Motivation Part II: Types of It

Hello, Folks! In PART I of the Motivation series, we defined motivation and identified that fear is a natural response to change, and writing a book involves lots of change. Today, I’d like to talk to you about three types of motivation that I’ve discovered on this journey. Please note that I’ve named these myself after dissecting my own need-to-write v. production situation. Search yourself to see if what I’ve found out about me relates to you. If you want to chat through it, I’m always up for a discussion.

Alright! Let’s get to the good stuff!

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First, Temporary Motivation

Not only did I make up the name, but I’ve also crafted a definition. See!

Temporary Motivation is motivation with an external stimulus.

(Definition of “motivation” can be found HERE.)

This was the first type of motivation that got my fingers moving again at the beginning of 2017. Here’s a piece of my story. After a long stint of postpartum depression and 11 years of a rough work situation, I felt like a shell of a person. I’d started a new job and the difference in work environments started helping me heal. It was about six months after I moved positions that I realized I was only moving moment-to-moment. I cared for my family, went to work, cooked, cleaned and went to bed. That was basically it. But with healing came perspective. I started to see past the next minute into the next day and the next year, and I started to want something particular in the vision.

I wanted my boys to have a career they loved. I didn’t want them to ever settle in any part of life, particularly professionally. So, my first temporary motivation was the future of my two toddler boys. How could I tell them to do something they love if I wasn’t doing what I loved, even if it was in 10 minutes increments? I started waking up, making plans, and stringing words.

Temporary motivation is a jumping off point. It’s not where you want to stay because you can’t control it.

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One day, my boys will be grown and have their own dream careers and that will be it for me if I stopped here. No more motivation for Mea. They will have achieved.

For me to get started, I had to have something outside of my worn heart to move me into action, so my insides could heal even more. So, yeah, that’s a little about me.

Here’s some other examples of temporary motivation:

  • Creative Friends: I adore adore adore my creative friends and they definitely keep me on my toes, but it can’t be just this comradery that fuels you. While you’re sharing weekly updates, keep searching inside yourself for Something More.
  • Accomplishments: Funny thing about accomplishments is that you have to work through the fear to have one. Also, temporary as they are in nature, accomplishments must be replenished with more accomplishments, which means this motivation has an expiration date. While you’re feeling like you’re on top of the world, keep working!
  • Reputation: Reputations come and go. Just ask our friend TAYLOR. They’re fragile and temporary. Real Talk-Not everybody is going to like us. It will crush our souls for a while and then we’ll remember who we are and get back up. But you have to know the truth to use it like a pull bar.

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Next, Permanent Motivation-The Key to Longevity

Definition!

Permanent Motivation: motivation without external stimulus.

This, my Friends, is what we’re constantly in search of. When all the glitter (or shrapnel) settles and the fireworks (or bomb glares) fade, this motivation is what will calmly and earnestly push us forward. Permanent motivation is internal and depends solely on you knowing yourself. I connect the idea to “self-motivation”. It’s a pure, true, and long-lasting foundation to the driving force of our creative heart’s desire.

You can start with temporary motivated blaze, but along the way you have to grow to know yourself because when the blaze dies out, all you’ll have is you.

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It’s so easy to drown out the whisper of permanent motivation. Everything else—doubt, fear, criticism, jealousy—is so darn loud. Also, you can warp a permanent motivation to something anti-productive so easily, you have to keep yourself in check. How do I know? Well, sadly, I’ve been there. Over and over again. It’s embarrassing how many times, really. But I promised you truth in this BLOG, so here it is.

Examples of permanent motivation and how it can be warped:

  • Curiosity (Can be over-used and can turn into procrastinating with all the knowledge gathering of things not pertinent to your Right Now or your project.)
  • A soul cry (Can be drowned out by everyday responsibilities if we don’t set a precedent to heed it, holding it to our ear like a conch shell)
  • Goals linked to our passions (Dreams paired with action. Without the action, it’s just a dream.)

 

And finally, DIY Motivation.

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DIY (Do It Yourself) Motivation is motivation that you have to cultivate because you just. Ain’t. Feelin’ it.

So what if you don’t have either of the first two types of motivation. What if you are numb, but you remember the good ol’ days when you were young and spry and well-rested. When you had the gumption to finish Things and, by goodness, you DID finish things, but it’s been so long ago. Those days fade and shift, like looking at your reflection in a lake on a breezy day. What if you never were the kind of person to finish things at all?

