Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Motivation - where does it go?

Aaahhh yes, motivation: that topic beloved of self-helpers and psycho-babblers everywhere.

What, you may ask yourself, can I possibly write about motivation that many people before haven't already done a thousand times over?

Good question.

Well, I can give you my own, unique perspective on motivation - that blend of experience and character that I, and I alone, can bring to bear on this subject.

Fair enough, but before we do that, let's all be sure we're talking about the same thing:

Motivation (noun): The psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behaviour.

OK. How many times have you heard someone complain they just don't have the motivation to do something? Ten? A hundred? Yeah, right. Several thousand times minimum. And it isn't at all surprising.

Shall I dispel this myth of motivation for all time? Shall I? You really want me to?  OK.

Motivation is a myth. There ain't no such thing.

Look, there are two categories of actions in our world. There are things you have to do, and there are things you want to do.

If you have to do something, motivation doesn't apply. You have to eat. If you don't, you die. No motivation needed there, surely. You have to die. It's unavoidable. Motivation doesn't apply. You have to pay your taxes - if you don't you go to jail.

Ah, OK, there might be a motivation issue. You have two options - pay tax or go to jail. Which would you rather do? If you'd rather go to jail, don't pay your taxes. Sorted. Where is the motivation problem?

All things involve want. When it comes to writing, people say they lack the motivation to edit their works. No they don't. They would just rather do something else than submit a finished novel. If they wanted to submit the novel badly enough, they would do the editing. Motivation not necessary.

Whenever you hear or read the word motivation, replace it with desire or want. If you want to send off your novel, you'll do what it takes. If you'd rather lie on the beach working on your tan - then for goodness sake, lie on the damn beach. Who cares? The world won't end because your novel never got published. The only person who really gives a damn is you. Do it or don't do it.

But if you don't do it, please don't whine about how guilty you feel, or how you lacked motivation. Just be honest. Something else was more appealing. No guilt, no problem with self-image or fear of success or procrastination. You didn't edit because you didn't want to.

End of story.


  1. Very nice post, Paul. I like that "replace the word with want or desire." Absolutely right. If you don't want to do something, you wont. However, I do believe the concept of motivation exists. You can want to do something, but if, at the end of the day, when your bed is calling your name but that manuscript is screaming, too... you have to push yourself. To me, motivation is the pep talk we all occasionally need.

  2. I love this post, Paul! Especially the last paragraph... *grin*
    Well, unfortunately, motivation, want, desire, need, necessity -- are all just the result of chemicals in our brain, of sizzling neuro-pathways and a dopamine drenched limbic system. Blah. We want what we're programmed to want, like air, food and water, sleep, safety and sex. Writing and editing is not a basic human necessity, it's more of a self-actualizing thing, hence the need for "motivation". And I totally agree, to some people writing takes the same place (or even higher) than satisfying the basic survival needs, while to others it's just a fancy way to kill time. It's this last category that's the unmotivated, procrasinating one. And they should just be honest about it instead of whining, like you said.

  3. Thanks, Katrina. It was a little tongue-in-cheek, but I am fed up of people moaning about their lack of motivation. All they have to do is go out and buy another bottle :) It's probably an age thing, but I get cynical about pep talks; even those I give to myself.

    Vero, yes. I thought about incorporating some Maslow, but decided his hierarchy has been done to death already.

  4. Maslow's become like some sort of old chewing gum found stuck under one's seat...
    Hm... I sometimes get very cynical too, and I'm 28, so I guess it's not an age thing.