Now to apply the research to writing. A few days ago, I posted about my latest readings on motivation and productivity. I have three “idea” and personal goals for the year, but I’m still working on my writing and career goals.
(Sorry about all these posts. I wrote them a few days ago, while strategizing for the year. I’ll be done in a week.
If you’re a numbers person, check out my spreadsheets with the pretty graphs that track word count and multiple book projects. All, except the Google one, have been updated. If you want one customized to you, just email me at spyscribbler through gmail and I’ll be happy to help.
If you’re looking for some different ideas on self-motivation, keep reading.
1. Set learning goals instead of performance goals. For big goals, learn to write a novel with multiple viewpoints is better than sell a novel to New York. On a day-to-day basis, try focusing on paragraph construction, or juggling sentence structure, or rhythm, or getting deeper into a character’s emotion.
2. Expect and treasure the grit. A lot of mastery isn’t fun. In sports, you’ve got the endless sit-ups and weight-lifting and whatnot. It’s been proven that the more you embrace and do the grit work, the more successful you are.
How to enjoy the grit work? I don’t know. I like feeling sore in sports, but I’m not sure there’s a writing equivalent.
3. Visualize the work and the obstacles, not the end result. Studies show that visualizing the achievement, like your books on the shelf or whatnot, makes you happier, but they actually hinder your progress and motivation in the long run.
Instead, visualize the day-to-day work. Tiger Woods visualizes his golf swing, not the trophy. You can throw in the trophy, but first visualize the possible obstacles to your goal, and then visualize yourself mastering those obstacles.
4. Make mastery goals. I’ve said before that art is striving toward unreachable perfection. Mastery is the same way. “Mastery attracts because mastery eludes.”
Writing the “perfect” novel may be a good lifetime goal, but on a day-to-day basis to avoid the perfectionism trap, Daniel Pink suggests asking yourself, “Was I better today than yesterday?”
5. Practice deliberately. Always change. If you keep doing the same practice, you will get the same results. When you catch yourself saying, “But I have to do it this way,” then change. Try a new way. Shake things up. Stretch yourself. Change your approach.
6. Chase flow. Figure out how you get in the flow, and then go after it. Flow is the ultimate intrinsic reward, and the gist of what I’ve researched this week has been it’s more motivating to replace extrinsic with intrinsic goals.
7. Profit as a pathway to purpose: Money objectives are more powerful if you make them a pathway to a life purpose, like a charity or a “calling” or whatnot.
For example, in my last story, sure, I wanted to be able to pay the bills. But that stresses me out and worries me and makes me second-guess.
But when I make my goal to touch my readers’ hearts, or to make them feel understood and respected and accepted, I’m motivated.
8. Schedule a weekly Play Day: Confession time: I used to do this with my student’s piano assignments. One practice a week, they could practice ANYTHING they wanted, for as little or as long as they wanted. One year, I started making the “play day” optional, and there was a HUGE DIFFERENCE in student motivation. That play day felt silly when we had so much to accomplish, but in reality, the motivation they lost when they skipped the play day did not make up for the extra day of “real work” they did. In fact, it put them at –1.
Studies show that spending twenty percent of your working life on meaningful, purposeful, and/or fun work strictly for YOUR purpose and/or pleasure, prevents burnout and increases both happiness and motivation.
And increases creativity.
So take a day each week, or at least an afternoon, to experiment. Write something just for you, not for your goals. Write a poem. Write a letter to the editor about a cause you’re passionate about. Play with that novel you don’t think is marketable. Try a new voice, or a new point of view.
What think you on all this? Any other tips to share?