You know you want to do something, you know you should do something, but you just can't find the thing inside of you that makes you get up and go do it. There's no motivation. Motivation said 'BRB' and you're still waiting to get your mojo back.
It happens to all of us.
It's not worth dragging yourself down about it, but it's also not worth letting procrastination win. Learn to take control over your mind, which then propels you into action. Try this:
Just show up.
My boyfriend is working on his writing practice, and he mentioned the following analogy to me:
When you find yourself waiting for inspiration, think of writing like working at a pub. Every day you get ready, leave your house, and go stand behind the bar. Customers might not come, maybe you won’t serve a single drink, but you’ll get paid for just being there.
When I think about arts practice, I often think of arts and not always about practice. Why do we put so much effort in producing a piece of work? Finishing a painting? Writing a chapter? A lot of people’s jobs looks like coming into the office, checking emails, moving the project forward an inch, and going to the pub for a drink.
Art making should be a bit like this. Some days we just read something, some others we write, or re-write, but it shouldn’t feel like 0 or 100, like either I make the best work I’ll ever make today or I won’t even get out of bed.
Just showing up is doing the work.
And one day, we’ll pour that perfect pint. But we won’t pour it if we’re not even at the pub! We need to be there to be ready for that moment of inspiration.
Get in the habit.
In The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp talks about how hard it is to commit to the gym. For her, the unpredictability of motivation is the biggest danger of a creative practice. It is too risky to wake up and ask herself, do I want to go to the gym today? Do I feel up for a workout? Instead, she has built a habit with a seemingly low bar for success.
She writes, “the moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.” For Tharp, it is not about doing the best exercise of her life on that perfect, inspired, fantastically motivated day; it is just about getting out of bed and into the cab. That is already success.
Building a practice is building habits, small things we can do everyday that feel like we are doing something, not just waiting for something to miraculously be made by us one fateful day.
Call it like it is.
Sometimes in the middle of a big complex project we forget why we even started this, and small challenges can bring us down.
In her piece, 9 Steps to Staying Motivated, for Artists, Makers, and Creative Freelancers, Sarah West Ervin recommends setting “Big Hairy Goals.” You can think of these as your lighthouse, that guiding, faraway point that keeps you moving in the right direction. Ask yourself, where are you headed?
Read This: How To Be a Goal Digger & Win At Life
Where will this project take you in 6 months, a year, 3 years, 10? Identifying our long-term motivators can help us re-calibrate, break a big task into smaller chunks, and remind us of the correct way home.
But what does that look like, Val?
There are small things you can do to get in the zone:
Journaling is so cliche, but you should do it anyway. Writers, dancers, painters, it doesn’t matter what you do, the discipline of writing a little everyday will eventually bleed into your work. Pouring our insides out and onto a page is a way of motivating yourself to create more, to problem-solve through making, and to learn about yourself.
I read somewhere something about haikus. If you are trying to work through a complex idea, and the infinite possibilities of a white page seem too daunting to know where to begin, haiku it! Giving yourself restrictions in form can help you free up content. In other words, if you are focusing on syllable counting or rhyme, you might discover what you wanted to say all along just by searching for the right word.
There are other writing exercises, like writing about specific things, people, memories, places, etc. Prompts like these can help you clear your mind and clarify your focus, which is ideal for creative making of any kind!
Give yourself a small task that you can accomplish. Whether it is going for a short walk every day, heading for a 2 hour gym sesh, or joining a weekly yoga class, having something that you begin, do, and finish will give you a sense of accomplishment and progress, as well as get you out of your head and pumped with endorphins! Exercising in a routine is also a habit, which means after a few weeks of forcing it, it’ll happen on it’s own. This way you’ll also be gaining the benefits of a routine. Plus, you get to go outside! ☀️
Sometimes identifying a place with a feeling or sensation helps me get focused. If I know that I am productive in this specific cafe, or at this particular time of day, it can help me get over my insecurities.
Maybe it’s a song that gets you going, or an outfit that inspires you, whatever gets you going, identify it and stick with it! Sometimes when I’m working on a project, I find myself eating the same lunch every day, and wearing the same colours over and over. I don’t usually realise it until the end of the project, when suddenly I feel hungry for something else.
Check out some articles:
How To Stay Motivated And Accomplish Anything - Forbes
11 Ways To Stay Motivated & Focused To Achieve Your Goals - Bustle
9 Steps to Staying Motivated, for Artists, Makers, and Creative Freelancers - Bustle
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Valentina is a Colombian artist based in London. She is currently finishing her MA in Performance Practice as Research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and is interested in issues of race, representation, and contemporary performance. Before coming to the UK, she completed her undergraduate degree at NYU Abu Dhabi.