The human will is a very limited thing. There is only so much that you can force yourself to do because it’s good for you dammit, and sticking to a task long-term, especially in the face of adversity, is something that I know I (and those around me) have struggled with (because we’re human).
This? Not too surprising, which is why advice that is basically “you just sit down and DO it” is so unhelpful. Sure, initial motivation might get you writing (or programming, or exercising) at first, but when the will first wanes, there has to be something to bring you back. I’ve found that those that espouse the “just do it” reasoning have the same struggle to just get it done as those who don’t. Really, if telling people to just do it were going to work, it already would have.
Why work harder when you can work smarter?
So having something to re-motivate you is a really good idea. It could be a vision of the completed thing, or a bet with a friend, or the paycheck (or just looming deadline, but deadlines work much better when they’re set by other people), but it helps tremendously to have something to come back to.
I’ve found that long-term rewards work best for me. As in, when I finish X, I can have/do Y. Amusingly, a lot of times I don’t even get my reward; it’s merely the freedom to do so that is motivating. Of my November rewards, I’ve only claimed one – a bottle of wine that I shared with my family.
But it’s still motivating, and gives me a good reason to come back to a project when it feels like I will never finish it.
My current projects are more programming than writing (though they will eventually help my writing, and I am still working on my novels), and based on some other interests of mine (which, really, there is a laundry list of) I have rewards for myself.
First, when I finish my first programming project (hopefully by the end of this month – see also, the May Challenge), I’m going to buy a toy-ish quadcopter. I don’t want it to be too expensive, but I would like it to be fairly functional. If you have suggestions…
Secondly, when I finish the alpha version of the actual program that I want to write (the writing assistant that I talk about in the same post), I will buy the grown-up version that you build yourself and play around with. Because it looks like SO MUCH FUN. It’s Arduino-based, which means very hackable, but the base hardware/software is very good.
So yes, in the coming months, if my programming goes well, you may see a few posts about my new fun flying project, including using it to torture my cat (though, knowing her, she’s equally likely to stalk it and try to kill it).
So! What about you guys? How do you keep yourself motivated towards writing when it gets tough?