Maintaining Motivation

Maintaining motivation over the course of any large project or goal can be challenging, and that can be especially true when you are writing. As the author of three books and the co-author of half a dozen more, I know that I’ve had to be really focused on the outcome. I’ve had to utilize all my “keep it going” tricks to get the project done. In case this has been a stumbling block for you, I wanted to share a few of my strategies that helped me see things through to completion.

Maintaining motivation over the course of any large project can be challenging, Click To Tweet

Focus on the End Goal Strengthens Motivation

The first book that I wrote was entitled Marketing Ideas for the Wild at Heart and I wrote it because I had customers who wanted to buy a book from me and I didn’t have one!

Here’s what happened. After earning the top title in my direct sales company’s compensation plan I was asked to speak at events all over the United States. I wasn’t earning very much speaking at events, and it was taking time away from my own business and my family. I wondered whether I could earn money speaking, so I joined the National Speakers’ Association (NSA). There I  earned professional status by doing 25 paid speeches within a year. As part of my membership, I was able to network with other speakers and attend local meetings.

Earning from the Back of the Room

It was there that I found out that speakers earn much of their income from “back of room” sales: books they have authored or co-authored. So, I decided to write a book. That first book ended up selling about 4,000 copies over the next several years. Because I self-published the book, I earned enough on each sale that I achieved my end goal. Speaking became profitable for my business. Figure out what your end goal is and work toward that fuels the motivation to continue.

When I was stuck during the writing and publishing process, I focused on my goal of making speaking profitable.

Be the Reader

All the books I have authored have been instructional in nature, so it has been vital that I put myself in the reader’s shoes. I imagine the same thinking would work for fiction as well. The reader is our customer and for them to “get it” is the goal of our writing. Whenever I got stuck, I imagined the reader. I took my motivation from her. I saw her taking the ideas, working them and being successful. I imagined that examples in my book helped the reader take their business to a higher level.

Knowing that my book might help another direct seller earn more money made it easier to keep going. Someone could more easily feed their family or pay their mortgage or allow them to send their children to a better school. It is likely that what you write, whether non-fiction or fiction, will make someone’s life better. If you are a fiction writer, you help the reader escape or bring them joy or provide a thrill. Your contribution makes a difference. “I have a book inside me and it’s not right to keep it there,” I would say to myself. I believe that taking full responsibility for our lives means using all of our gifts — including writing.

The reader is our customer and for them to “get it” is the goal of our writing. Click To Tweet

Feed Your Inspiration

I find that I can be a better writer when I seek out things that inspire me. Listening to music is one of my motivation go-to’s.  I have a long playlist downloaded on my phone that I can tap in to. My current musical obsession is the soundtrack to the movie “The Greatest Showman.” I like to start my day listening to it in the shower and singing along.

I also find it inspirational to travel and do things out of my ordinary routine. For example, I am writing this article from a hotel room located just 18 miles from my house! My daughter and her friend are attending a local ComicCon, so I decided to get a room for the night. I chose this option so they can have a place to take breaks and change outfits — and I can stay in the room and write.

Even though it is only 18 miles from home, I don’t have the same distractions: no household chores waiting or someone calling or coming to the door. I can concentrate on my writing while looking out the 12th-floor window at the city below.

The girls and I had room service together this morning before they left for the event: it was special because I have worked hard and earned the right. That feeling of accomplishment is inspirational, too.

Focus on the end goal, be the reader and feed your inspiration. I hope these thoughts will help you see that project through to completion.

 

Focus on the end goal, be the reader and feed your inspiration. Click To Tweet

 

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When Inspiration Eludes: Finding Your Muse

CAROL K. WALSH

This morning I took my usual walk around our little local lake. I love my morning walk because it helps me connect with my inner muse and energizes my creative juices. There is no better way for me to trigger inspiring ideas.

Today as I walked, I realized how much I hate feeling creatively stuck. During those moments inspiration feels as stubborn as a two-year-old boy, whose first response is “no,” and as reticent as a pre-teen girl in her bedroom. Neither wants to listen to our needs. Both children need to be tricked into showing up for us. Our task is to find ways to entice him or her to do what we are asking – in this case, provide us with some inspiration.

Inspiration (which comes from the word inhale) is the most frustrating, unpredictable part of the creative process. Even if an inspiring idea shows up, it doesn’t mean I’ll like it, or that it solves my problem. As an artist and author I can desperately wish to be inspired about something I am writing — like this blog post — and instead, ideas will flood my brain for works of art. Sometimes I do lose patience. 

Just Let Go

Bringing forth inspiration requires us to repress our natural tendency to force it to happen. Instead, we need to let go of control and make the emotional, energetic, physical and intellectual space for inspiration to appear.

Today after my extra-long walk I entered my studio, a sacred space, which automatically sets the creative stage. (We all need a sacred space, even if it’s a corner of a room.) Once in my studio, I can more easily shift into a state of self-awareness that helps me focus and connect with my inner self. While I need to trust the process, I must also do the footwork. That includes: 

  • Engaging in a ritual of mental, emotional and physical readiness. 
  • Emotionally trusting the process — knowing that something good will come of my efforts. 
  • Shutting the door on negativity, self-doubt and the external world. 

Remember, we cannot force inspiration, but only create the space for it to occur. 

