Motivation. Literally, that which impels us to move. That’s how we use the word: the feeling that makes us act—in that order: feeling, then action.
Motivation is also created by action. Ask anyone who has grudgingly started a project only to discover that going through the motions ends in motivation.
You’ve felt it yourself when taking on some new business, relationship, spirituality, or personal development challenge. Eventually you hit what Seth Godin calls the dip. We all have days where it’s hard to get going, to stay focused. Often it just takes a little push to get through the dip. Sometimes though, that off day turns into an off week or an off month. Instead of the upward spiral of motivation and action, we’re stuck. We need motivation to create action but need action to create motivation and we get nowhere.
The world would not be complete without Jeeves and Wooster.
Most of you know Hugh Laurie as the irascible Gregory House, doctor extraordinaire, human being just barely. But years ago he and his best bud and comedy partner Stephen Fry played the leads in A&E’s televisation of some of P. G. Wodehouse‘s Jeeves and Wooster stories. Track them down if you like a good story and some 1930s English wit.
In one adventure, Bertie (that is, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, whose last name was, in the mists of the distant past spelled “Worcester” like the shired sauce you put on your burger) and his greatest detractor, Sir Roderick Glossop, are both in black face (as in, we were going minstrelling down the pub with Al Jolson) hiding in the shrubbery outside Glossop’s own house, tearing and dirtying their formal dinnerwear (that would be tuxedos.)
Emotional writing connects with readers. But you’re not going to produce it simply by trying harder or longer. You can’t will yourself to an emotional outpouring. I’d like to chat more about ways to increase the amperage in our writing, but I’d like to be sure you understand that “trying harder” isn’t one of them.
Here’s your homework: read any or all of these fine articles on the limitations of willpower, and understand that this is how your brain is wired, not some failure on your part. While these articles are, in general, talking about persistence, problem-solving, and self-control, the principles affect your efforts to produce emotionally evocative prose.
Chapter 1 went live on January 31st (because that’s when I wrote it.)
I’d had the first sentence rattling around in my head for decades. I typed it, for something to do, and the rest of the first chapter came out as if I’d already written it.
The way it ended, I knew I had to keep going.
“Going” is right. In 58 days I wrote 56 chapters. During that time we also moved everything we owned into storage in order to move out of the house we rented before we left for a month-long business trip, which we also had to pack and prepare for, while maintaining some semblance of our normal life.
Last week we talked about why it’s so hard to save money, to lose weight, to do any of the things which require postponing present enjoyment to create benefits later. It’s easy to get lost in theory, in analysis of our biochemistry, in what is. What’s not so easy is doing something about it.
My column on why I’m losing weight struck an unpleasant chord with some folks when I first published it. It’s common to hear stories of people trying unsuccessfully, sometimes for years, to lose weight.
Another angle on the same issue: When your income gets an unexpected and temporary boost, through a bonus at work or a project you hadn’t expected, do you bank the money, or reward yourself with a new toy or dinner out?
We experience it every single day of our lives: even though we know what’s good for us, day after day we do what’s fun, what’s easy, instead of what’s healthy and rational and good for our future self.