Staying Motivated When It Gets Hard

I think it's important to note that when I sat down to write this post, I had absolutely no motivation to write it. Irony of ironies. It felt like pulling teeth. Eventually I had to set it aside for a day or two before I could pick it up again.

Struggling to stay motivated with a project is a very human thing to experience. But it doesn't make it any less frustrating. It doesn't matter how much you love something or how excited you may be to work on it. Sometimes it's hard to push through. And there are a number of reasons why it could prove to be challenging to stay motivated.

The term "impostor syndrome" is one that has become fairly common. Often when terms and sayings become used more frequently, they tend to lose the strength of their meaning. We blow off these sayings and don't take them to heart. I know that often times when I'm writing, my lack of motivation tends to stem from impostor syndrome.

For those unfamiliar with the term "impostor syndrome," I will quickly sum it up. It is when we feel that we don't deserve the recognition that we get for something. Or that we are not qualified enough for a certain role. Quite literally we feel like an impostor, or someone faking it. There is a sort of fear that someone will find out we're not as qualified as they think we are, or we will fail because we are not adequately prepared.

I struggle to refer to myself as a writer. I have a dream and a goal of one day publishing books. But until that time, I don't feel that I can call myself an author. So I've settled on referring to myself as a writer. But even there, it still feels not quite right. I tend to get into my head about my lack of professional training in writing. I didn't take a college course in writing or anything like that. I know next to nothing about running a website and a blog. I'm learning a lot as I go along.

It can be challenging when there isn't much of an audience. For a long time, my parents were some of the only readers I had. (Big shout out to the two of them--thank you for the support!) While their support means the world to me, it can be challenging to not reach many others beyond that. There were many thoughts like "What's the point?" and "They only support me because I'm their daughter."

More recently, I've been gaining more readers. Hi! Thank you so much! While this is incredibly exciting, the impostor syndrome has been creeping in. I worry that I won't live up to your expectations of me as a writer. I worry that you'll think of me as a fraud for not having published anything and doing this on my own.

A few years ago, I hit a lull with my writing. I was going through a very difficult time, having just lost my grandmother and knowing my grandfather would likely follow soon after. In the past, writing had been a sort of therapy for me. But in more recent years, I only wanted to write happy things and steered away from writing about the bad things. So when I was grieving and finding myself unhappy, writing just wasn't happening.

On a random day off, I was cleaning my home and throwing things away. Old birthday cards I had hung onto, old receipts, etc. Going through a stack of things, I found an envelope with familiar handwriting. It was the handwriting of my grandmother who had just recently passed. I braced myself to look and see what she had written. In that card, my grandmother talked about my mom discussing my writing with her. She told me how happy she was for me and encouraged me to keep up with it no matter what. She knew it was something I was passionate about and she wanted to make sure to encourage me to press on.

I had only a vague memory of receiving this card. At the time, it was something that was sweet, but the note she had written hadn't hit me on a deeper level. But when I stumbled onto the card when I was cleaning, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I remember sitting on the floor crying with the card in my hands. I had bottled up so much of my sadness and grief, and it all came pouring out. More than that, it felt like she was right there with me encouraging me on. I knew she meant it. One of the first pieces I truly sat down to write stayed hung up on her refrigerator from the time I was nine until she moved out of that house about ten years later. Just like her unconditional love, she also had unconditional support and encouragement.

I feel very fortunate to have these supportive family members in my life. However, I recognize that not everyone has that same relationship with their family members. There is also something to be said about getting the support and encouragement from someone who isn't family. It's taken me some time, but I've also found friends in my life who are incredibly supportive. I have friends that have offered to proof read pieces that I'm working on and give me honest feedback, not just telling me that it's all good.

There are still days when I struggle, especially with the impostor syndrome. But I have friends that encourage me on. I remember when one of my closest friends was talking through my dreams and goals and what I was working on. He said, "You sound like a writer to me." It's such a simple statement, but it was one that stuck with me. He is one of the most honest and genuine individuals that I know, which means that I always trust that he is being honest with me. Even if he has something unfavorable to say, he will say it in a respectful way. So I knew it was said because he believed it. It wasn't just to boost my ego.

When I don't feel like I'm good enough as a writer or don't have it in me, I think of that card that my grandma sent me and the things my friends say to encourage me on. Writer's block is a very real thing, but having the encourage to keep on moving forward helps me to find other ways to spark inspiration. For example, when I was really struggling to motivate myself to write this post, I shifted my focus. I began gathering my notes for next week's blog post. I was still making progress, even if I needed to set this aside.

The same applies for other bigger projects. I have a novel I've been working on writing for almost ten years now. I've picked it up and put it back down at least a dozen times now. I've cut sections, reformed the center idea, added characters, cut characters, etc. And currently it's back in time out. I'm letting that idea sit awhile. And while I sit on it, I'm working on writing new things here. I've been challenging myself week after week with this blog. I've challenged myself to try writing non fiction pieces. I've studied articles, taken notes, listened to podcasts, you name it. I'm also working on getting into a better writing routine, rather than random sprints. By having a manageable schedule, it creates new positive writing habits for myself.

But most importantly, I never give up. The voices of my loved ones ring in my voice. Even when I don't believe in myself, they believe in me. And I find different ways to keep moving forward.

That said, I am volunteering to be your honorary sister/friend/aunt/daughter/mother/whatever you need me to be with the voice of encouragement. I believe in all of you. We all have dreams and we all have goals. Don't give up. I know you can do it! Keep sticking with it! I know if we all continue encouraging one another to press on, we can all achieve our goals.

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