Man, the world is filled with motivators these days! It’s a whole industry unto itself. And I love to read their quotes, as those really do kick me in the butt to get stuff done. And a great attitude is infectious. Makes you want to jump in and do, well, whatever it is that you do!
I’m a motivator as well with my editorial clients. Almost always when a writer gets back the initial edit and critique, the first and main feeling is of being overwhelmed. Writing well, especially fiction and narrative nonfiction, has more elements to it than fire ants pouring out of a mound. As I often open with when speaking at literary conferences: “Writing well really IS rocket science.”
And so often when writers see their Mt Everest looming ahead, viewed from far below at base camp, the first response is to chuck those climbing shoes, pick up their tents, and call for the helicopter to fly them the heck out of there.
My job is to make sure they don’t actually hitch that ride home.
Almost always I can get them to take deep breaths, quit looking at the far far peak or the immediate abyss of a crevasse, and focus instead on the first step. And then the second. After that I have them hiking up the hill until they’re too far up to quit. And by then, they don’t want to stop, the summit growing closer by the day.
It’s the same with my own writing. If I were to set out to write a whole book, well, I’d need to lie down with an umbrella drink in hand after a good cry.
Because even the idea of it is too daunting! So instead, I focus on one scene. And then on the next one. And then on . . . Well, you get the picture. An old friend once likened writing a book to pinning scenes on a clothes line. Every book has the same sort of plot (there are no new ones, Aristotle said, a fair number of years back), and the difference is in how you pin those scenes together. Don’t you just love that?
Wait! You say. I thought we were talking motivation? We are, we are, just in a roundabout way. Which reminds me of—No! See, I can stop myself from digressing, at least now and then.
But the point being we all need motivation. And to be motivated. And to give that to others. It keeps our work moving in the direction of our dreams. Because you can of course dream forever but if you don’t take out your pickaxe and start chopping away at that hill, you’ll never reach the peak.
Motivation really is a luxury for the amateur, who doesn’t understand the vital part it plays. But it’s daily fare for the professional.
And while the latter finds motivation in all sorts of places, it ultimately must come from within. That’s where greatness originates—from within your breast.
I’ve always been fond of Steve Jobs’ take on this: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Yep, find and use motivation from all sources. But mainly, excavate it from your own heart. Because that’s the music that causes you to desire to dream and dance in the first place. And as Paula Ann Fairbanks says at the end of I Just Came here to Dance, “. . . once you catch the rhythm, the flow becomes endless.”
How do you get motivated?