 The creative process is a process of surrender, not control. ~ Julia Cameron, The Artists’ Way Click To Tweet

Tricks to Tickle Your Muse

When inspiration continues to hide, I have a few other helpful tricks:

  • Change your medium. For example, if you are a writer, then doodle or paint.  
  • Move your body. Dance, walk or go to a yoga class. 
  • Brainstorm with creative friends.
  • Do a guided imagery. With closed eyes, begin with your stuck spot and visualize five different outcomes. Be as ridiculous as you can. 
  • Think of three or four unrelated words and put them in a sentence, i.e. toaster, red, couch, clouds. Then, take one of those words – like the color red – and write about everything you associate with that word. 
  • Go to a gathering place (store, coffee shop, park) and notice what you see, hear and think. What draws your attention? Write about your reaction. 
  • Take a one-day creative vacation. Do something playful without expectations. 
  • Watch for synchronicities. Carl Jung defined synchronicity as a “simultaneous occurrence with meaning.” For example, when I was writing my memoir I needed a scene demonstrating my mother’s temperament. In one afternoon I saw ads for candy, someone talked about fudge, and I was given a piece of candy. I went back to my studio and wrote scenes containing my mother and candy. 

In Andrea Patten’s inspired book, The Inner Critic Advantage, she suggests naming our self-shaming inner voice. Likewise, I suggest naming your imaginary muse and call on her when you need help. For example, before you go to sleep at night ask your muse to give you an idea. When you wake up, stay still for two minutes, which allows you to stay in that hypnagogic state, when ideas more readily float up into your consciousness.  

Finally, whenever an inspiration arrives, greet it with gratitude and express confidence that more creative ideas will come. 

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Carol Walsh LCSW-C   is the author of  Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma

                                                  

                                                                     

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The Art Connection — Part 2

SPECIAL GUEST POST: This is Part 2 of an inspiring talk presented by Linda Hart Green, one of the principals of The Shady Ladies Art Gallery on 8th St, in Fernandina Beach. Click here to see Part 1.

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We also internalize messages about who we are and what we are supposed to do from others. As someone trained to understand people and organizations from the perspective of family systems theory, I encourage you to spend time reflecting on the patterns of communication and relationship in your family of origin.

There we will find both the seeds of our inspiration and the weedier messages both overt and subtle that can impede our artistic vision. My family has a very strong work ethic and there is nothing wrong with that. But I did not learn much about when it was OK to stop and rest or play and that such time was equally valuable. Our deep Protestant roots added a strong sense of the imperative to serve others. There is nothing wrong with that either. But does one serve others at expense of the self?

Those of us who came along in the wake of the Greatest Generation of WW II and those who were reared by those who came through the tribulations of the Great Depression may especially have to wrestle with internal questions like, “Is being a writer a selfish pursuit? Is painting a real job? We have also heard it said in our presence sentiments like: “Poetry is nice but it doesn’t feed hungry people.“ The arts are for those with leisure time.” You can add your own messages to this list. We each have to do the work of integrating our backgrounds, our life experiences, our family responsibilities with our internal yearnings. We are our best selves when we first honor our deepest longings and are true to our own hearts.

I ask your indulgence as I give you an example using theological jargon! It’s my occupation hazard! One’s “espoused theology” is what one says one believes. One’s “operational theology” is what one’s life says about what one believes.
For most us, getting espoused theology and operational theology to line up with each other is a life’s work. We have to practice what we preach!

True spiritual maturity is the integration of the two. I had to realize that while I preached that all are equally loved and accepted by the Holy One, I acted toward myself like I had to work to earn that acceptance. I preached that we are each co-creators and that creating honors the spark of the divine in each of us but making art wasn’t OK for me. The preacher had to bring her espoused theology and her operational theology into alignment or…start practicing what she preached!

I would love to be able to tell you that my creative journey has been a straight line of growth and success for the last 20 years. Truth is, I went back to the pastoral ministry full-time and full-tilt in 1999. At first, I took time to take some classes but then I let my schedule be crowded by other responsibilities. I set up a room in my parsonage, but it fell into dust and disarray. I dabbled with art in fits and starts. I injected the arts wherever I could into the life of my congregation. But there was more work for me to do. I had another profound shift ahead of me.

By this time, it was 2005 and I had weathered the storm of a church fight and a divorce and had met and married Harry, a Unitarian minister! Scandal! I was really kicking up my heels. We went together to our ministry and career counseling center to discuss our future life together. There I was blessed with another caring person important to my journey.

My counselor told me that I was ignoring the artistic side of who I was at my peril. Every test, every exercise, every question and answer session pointed to the fact that I was as much an artist as a minister. With that encouragement, I began to reintroduce art into my life. Seven years later, I took another leap of faith and retired early and we moved here. At first, I made art at home and worked for several other artists on the island. Last year, my 3 other art partners and I opened our own place, Shady Ladies Art Studios.

I am indebted to many for inspiration along my creative journey. Some names you know like Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way workbooks. A theologian I want to mention is Matthew Fox. Those of Roman Catholic background may know of him and that he is a controversial figure who was censured by the Vatican and removed from the Dominican order. He is now an Episcopal priest and prolific author and teacher. In 2002, he wrote a systematic theology of creativity, entitled: “Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

He is known for reimagining the biblical stories and teachings in a way that shows that they speak of humanity’s original blessing, not original sin. From that original blessing flows our passion to co-create along with the divine.

He writes that it is the task of artists and writers to lead not only ourselves and our communities but also all of CIVILIZATION by growing our hearts, deepening our compassion, and calling out what is unjust and ugly. Artists and writers are the ones who can help guide others through perilous times of cynicism, boredom, and despair. (written in 2002!) Even more true today!

Thank you for allowing me to share some of my personal and professional journey with you, my fellow creative people! Our mediums may differ, but I can affirm to you, from my own experience and from what I have learned that you are made with original blessing! You are here to see with open eyes and open hearts and open minds. The world needs to know what you see and to benefit from what you create in response.

As you write, may you be filled with the energy and joy that comes from participating in the flow of creativity that permeates the whole world.