You gotta find your motivation instead!
I live in an RV full-time. This means my life, at least to some degree, is in constant motion. Even when I’m camping out in one area for a while, I’m usually boondocking (living off-grid on public lands) and this requires me to move every 14 days. This is to prevent uncomfortable conversations with the sheriff or rangers (the conversation being I have overstayed my welcome and broken the law and have to move). This constant motion can make for a good time — new areas to meander through, new views to enjoy, new coffee houses in which to procrastinate. But it also means a lot of inconsistency in my life. This isn’t conducive to writing and creating since I’m a highly distractable human who will find any reason to procrastinate, even when I’m enjoying what I’m creating.
To-do lists help, but they don’t give me the kick in the ass I need because I mostly just spend time moving things from one day to another. A “write on these days at this time” list isn’t much better than a standard to-do list. These lists just make me feel guilty when I ignore them and flit about my day drinking coffee and reading books and staring out the window.
I’ve never been one to have a routine and honestly felt like it didn’t matter — aside from the things I have to do every day, why should my creativity be so regimented? I have, however, been learning in the past few days how much a lack of routine is impacting my lack of progress. So there is now a routine. And apparently, it does work, because this is day number three of posting on Instagram and publishing a story here. More to come on that in a future article.
I used to think inspiration was the key to writing and publishing more. I read SO MANY books and blogs about writing and blogging and publishing. Many of them gave opposing advice. (Seriously. If you want to know what I mean, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” and follow it with Stephen King’s “On Writing”. You will be very confused about how to proceed.) I saved links and newsletters and blog posts and organized them into categories like “Writing Advice” and “Medium Articles to Read Again” (like I have time to read anything twice) and “That One Guy Who Swears A Lot But Also Makes A Lot Of Sense”.
But inspiration hasn’t been enough. It’s not enough to convince me to write instead of re-watching Parks and Rec or the Harry Potter movies because, well, it’s easier and doesn’t activate my impostor syndrome. It’s not enough to convince me to write instead of hiking and wandering through nature with my hubby and dogs or sitting around the campfire drinking beer.
So I’ve decided focusing on motivation is the key to my success as a writer.
Because motivation isn’t some whimsical idea like inspiration. Inspiration gets me lost in a daydream where I am wearing a cute vintage dress while giving a TED talk about how I became the next Suzanne Collins or Hunter S. Thompson. Inspiration is like the wild finches and hummingbirds I feed outside my RV. They come to the window when I lure them there with birdseed or sugar water. But one movement too quick from the cat or the wrong flavor of birdseed and they’ve zipped far, far away, leaving me to wonder what it will be like when Neil Gaiman and I are comparing notes on our storytelling processes.
Not so with motivation. Motivation has no time for daydreams. It only has time to remind me that bills must be paid, there will only be road-tripping adventures if I can afford them, and Ireland will never be seen without a savings account. Motivation is no flighty tiny bird — it’s a big, old dog. It’s the sheepdog at my uncle’s farm who would round me and my sister up when we strayed too far into the woods. Motivation doesn’t care about the cat. It doesn’t care if you give it cheap kibble or a ribeye. It’s just there, hanging out, steady and unchanging.
Inspiration disappears as soon as I get hungry. It disappears as soon as a friend calls. It disappears if I am lured to my bed by a nap. Motivation tells me I can eat a PB & J while I’m typing. It tells me to turn off the ringer. It tells me there will be plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead.