Internal Motivation – Which is Better?

This post is written by the lovely Dalya Moon, who was referred to me by my previous guest, deshipley. With her words:

Tamara Paulin (authorial alias, Dayla Moon) sums herself up in her blog’s hello: “I’m just like you; I wake up with perfect hair and makeup, and bluebirds help me put on my silk robe.” In additon to her humble everywomanhood, she has a delightful sense of humor. I’ve been enjoying her posts for a few weeks, now, and I’m willing to bet you’ll have fun with her, too.

Image by topshampatti via Flickr
In high school, I finished every assignment at the last minute: on the bus, on the way to school.  Later in life, when I became a freelance graphic designer, I set my own deadlines, and I still did most of the work at the last minute.

But in 2002, something happened that changed my approach to work.  I woke up one morning in September with an excruciating pain in my chest.  It felt like a knife.  It was an anxiety attack.

I decided I never wanted to feel that last-minute panic again.  My external motivation–fear of failure to my design clients–wasn’t enough.

For the first time in my life, I tried internal motivation.  I sought the personal pleasure of starting projects early, having a solid plan, and finishing by my own internal soft deadline, well ahead of the hard external deadline.

So, if you want to finish writing a book, how are you going to change your work habits?  (And let’s face it, writing is work–often pleasurable and immensely satisfying, but still work.)

Some writers seek external motivators.  They’ll start a blog and declare they’ll write x number of words per day, posting updates or excuses.  Some take a workshop or course with built-in deadlines, and they’ll complete their assignments to avoid embarrassment in front of the other students, or because they don’t want to waste the tuition money.

Those aren’t bad ideas, and if they work for you, I say go for it.

But … what about finding the motivation and drive within yourself?  What about deciding your hopes and dreams aren’t silly at all?  You don’t even need to tell another living soul if you don’t want to.

Even if you have supportive friends and family–and I hope you do–know that the most important person to have caring about your goals is you.

Why not make a promise to yourself, and focus on the pleasure of meeting your goals ahead of (a reasonable) schedule?  Why not try to exceed your own expectations of yourself?  Start simple, and be supportive of all progress.  Try schedules or progress charts or cupcakes or anything else that helps.  But most importantly, give yourself permission to feel good, to feel proud of what you’re doing for yourself.

You’re the one holding the pen; you’re the one with the most to gain.

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BIO: Dalya Moon writes novels that are called “sweet” and “light-hearted.”  She may have to one day murder someone (on the page) to be taken seriously, but for now she’s happy to not be taken seriously at all.  She is the author of Charlie Woodchuck is a Minor Niner and Practice Cake, which are both available on Amazon and Smashwords.

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