The Only Way to Find Motivation is Through Action
The greatest adversary that anyone in the creative industry can face is a lack of motivation. Everyone has had those days where they just can’t manage to find inspiration and will sit staring at a blank page growing more and more frustrated. I’ve had my fair share of writer’s block and know that it can be a beast. Nothing sucks as much as having the wind taken out of your mental sails. How can you get over this mental block though? It might feel impossible, but there’s actually a way to beat it.
Want to know the secret? Just do it. Before you drop your shoulders in disappointment, let me explain. Mark Manson explains that there’s a cycle to motivation. According to him, it goes: inspiration motivation, action, inspiration, motivation… Well, you get the idea. The key point that he makes is that because this is a cycle or rather a circle, there is no starting point. Each stage just leads to the next. So, when you’re lacking inspiration, the only logical thing to do is to take action. Remember that famous Yoda saying, “Do or Do not. There is no try.” So, do exactly that.
Easier said than done, right? That’s why I’m such a firm believer in prompts. When you’re at a loss for ideas, they can give you the guidance to at least take action. One of my favorite apps for this is “What to Draw” because it can create some really detailed prompts. Sure, it might not be the project you want to work on, but it will be enough to at least start moving forward in order to find inspiration and thus motivation. That’s why a lot of artists do warm up sketches before they start in on the day’s work. Spending some time just forcing yourself to go through the motions will get your juices flowing. As Charles Bukowski said, “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
The worst thing you can do though is to completely ignore this advice and wait for inspiration to strike. Personally, I think that consistency is more valuable that inspiration any day of the week. Why? Because inspiration only really strikes when it wants to. They call it “capturing lightning in a bottle” for a reason. It’s something that is completely outside of your control. Consistency is within your control though. It all depends on your perspective when it comes to it. Just think back to that Bukowski quote and you’ll realize that something is better than nothing. Even consistency itself can be the proper motivation to keep going. After all, no one likes to break a streak.
The most common cause of writer’s (or artists) block is perfectionism, which is just a form of procrastination. I’ll really get into the nature of perfectionism in another post. Right now though, you need to realize that every first draft, first sketch, first whatever, is going to suck. The key is that you need to accept that it’s going to suck at first, but you need to power right on through that suck. Write 200 words of garbage and you’ll soon find yourself typing up a thousand. Draw a crappy little pin-up and pretty soon your hand will figure out what to do. Scott Barry Kaufman once said, “Creative people do a lot of trial and error and rarely know where they are going exactly until they get there.” So don’t be afraid of potential failure when it comes to coming up with a “good” idea. More often than not you’ll start the process and realize when it starts to go wrong and what would make it right. Once that happens, your motivation to make it right will spur you on to greater action.
Still feel like this isn’t helpful advice? Well, then why don’t you try a little experiment. If you can’t think of what to write or draw, step away from your current project and come up with your own prompts. Create a 15 to 30-day challenge for yourself and stick to it. If you’re having trouble creating anyways, it’s not like this is going to hurt you. If it starts to work before the challenge is up, then you can abandon it and get back to work. Best of all, the simple act of actually creating something like a prompt will give you that initial sense of accomplishment to start raising your spirits.
I’m sure you were hoping that there would be some super secret to finding the motivation to get over the block on your creativity. Unfortunately, in all the years since it was discovered, there’s never been a cure-all besides doing. So, take a moment to stretch, daydream a little and pick that pencil back up. Before I let you go to get back to work, I’ll leave you with one last quote for motivation:
“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
Now get out there and create something! Anything! Momentum is the only way to make progress, so get to it.