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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Pairing Backstory with Current Action: One Way to Save Your Credibility as an Author

Here’s some news: I’ve been editing three short stories to share with you lovely folks. Here is a tale about one of them.

I really love the beginning of this particular story as it was when I first wrote it. I had imagery, setting, a clever reveal sentence, and the word “carambola”. Too bad I HAD TO CHANGE IT.

I broke a little when I realized that the entire entry paragraph was…da, duh, duuuuummmm….info dumping.

As much as I loved, and I mean LOVED, those opening lines, these lovely words belonged to an experience in my MCs past, not the present issue she is currently dealing with.

You should know, I’m not an advocate of alleviating backstory (past experiences that affected your MC’s current personal outlook), just info dumping. I believe that instances in our own “backstory” as human beings fuel current actions/decisions we make today.

This makes them über important to us, and since our characters are human beings (or at least they should be) explaining aspects of their history is necessary for the reader to understand the character to the fullest. Your reader shouldn’t have to guess about why your character, for example, is afraid of water. They should be told that she almost drowned in the ocean as a small child. See how that works?

BUT

Nobody likes to be talked down to and, sometimes, that’s how dumping backstory feels. I read fiction to entangle myself into someone else’s life. Total immersion. Yet some backstory is presented like a textbook. I cannot entangle or immerse myself in a textbook. (If you can, you might be a robot.)

In a similar vein, I don’t like to be tricked as a reader, and if I would have left the first paragraph as is, I would have inadvertently tricked my readers with my misplaced story beginning. I would have started with a carambola and changed, rather quickly, to a much-older MC at a bus stop before readers could control their salivary glands.

As a writer, I want my readers to trust me to tell them a good story.

We can lose credibility if we don’t take care in mixing up the the story we are meant to tell with other stories in the character’s life.

So, a fellow writer posted in a Facebook writing group something to the effect of…

My MCs past is very important but I don’t know how to tell it without info dumping. She has depression/anxiety because of certain past events but the reader won’t understand the Now without knowing the Then.

I wanted to help as best I could, and my response piggy-backed (funny mental picture) another’s and went a little like this:

What about negative self-reflection? You get backstory but from an unreliable narrator, could be interesting. From my experience with depression, instances in my “backstory” repeat over and over, along with the emotions connecting them, like being slapped in the face over and over by shame/regret. Maybe “backstory” is fighting through rounds of these emotional battles created from a current stimulus. Sometimes I win; sometimes I lose. Maybe MC could, too?

The writer liked the idea, and I started to wonder why this tactic might work. This is what I decided:

Pairing backstory with a current action helps make the information relevant and digestible to your reader.

It keeps the reader in the story you’re telling instead of making him/her mentally halt all forward progress and rearrange the timeline in his/her head.

*Important Note* This is not an exclusive rule. In Holly Black’s White Cat, there was a present day stimulus that triggered a flashback. The story completely halted, switched to the past for backstory, before returning to present day. This worked for Black’s book, so there’s a text to study if you feel the need. Also, it’s a fabulous book.

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Oh! Also, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. The flashbacks are well done here, too, and this story is aces.

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Okay, that’s what I’ve been thinking about today! How about you?

Sig