So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation. And the lack of it.
But back when I was working on my Ph.D., I read McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. In it, one of the authors, Hofner, believed that motivation was based on choice, effort, and persistence. She also pointed out the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic is always stronger; however, it is not always present. Sometimes that extrinsic motivation (the grade, the diploma) is the only thing there, and in those cases, teachers can use that to help motivate students who have not achieved internal motivation.
Some of it the internal motivation is praising ourselves. I just began reading “The Writer’s Workout,” which, so far, seems to be a very interesting and helpful book, and it brings up how we need to praise ourselves. That helps. Writers do have egos, and they do need stroking. But sometimes that’s not enough (or even wrong). Sometimes there’s a need for external motivation.
If writers just want to write for themselves, that’s internal motivation. However, if they want to actually be published, they need to go to external motivation. That’s people buying your work, liking your work, or even willingly talking to you about your work.
My external motivation that I’ve gotten lately, other than selling work, is the fact that I got accepted into two different MFA programs in Creative Writing/Fiction. One even included a lovely note about how much they enjoyed my writing and how much they looked forward to working with me! Lovely and nice to find that in the mailbox!
But there’s a limit to it – the motivation that is.
While the praise and ego stroking is nice, there’s also what I consider the anti-motivator. Sometimes we see what other people accomplish, and instead of it motivating us, it makes us competitive. Like the episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” where a new teacher comes to the Kreylbornes and makes them compete with each other, our egos make us want to fight to come out on top. We care if we’re 99.99995 or 99.99993. And, really, why should that matter?
So let’s just forget about motivation and self-praise and ego stroking. Let’s just write.