What gets you up and out of your cosy cocoon in the morning? The whine of a puppy? The call of nature? The white-hot pain as a few strands of hair catch in a loom band necklace that is being forced over your head and will “look so pretty mummy”? Ahem. No, I’m not bitter about those extra seven minutes of sleep I lost.
Motivation (n) is defined as ‘a reason or reasons for acting in a particular way’. I am sure you all know the meaning of the word but the real challenge is where to find it and how to keep finding it day after day. At the bottom of the third cup of coffee, perhaps. Or doing whatever it is you love.
November is known among the writing community as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write 50,000 words in the month to get in the habit of getting words on the page EVERY SINGLE DAY. The thought of this is pretty daunting for someone who, a few months ago, could only write 400 words in a sitting (and then deleted 200 of them). But I could see the merit in it. If writing could become a habit, I could finish this thing and start churning out another. And I never thought I would be able to write 40,000 words of anything.
I was as excited as our new Prime Minister and keen to really get my focus on this month. I told people what I was doing so that they could keep me accountable. I ignored the wry raised brows from those that knew me best. NOTHING was going to stop me putting 1,667 words to paper in every spare minute I could.
Psychology defines motivation to work towards a goal as having three key components:
- Competence – Do you have the ability to do what needs to be done?
- Value – Do you value the task?
- Autonomy – Do you have the permissions and power to do it?
I WAS motivated. I valued the task. Commonly held wisdom states that you cannot edit a first draft unless the first draft is there to be edited. So, get the words out of your head and on to the page. Competence, in terms of the tools available, was not a problem. The problem was the children got a Virus. Not your every-day run-of-the-mill Virus either. A glazed-eyed, sweaty, grumpy, night-waking, fever dreams, barking-cough, Mummy-I-need-you Virus. First, the oldest had it for a week. Then, just as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel illuminated the bags under my eyes, the youngest came down with it. Just like that, priorities change. Mummy first, hot showers and everything else after.
I think everyone has a hidden struggle behind their façade of competence. Unfortunately, our air-brushed lives on social media compound the illusion. If all we see in our feeds are women getting promotions and taking perfect day trips to a field of daffodils, with immaculate clean houses and happy children and husbands, how can we identify with them? We feel more and more disjointed.
I have never felt as motivated as I was when I was living in France. History was so near I could touch it. A statue or fountain I passed may have been gazed upon by Paul Cezanne. Jeanne d’Arc herself could have stood in the same spot, eyes flashing with determination. A big city like Marseille or Paris seems to have seen so much love, life and violence that we are totally insignificant.
The intrigue of history is more than twirling moustaches and elegant dresses. History enables us to examine issues affecting us today with the clarity of hindsight. What if there were a huge threat to our society and no-one acknowledged it until it was too late? (Oh, wait.)
Writing and reading Historical Fiction is really about that innate desire to explore the question: ‘What would I do?’ What would I do if I was faced with life or death choices every day? If I was so oppressed as a female in society that I couldn’t even fathom the liberty we have now? If I couldn’t trust the welfare system to feed me if I needed? If I couldn’t rely on modern medicine?
Were the people in that time inherently the same as us? What did they truly believe? Did they have the same fears, wants and desires? Were they happier than us? If so, how do we get back to that simple life and take pleasure in the small things?
There is a theory that happiness can be achieved when you reach a state of flow. Flow means being in the moment. That is, when time passes and you are not aware of it because you are completely concentrating on the task at hand. You are being challenged and are rising to the challenge. The task is rewarding in itself. You are creating something – music, art, conversation.
Writing has been my flow. I sit down at my computer and all of a sudden, it is time to pick the kids up. Oops, I forgot to eat lunch or take the dog for a walk. I have slipped into the world I have built inside my head and followed the adventures of its characters. If one does something that doesn’t fit the plan, I move on to another part of the story. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do. To one day share that with others and hopefully inspire them would be amazing.
So I failed NaNoWriMo again this year. I might do it in December instead. After buying multi-vitamins for the kids and a good concealer for those eye-bags.
Find your flow, grab your dream and get motivated.
What motivates you?