What if you reading this and you’re saying, “Yeah, sure, Mea. That’s all well and good for you, but I heave doubt and fear on my shoulders like it’s my passed-on grandmother’s shawl. It’s so heavy and I cannot move.”

I have ideas for you (because I’ve been there. I still involuntarily go there because sometimes that’s just where my stinkin’ feet take me.)

Here’s some ways that can help you can create your own motivation until you start figuring some things out.

  • Finish Something: Pick a project—any project—and discover what it feels like to Finish Something.

I did this with my poetry chapbook, and it distracted my fear long enough to allow something else in. I chose it because it was the shortest and scariest project I had on my desk. But mostly because it was the shortest. The shock and joy that comes when a project is finished, it’s like cake, Folks. Super addictive. If you’re like me, you’ll race right passed fear/doubt toward your next culinary fix.

  • Stop Something: The project that gives you irreconcilable grief. Let. It. Go.

My first novel was…um…not great. I knew it and I kept trucking on because I had given so much time to it that my fingers stubbornly grasped it. Surely I would reap some reward, right? The reward didn’t come in the form I’d envisioned. I had to stop trying to force a story that wasn’t ready through the tips of my fingers. Then in retrospect, I saw the many writing lessons and self-learning I’d not noticed when I was buried in the broken story. That was its purpose, but I didn’t know it until I put it down and walked away. As a result, the heaviness and self-doubt lifted and I could suddenly move toward new things.

  • Make Something Else: If you’re feeling weighed down by one creative endeavor, try something out of the ordinary.

I’m a firm believer in the power of creative outlet sharing. Meaning, creating something else can spark ideas in other aspects of your life. I feel like there could be some science about it somewhere, but I haven’t searched for/found it yet. So, take my unscientific advice if you want an adventure and do something different! I love making jewelry, songs, memes (yes, this is creative, gah), poetry, and t-shirts designs I don’t know how to put on t-shirts—especially, when my novel is at a stand-still.

And that’s it!

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Three types of motivation as acknowledged by a writer, and the conclusion of our Motivation series. I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences or have other ideas about motivation. Have you found ways to get your fingers tapping or to calm internal choppy waters? Let’s talk!

Sig

No Small Thing

 

No Small Thing

“Does it seem too small a thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel to bring you near to himself, to perform the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the community to minister to them?”

Numbers 16:9 NET

IT’S NO SMALL THING AT ALL.

Let’s act like it.

Motivation: Putting Fear in Its Place

*Disclaimer: What motivates me, might not motivate you. Know Thyself.

Hello! It’s the middle of the last week of October, which means just 6 full days until NANOWRIMO takes over our lives. (If you don’t’ do NANOWRIMO, don’t worry; we still like you.)

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So, I want to talk about motivation today and, hopefully, you’ll be prepared if you find yourself lacking…everything…come mid-November.

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First of all, we need to know what motivation is. We give our story characters motivation, but do we ever wonder what our OWN motivation(s) is (are)?

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Motivation is (1) the reason(s) we have for acting or behaving in a particular way; (2) the general desire or willingness we have to do something.

(mostly from dictionary.com)

The bad thing about being real humans instead of book characters is that we don’t know what our motivations are before we begin writing our stories, a.k.a. living life. We’re our own authors, and we aren’t privy to that information.

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So, to find our motivation behind a specific behavior, let’s identify a behavior.

Here’s one: You are staring at a computer screen with all of this preparation around you—character arcs, plot cards, timelines, setting maps—and yet, your fingers hover over the keys like you know nothing at all.

No, I don’t have cameras in your house; I had only to go as far as my short-term memory.

The behavior that we want to analyze is the paralysis of moving forward. What’s the reason for this thought spiral that leaves us impotent?

If I were a betting woman, I’d lay down 50 cheese balls that some, if not all, of the following questions are floating around in your head:

  • What if no one wants to read this story?
  • What if my characters aren’t as cool in three months as I think they are right now?
  • What if the plot is too small and thin?
  • What if there is a plot hole I’m not seeing and I write the whole thing and I have to throw it away because of the big, fat hole?
  • What if I get to the end of the story and only have, like, 10,000 words?
  • What if I don’t have the grammatical background I need, and I don’t even know I’m making mistakes?
  • What if I’ve picked the wrong POV?
  • What if it just plain sucks?
  • What if this isn’t my life’s calling?
  • Why am I even doing this?
  • Why am I not eating cheese balls?

All of these questions are spawned by one tiny, terrible word:

FEAR

It’s so little and looks so harmless—I mean, it only has 4 letters, but it should have 1 million with the way it takes over our lives.

