• S. E. Burr

Getting Motivated and Staying Motivated

The best motivational activities are things that you don't have to force yourself to do.

Last week in my Book of the Week post I talked about the book, Creating Space to Thrive by Courtney Kenney, and about how it baffled me how often I talk to people who want to undertake creative endeavors but are unable to find the motivation to actually get started. Maybe my hubris jinxed me, because I've had a relatively low motivation week. I had a barrium swallow test, and learned that, yes, something isn't working right, but there's not a lot to be done about it for now, so I'm just stuck with an annoying health problem.

I miss food. How I loved food. How I loved being able to eat until I felt full without knowing that it would make me feel horribly sick later. How I loved chocolate. The serotonin that chocolate causes to be released in the intestines makes my lower esophageal sphincter into even more of a lazy little brat than she is already, so I've cut out chocolate, and it's a big change because I previously ate it like it was one of the food groups. Unfortunately, serotonin is also the chemical your body makes to make you happy, so it sucks. I've been sad and grumpy and unmotivated. Which is why I've chosen to write about motivation today.

There are basically two ways that I get and keep myself motivated. Luckily they're both enjoyable and I don't have to force myself to do them.

The first is through inspirational audiobooks and podcasts. I'm currently listening to Getting to Yes with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents by William Ury, a book about talking yourself into things. I got it to listen to it for free through the overdrive app from my local library. I also often listen to books through Audible. My podcast subscriptions change fairly often, but currently they are The Creative Penn Podcast, The Sell More Books Show, Tell Me Something I Don't Know, Writing Excuses, Freakonomics Radio, and Dear Hank and John. Of course, all of these podcasts (like basically all podcasts) are completely free. By giving me constant access to audiobooks and podcasts wherever I am, having a smart phone has changed my life. Switching on a podcast or an audiobook and popping in my headphones while riding in a vehicle, or doing household chores, or while in bed at the end of the day doesn't feel like work. It feels like fun, but has the added bonus of motivating me. I listen to things that motivate or inspire me in one way or another, and it takes absolutely no extra time or effort on my part.

The second way I find motivation is in talking to people about my writing. It can be a writing group, a friend, a family member, or a stranger. It's funny how often my writing comes up with people I barely know. Talking about my plans or about my recent accomplishments invigorates and keeps me going. Writing this blog is another way I've found to talk to people about writing, and I've also found that it's helped to keep me motivated. Sometimes, when I don't feel like writing anything else, I still feel like writing this blog. Thank you for reading it. What keeps you motivated? When do you struggle with motivation? Comment below.

Book of the Week: Mrs. Pollifax on The China Station by Dorothy Gilman. A friend of mine was talking this week about how tourists in North Korea are watched and followed everywhere they go and are only allowed to go certain places. That reminded me of this book, which is set in China a couple decades ago, and I got it from the library and re-read it. When I was a preteen and a young teen I loved the Mrs. Pollifax series of books, which is perhaps a little unusual since the protagonist is a senior citizen. She's also a spy. I was introduced to the series through an audio book my parents played on a road trip called A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax, which featured a cat burglar. One of my many childhood ambitions, which included hacker, car thief, and spy, was to grow up to be a cat burglar, so I was instantly hooked. I don't think there's any necessity in this series to read the books in order, but if you're one of those people who insists on it, the first book in the series is The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

Rereading this book, I found that I still quite enjoyed it. The great thing about Mrs. Pollifax is that she's surprising, far more than meets the eye, and she's also kind. She's not the sort of spy that cares nothing about collateral damage.

I've heard the advice in writing fiction that things should never happen because of coincidence. A recent episode of the podcast, Writing Excuses, reiterated that to me. They said coincidence can play a role in the beginning of a novel but after that everything that happens has to be a result of the choices your characters make. This series breaks that rule. There's a thread of spirituality running through these novels, and the idea that if you show up and do your best, fate, or providence, or the universe will help everything work out. Some horrible things do happen in the series, and to people who don't deserve them; one of the novels involves torture, but there's a really nice theme in these of heroism, bravery, and faith--that the universe is on the side of good, rather than faith in any particular God.

I really enjoyed these when I was younger, and I enjoyed the trip down memory lane this week. I highly recommend this series for people who enjoy adventure novels, secrets, and just a touch of paranormal and magic.

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