was once again free to move about the cabin, I really did a lot of work to get my home in order. It was the first time in our marriage (about 15 years at that time, I guess) that we lived without any cardboard boxes in view. I decluttered, I cleaned up, I got routines together, and when disasters happened (as they did daily as I had a toddler around) I was able to take care of them and get things back to order.
  2. Wrote a book– Meaning I finished it. I started at the beginning and I wrote until the end. And it was even good. I made an outline, I had a list of scenes, and I tried to write at least one every day. I didn’t write every day, but I averaged more than one and I finished 30 days after I started. No putting it aside 2/3 in and starting something else, no putting writing aside to pick up another activity.
  3. Lost weight– I got married while I was still in college. Between the weight everyone gains in college and the weight everyone gains when first married, I was kinda screwed. My senior year I made a big effort at diet and exercise and lost half of what I’d gained those four years. But after that it was a slow but steady increase until I got pregnant almost a decade later. After losing enough of the baby weight to get out of maternity clothes and back to a size 14, I pretty much maintained 160-165 for a number of years. Today I weighed in at 127.5, a weight I haven’t seen this century.

So if I went through this period where I was good a keeping up my house, why is my house a wreck? Why am I always struggling with this? What am I doing wrong?

Why did it take me a month to write the first draft of Hush Money and close to ten months for Heroes ‘Til Curfew?

If I have the self-discipline to just say no to binges, over-eating, stress-eating, etc., why can’t I seem to apply that in other areas?

This is stuff I’ve been thinking. Reading about motivation can be confusing. A lot of it seems to come down to this concept: You just have to really want it. I can’t make you want it.

Well, um, I think I do want it. That’s why I’m here. I don’t know how to make myself want it anymore than this. I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with the notion of a greater level of want. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to help with my crazy level.

I mean, did I not want to write Heroes ‘Til Curfew? Of course I did. Did I want it enough? I think so.

It’s hard to talk about this stuff because nothing happens in a vacuum. I was better at housekeeping when I wasn’t also trying to run an Etsy shop or a writing career. I was better and just writing when I wasn’t in the throes of second book syndrome. There are definitely other factors at work.

But other people manage do more than one thing at a time, and I’d like to as well, so I’m looking at these three successes and trying to figure out what they had in common.

  1. When I was good at housekeeping, my goal was not to have a perfect or even beautiful home. I did not own the house I lived in, I knew I couldn’t afford to make the improvements it needed. It was never going to beautiful, but I was going maintain it and keep it as clean and comfortable as I could. The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process of making it better and maintaining the progress.
  2. When I was good at getting a book written, my goal was not to produce the greatest book ever. I had no standard I was going for, except for it to be finished and as good as I could make it. The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process of writing a book from beginning to end.
  3. When I was good at losing weight, I never had a goal weight. I might have said, I’d like to lose x amount, or I’d like to be x by the end of the summer, but those were just things I would throw out in conversation, like wishes. They were never subgoals of some greater endgame I was trying to achieve. In fact, when I did really start to lose weight, it wasn’t about losing weight, it was about changing my eating habit. The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process of learning to be mindful about eating and making better choices.

The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process.

That’s what I’ve pulled out of this. I’m not sure what it means, what to do with it, how to apply it. Not yet. Plenty of people do great by focusing on an end result and breaking that down into smaller tasks. I don’t think I’m that person. Some people make the decision to change their actions and they follow through. I don’t. When I tell myself to do stuff, most of the time I just don’t.

Maybe because it’s always easier to just stay where I am.

I’ve already determined that I need to change my thoughts before I can change my actions. Now I’ve determined that thinking about my goals as big end result things, or even smaller, successive results, doesn’t really work for me either.

What is going to work for me? Still don’t know. But if I figure it out, I’ll pass it on.

#ROW80: I have 10 threads for Heroes Under Siege. My goal for the week is to make sure I understand what happens in each one from beginning to end and how they interweave. That’s going well so far as I’m at 7/10 mostly done. I’d like to start brainstorming specific events and jotting down scenes next week.

Meanwhile, I should have a guest post up over at Book Lovers, Inc. today. The post is about taking something often considered boyish–superheroes–and taking it for Team Girl. And there’s a giveaway. Go, read, comment, make it look like people like me.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Some Musings on Motivation and #ROW80

  1. Ugh, about to head into Book #2 myself, but I don’t have the pressure of a really successful (or really unsuccessful) book #1 to worry about (because book #1 isn’t even out yet), which is probably a VERY GOOD THING. Congratulations on the weight loss. I will admit that, even though I set goals, I’m better at reaching them when I don’t focus on reaching them. Like you I’ve changed my eating and exercise habits and my weight is going down. Instead of pressuring myself to lose weight, I’m focussing on living healthily. You make a good point, relating that to writing a book. Hopefully this will help. Thank you 🙂

  2. Sometimes you are so much like me it scares me. LOL

    My house looks like crap, I haven’t been exercising, and I’ve been goofing off with the writing just because I got ROW80 done early. I let myself get too sleepy at night to take off my makeup and I end up sleeping in it. I haven’t touched my Etsy stuff in months. I feel like I’m spinning out of control.

    How do you maintain control? I’ve always found if I get one thing in control, the other stuff is easier, too. I just keep saying “I’ll work on that tomorrow”. That’s the biggest problem…procrastination. Do you feel like you do that, too? Say you’ll take care of stuff tomorrow? And then tomorrow never comes?

    • LL, when I was really depressed, I did a lot more of that tomorrow never comes stuff. (Think about that.) I’m still a procrastinator, but a lot of it’s habit now. I’m a very focused person. I focus on one thing at a time. If I have one thing going, everything else is a disaster. If I’m working on book stuff, I can’t even keep up with the most basic housekeeping. I usually go restock my Etsy shop at the beginning of the month when I pay my bill (everything in there now is digital.) But I didn’t even do it this month because I was, and still am, working on the book stuff. And I haven’t produced anything new for that in well over a year, even though I like it and know I could sell more.

  3. Very heartfelt post Susan. If you ever figure out the answer to motivation, can you shoot me an email? Preferably before you sell it for $80Gazillion to a publisher so I don’t have to wait six months. Great post.

  4. What a heartfelt and real post. It spoke to me and I relate so much. I loved it when you wrote “When I tell myself to do stuff, most of the time I just don’t.” LOL! That about sums me up when it comes to weight loss, exercise and sitting down and writing book 1, let along book 2!
    I am with Kerry, if you ever get the answer to mastering motivation, pass it along to the inside crew before selling it for a bazillion dollars.
    In the mean time, stick with it. You have a track record of success. Sometimes, it’s about focusing on what you have done and trusting the rest will work itself out – it always does!
    Hugs!

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