Fear will stop you from doing ANYTHING that is not in your comfort zone. It’s supposed to keep us safe, and it will. We will not die if we stay as we are. (In most cases.)

BUT, what if you’re tired of your comfort zone? What if you want more than those four walls that box you in?

Fear is a natural response that happens when you’re trying to change things.

Think of it like this:

You don’t normally bungee off a mountain, but you have this notion that you might actually want to. This is a change from your normal, sidewalk-skipping ways, so your brain sends nervous electricity to your stomach, screwing with your bowels, and begins to yell “WARNING!!” to your consciousness, and all the sudden, you’re thinking:

  • That mountain is so very high.
  • Am I ready to potentially die?
  • What if the straps are dry-rotted?
  • What if there is a strong wind and I get off course?
  • What if the instructor isn’t the crispiest lettuce in the salad?
  • Why am I even doing this?

Looks a lot like the list of questions running through your mind right now as you stare at your blinking cursor, right? Why? Because deciding to write a book that may show the world your insides is kinda like deciding to bungee off a mountain, which, funny enough, may also show the world your insides. A really tall mountain. With really sharp rocks, and there’s no fog so you can clearly see all aspects of your death-fall.

(Dial it back, Mea.)

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But here’s what I want you to know:

Fear is the consequence of change. We humans don’t do change well, and our minds will do anything to keep us in status quo, like allowing fear to spread like an epidemic until it consumes our thoughts and affects our actions. 

I have a question for you.

What made you to do character arcs, plot cards, and setting maps? What about those behaviors and actions?

I think that we’re focusing on the wrong behavior. We wanna know why the blank screen, the blank mind, the veer toward procrastination, and all of the not-doing, but what if we focused on what spurred us to action when we loved what our hands touched? What thoughts were running through your head before the idea had pockmarks?

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet 54 gumdrops that it was something like this:

  • What if there was this boy who could turn into a tree whenever he wanted to?
  • What if she went to the moon BEFORE she discovered a planet?
  • And there could be this plant that emits gamma rays…
  • This character is the sh*t!
  • I can’t believe that this came from my imagination!
  • I am so pumped right now!

This is the behavior to analyze in order to discover your TRUE motivation, not the fear-focused one. This positive interaction with your creative side gives you strength, friend. When the hype dies, don’t let fear make you feel less than you are.

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I’m not going to lie to you. Stepping past the fear-hurdle is not easy, and it’s a constant struggle.

I’ve had a little success with this. At the beginning of the year, I decided that I would OVERCOME all this oppression, and it was just that. I felt like I was lying prostrate with this huge fear-boulder covering the length of my back. I wanted to get up, to take a deep breath, but I couldn’t turn over.

I looked at my boys, at their beautiful, hopeful faces, and knew that I didn’t want them to be in their 30s and feel like this. I also knew that I couldn’t guide them to be better than me if I didn’t teach myself how to be better than I was right then. (You might have to read that sentence twice. It’s confusing but important.) Thus, the search to discover the “general desire or willingness to do something I want to do” commenced.

I made a plan, and implemented it. Here’s what I learned:

  • I’m a do-nothing girl. That means that I can acknowledge that I have a personal need and do absolutely nothing about it. I have to fight my nature as well as my fear.
  • I fight (present tense because it’s a war that won’t end) my nature by making a routine, on paper, and going through the checklist each day.
  • I fight my fear by identifying who I want to be, professionally and personally, and figuring out why that is my ideal. For me, the initial desire was to be an example to my boys. That moved me to action. That’s an external motivator, a super good one, but I found that internal-motivation (wanting it for myself, too) is equally as important as external motivation.

The first line of defense against your fear is knowing the characteristics of the person you are now and the person you want to be, so you can define the reason you want to write.

This is the “general desire or willingness” the motivation definition talks about. Scribble them down. Post them somewhere, and when the fear blinds you from your dreams, look at your reasons. If they still ring true, if they calm you and revive the spark, sit down and write anyway.

Fear is spurred by change, right? So, make a writing routine part of your normal, so fear will shut the hell up.

But if your reasons don’t ring true anymore, you need more than motivation, friend. You need make sure this career path is right for you. And that’s okayWhy would you want to waste a moment more doing something that doesn’t feed your soul? If you leave writing alone for a while and decide you miss it, come back. Writing likes you. It’ll understand. And so will the writing community.

Sig

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprising Response to Rejection

 

I got my first official rejection today. Honestly, it was a really nice stock letter.

