Recently I did an interview with Authority Magazine on optimising mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. Although it was not really about motivation for creativity, as part of it I mentioned one of my favourite quotes:
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
I went on to say: “I have found that following a whole project or idea through to completion helps me to develop my muscles of endurance and resilience. This has enabled me to cope with the difficult feelings that often arise when working on a project, such as hating what I’m working on at times or feeling unmotivated“.
I think this is something that is important for people to understand because I meet a lot of people who have difficulty finishing projects, or in some cases even starting them in the first place. And I understand – it can be scary. I am an author but I grew up reading Austen, Dickens, Frank Herbert, Nabokov. I am not comparing myself to mediocre authors! And I already know I am not in the same league as them, but I am kind of OK with that because I know I have some information that can help people. I don’t have to be the best writer in order to write.
We all have unique gifts and talents which may go unexpressed for years or even forever if we do not commit to both finishing them and to bringing them out in the world in the right way. Finishing a project might mean taking enough time, asking for help, backtracking to fix an error and generally slogging through the murky middle to get to the end. Bringing them into the world in the right way for us might include collaborating with the people and companies that both resonate with us and have similar goals (not just people or companies that look good on paper or which have worked well for other people), setting it in front of the right audience, identifying and overcoming our self-sabotage habits or marketing that fits with our values, for example.
In some instances people can create something beautiful, useful or important and then fail to market it well so it does not take off, and in some instances this can be a form of self-defence against criticism or even the discomfort of success. We get to think “I tried my best, but people did not want it/ appreciate it” and go back to our normal lives.
I just want to say that all of these feelings are normal. Creating something, putting it out into the world, inevitably ruffling some feathers (bearing in mind some feathers are bored or lonely and are just hoping to be ruffled!), being criticised, being admired – a lot of it can be hard! But if you know you have something to offer the world, something that could make the world a better place – surely that is worth it?
So, I recommend that if you find yourself feeling unmotivated or like you’ll never get to the end, just focus on what you can do today. Something achievable, small perhaps, but useful. And with every forward step take the time to feel good about that small win. It may also help you to regularly connect with your vision and the “why” of it.
For example, I need motivation for creativity right now because I’m currently working on an inclusive self-help picture book for kids. I want lots of different children from different walks of life to be able to use it to feel better about themselves and hopefully to see a child who looks like them also. While it only took me about 3 hours to write the text, it has taken me about 8 months of working on the illustrations and they’re not finished yet! On top of that I have no idea if it will help a hundred children, thousands or five! But when it gets a bit hard I remember that I’m doing it because I love kids, I want them to feel happy in their own bodies and selves, and I want to teach them some basic skills for self-love and self-acceptance. The feeling of solidity and warmth I have when I contemplate my goal lets me know how I want the reader to feel and it connects me to a natural source of motivation that makes effort easier.
It also reminds me that books and other projects are more than just things, they are an expression of someone’s love, intellect or unique gifts and when I think about that I realise how many people in the world genuinely want to make it a better place. And that’s good to remember because the people behind those things are often not the ones shouting the loudest on social media. I think it is can be healing to turn down the volume on that and focus instead on all the goodness we are already surrounded by.
So question for you: what is your eye (or mind) drawn to first when you wonder what someone has made from a place of goodness? And why do you think that is the first thing you thought of or noticed? What meaning does it have for you? And if it is relevant – how do you want to bring that quality into the world in the way that is authentic for you?
Happy making and creating!