Staying Motivated

An Update on my Novel

(But Wait, There's More!)

Sunrise on Padre Island National Seashore, an inspirational sight.

If you've been following my progress over the last two months, you know that I am nearing the completion of my first novel.  My self-imposed deadline was June 5th, but since I've been working more I let my motivation and dedication slip.  I've still been writing every day, but unless I'm able to focus explicitly on writing, my productivity suffers.  I'm currently working on the climax and finale, and my new deadline is this Friday.  I was originally planning on handing over the rough draft to my test-readers immediately, but after getting some advice from a writing group, I've decided to do a quick read-through of my first draft before letting anyone else see it.  This way I will catch the most obvious errors and (hopefully) save my readers some time and effort.  

I've noticed the same trend in every area of my life, as I'm sure many of you have as well.  All too often, the busy schedule of our day-to-day lives gets in the way of our goals and dreams.  My goals right now are to finish my book, finish college, and get in great shape by the 4th of July.  I'm well on my way to accomplishing all of those, but the key to completing them is to stay motivated.  Here are some ways to stay motivated:
  • Stay focused.  Remind yourself why you're trying to accomplish something, and envision it.
  • Make it a habit.  This one is very important.  When you do something every day, it becomes easier to do, and even enjoyable.  Just make sure the habits you make are good ones; bad habits are harder to break.  
  • Have a reward system.  This is an easy way to help difficult goals seem more attainable.  If you recognize the hard work you put into reaching a goal, you'll be more motivated to keep going.  You can either set a schedule or just do something small for yourself when you reach a milestone.
  • Tell people about it.  If other people know you're attempting something, you'll feel more pressure to complete it and make them proud.  Failure is no longer just letting down yourself, but potentially disappointing others as well.
  • Find inspiration.  Whether it be someone who has already achieved what you strive for, an idea, a song, a place, or even a feeling.  
  • Be confident.  You don't have to repeat a mantra like "I think I can", but if that helps you, by all means do it!  The point is, remain confident that you will succeed.  When you talk about it, do it with pride.  Fake it 'til you make it, if necessary!
I remind myself daily why I am forcing myself to eat healthy instead of indulging on sweets and fast food, or why I go to the gym and sweat or sit at my computer and write for hours instead of watch movies or read, or why instead of sleeping in, I trudge on campus and sit in a stuffy room listening to a professor for hours. 

Since I have to force myself to stay focused every single day, that should make it clear that I've made it a habit to do those things.  It does get easier, but any time I do slack off, it's like I have to start all over again and re-train my brain to keep going.  Forming positive habits is probably one of the most important things you can do to stay motivated and accomplish your goals.

Even when I'm working hard to accomplish something, I always make sure to reward myself.  The key is to work first, then play.  I have one day a week where I will eat anything (although I still watch my portions).  This week, every meal was super healthy and I worked out every day, so last night I ate some sinfully delicious BBQ.  If I hit my writing quota for the day, I allow myself to completely zone out on the couch for the rest of the day, either playing video games, watching TV, or just wasting time online.  I love that this paragraph about a reward system is longer than any other section.  Rewards are important.  Positive reinforcement always trumps negative reinforcement.

Hopefully I haven't done this next part too much... but I definitely made sure to tell people about my goals.  This step isn't for everyone, but I work best under pressure.  Stress drives me.  To be fair, one reason I talk about my book so much is that I REALLY want to get it published and actually turn it into a career.  I know that networking and building up interest is incredibly important, especially in a time that is so filled with talented authors and interesting books.  

The last two points, inspiration and confidence, are very personal.  All you really need to know is that I have them, and they work!

So, what are your goals?  Your dreams?  How will you achieve them?  How do you stay motivated despite living in a fast-paced, hectic world?


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