Supportive.

Kind.

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No, I don’t need ice cream. Not to sort through my feelings, but I’ll let you know if that changes.

Right now I’m just…surprised.

Not that I received a rejection letter. Rufus knows I expected that. I actually expect it will be the first of many.

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No, I’m surprised that…

it hasn’t affected my feelings of being a writer.

Does that mean I’m kicked out of the club?

I almost feel bad that I don’t feel bad. I don’t know what this lack of negative feeling means.

The internet told that I would be devastated. That rejections would kill my confidence. That I’d be tempted to let these letters strangle the dream. That I’d be tempted to *gasp* quit.

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But that isn’t what I’m feeling. Am I a robot?

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve spent years being fearful about this very thing that I’ve already experienced those emotions before I even pressed “submit”, and now…I’ve found I’m rather over it.

Maybe I’m stronger than I thought I was. Is this confirmation that I actually have confidence? Or that I’m just so completely abnormal?

Maybe the fact that I finished the project was enough of an achievement for me. I felt so much more about that moment than I’m feeling about this rejection.

I’m swimming in a pool of questions right this moment.

Here’s what I DO know:

I’m glad I submitted. The act of choosing to click that button made me realize that I’m ready to take this into my own hands. No more standing in the shadows waiting to be “discovered” by someone who thinks I’m something special. No more growing fungi in dark corners. I believe in the effort, emotion, and care behind each of my stories. I don’t think I knew that until my anti-climactic response to my first rejection letter.

Today, I’m…okay.

Hopefully, I’ll still be tomorrow.

Sig

 

 

A Word to You Graduates

Hello, Graduates! Congratulations on this crazy awesome milestone and having the guts to jump blindly off this cliff of adolescence into the abyss of adulthood.

Y’all are so brave, and I mean that.

I remember not feeling brave at all when I was a high school graduate, ducking into abandoned hallways or taking the long way to my car, so I could avoid people asking me the question all graduates hear:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It was always followed by a sardonic laugh, like the person who asked it created the question for the pure joy of seeing me squirm and fish for words.

Ha, haa, huhhh…

Back then, I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be. I didn’t have a lot of talents, or so I thought. I never internalized what my “dream job” would be. Truthfully, the only career options I considered was what I could do that wouldn’t kill me and provide, you know, food.

It never occurred to me to “dream big”, to “search deep”, to “care” about what I should be. The question was so monstrous, so intimidating, I decided that I just wouldn’t “be” anything. That what I would “be” inevitably would pale to whatever dream I could conjure, so I might as well not conjure one at all. Ignorance is bliss and all that.

I was not a confident teen. I was driven by fear-fear lead to procrastination-procrastination to denial. Denial that I even wanted more than what I had allowed myself.

I’ve heard a lot of people blame the world for failures, but I was the worst kind of hypocrite. The world wasn’t my problem. I was my problem. And I had convinced myself that I didn’t need to know myself, that I didn’t need to believe I could be more.

I had been telling myself “NO” long before I donned a cap and gown.

For example, I was waiting tables my senior year of high school, and met a news anchor for the local television station. When the check was delivered, she put her card in the small, black folder and asked me to contact her if I wanted an internship with her.

I was elated. My heart burst forth lighting my path with rainbow dust. The opportunity of interning with her hung before me, a colorful piñata ripe with sweet possibilities. I held the stick. All I had to do was whack the thing open.

I didn’t.

I lived off the good feeling the offer gave me for a year before I realized I’d wasted it.

The phrase “my life will do” took the place of “I love my life” and, my young friends,  “doing” might make you feel good for a moment, but long-term, you want the “loving”.

I settled on a path in college, and didn’t dare question it until my senior year, and by then, I was so close to a degree, I just sucked it up and finished it.

Why did I do this? Why was I so self-destructive?

I’m not a thousand percent sure, but I have an idea that this is part of the reason:

I was asking the wrong question.

It shouldn’t be “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?”.

It should be “WHO do you want to be?”

To get to that answer, maybe answer a few of these questions could help.

What kind of person do you want to be, inside and out?

What characteristics do you want to embody?

How do you want to affect others?

What about you do you want others to admire?

How do you want to feel at the end of the day?

I don’t want to give you the impression that answering this question is easy. In fact, my answer two years ago is different from the answer I hold in my mind today. It’s an evolving answer as we grow, observe, learn, and change.

BUT the hard work will be worth it.

In my heart of hearts I know if I would have ventured onto this path of self-discovery, my career choice would have been chosen to complement me, rather than an obstacle to overcome. And if I would have stumbled into a career choice that didn’t match my expectations, it would have been okay because at the end of the day, I would have known who I was. I could have recognized when I was in a situation that didn’t honor WHO I wanted to be and I could have made the necessary career changes earlier.

So, WHO do you want to be? WHO do you want your future spouse to fall in love with? WHO do you want your parents or guardians to be proud of? WHO do you want to face in the mirror every morning? WHO do you want your future kids to look up to?

Find that person, BE that person, and the WHAT, WHY, WHERE, and HOW will fall into place.

Cheers, class of 2017! Don’t be afraid to show my generation up!

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Sig

Update on Life-April Edition

I have so much to tell you since the last time I’ve written. I think I’ll put it in sections, so I don’t forget anything.

A. The Poetry

With the poetry book done, I got a notice my alma mater was having a poetry reading that weekend. Standing in front of people I may or may not know and reading something that comes from such a private, personal place sounded terrifying. So I did it. And it was terrying.  I choked the last line because I was trying not to cry.

But something good did come from it. A past professor, one I really looked up to, was there and after the event, she sat with me and went through every word of the chapbook and made sound suggestions that really made the quality of the whole project leaps and bounds better.

Though I’d settled on the title, it bugged me a bit. She helped me change it. I’ve already reworked the suggestions, and even submitted it to the first competition. There are two more that I’ll send to soon.

I’m going to write more on this, but I see merit now in choosing a smaller project to see through, beginning to end, before launching into a novel. I have tangible evidence on what “done” is like, and it is addictive. I believe the memory of it will carry me to completion on the next novel project.

B. Camp Nanowrimo

I have a goal of 25,000 words to get me to the end of a first draft of SongNovel. There is a new layout method that I’m in love with and am itching to put to action. (Dan Harmon’s story circle. Check it out!) I was doing really well, even exceeding word counts during the weekdays, so my weekends would be more family focused. Approximately 7,500 words in, my husband found a house that he loved. I love it, too, and through a series of emotional events, we’re…

C. Buying and Selling a House

After Hurricane Katrina (2005), the apartment the newly wedded Smiths (that’s us) lived in became too expensive. Not only my apartment complex, but also a host of others who sustained damage from the hurricane raised monthly cost $100 or more. We also had a pet, which meant most affordable complexes would not rent to us, even before Katrina. So we bought a little baby house, in hopes that we would be able to move to a toddler house about two years or so after.

For the past, 11 years, we have shared 1 bathroom about the size of an office desk. And we have grown from a 2 person family to a 4 person family as well. There are no secrets where there should be secrets. My friends, it’s time for a second bathroom. Please, Lord Jesus, let it be time for a second bathroom.

So we put a contract on the house that we love, contingent upon the selling of our current home.

Relatedly, on January 21, 2017, a tornado hit our small town, and I am still in conversations with contractors to complete/start work on our house. AND NOW WE HAVE TO SELL IT.  Per our contract, we had to list the house asap.

I cleaned the house to take pictures of the inside of it before the sheetrock gentleman came to fix spots in two ceilings and a section of carport. Then I cleaned more when people wanted to see the house before the work was done. I will also have to deep clean the house again when the workers finish. (I don’t know when that will be because they are on contractor time, which I found out recently is different than Mea time.) There is a daily tidying situation that has to happen before work everyday because you never know when you will have to tell your realtor, “Sure, these potential buyers can see the house without the 24 hours of notice we asked for.” (Daily tidying wouldn’t be difficult if my two toddlers weren’t sleeping on a pallet in the living room because their ceiling is getting worked on, and–I have two toddlers.)

And then there are…

D. Kittens Residing on my Front Porch

My sweet kitty is the best mom and wants her babies to see the world, but not from the cozy confines of our outside laundry room, as I had hoped. Instead she’s set up shop on our front porch, so anyone who would like to look at the house must first pass five tiny, blue-eyed, toe-biting guards and their mother. (They are adorable and we’re keeping two of the five because we love them so.) (I just wish I could love them so from the house we want to buy instead of the house we want to sell.)

E. Conclusion

I know this is just a season of life that will be fine in some months. It’s just messing with my creative life so I’m a little resentful. I can adjust with this unexpected change because at the end of the day, it will benefit my family. The house is a fixer upper, too, so I hope to be posting some before-and-afters of rooms and projects. I’ll tag them something clever in case you don’t care to see.

So…this is my life currently. Anyone else going through a big change?

Sig