I tend to leave most of the ‘get out there and kick some butt’ motivational posts to Ash. He’s pretty good at those, and he has a lot of painful personal experiences to draw from and make you feel guilty.
It’s all very well and good for us to tell you that you need to be more motivated to achieve big things. But maybe it’s just not happening for you. Job rejections, failed projects and ‘constructive feedback’ can start to grind you down.
My dear reader, I have spent many an hour in the same pathetic, unmotivated boat. I prefer to wallow more privately in my failures like a highly literate hippo in the mud of despair. This time, I’m going to try and help you figure out where the hell your mojo went.
Why don’t I have any energy?
Sleep and food are really damn important. Pushing yourself and sacrificing either of these things in order to reach your dreams is expected – but it’s not sustainable. At some point, you made an illustration or a paragraph more important than lunch. That’s just silly.
Put the laptop down, have some dinner and go to bed. In the morning, try and get some vitamin D and fresh air. Do you remember that thing, fresh air? It’s actually quite good for you. It might perk you up.
I want to sleep, but I lie awake at night worrying about bad ideas and uncomfortable job interviews. Why can’t I sleep?
Some people find it hard to switch their brain off – I’m quite like that. The good news is that you will eventually fall asleep from sheer exhaustion in the end.
It might also be the case that your ‘sleep hygiene’ isn’t very good. That doesn’t mean ‘change the sheets’, although to be fair it might be long overdue. What that means is put the damn laptop down already. Stop checking your email. And your phone. Being permanently attached to our technology screws with our sleep patterns.
Why did I end up spending 3 hours watching cat videos instead of working?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The typical 9-5 working day (or 8-8, as it’s more commonly known, sigh, industry norms) isn’t universally effective.
You might be the kind of person who gets tons of work done in the afternoons. Or your most productive hour of the day might be 3am. Our working styles are all different, and sadly we have to try and battle through expected working hours regardless.
My advice is don’t fight your brain on this. Work out when you’re super productive and excellent at getting shit done, and make a rule to do all your most important stuff then. As long as work gets done to deadline, you can complete it at the ass-crack of dawn for all anyone’s going to know.
Treat procrastination as a necessary evil. If looking at cats in bread is the most you’re ever going to get done at 11am on a weekday, so be it. Just don’t let the boss see you.
Why don’t I feel motivated to create anything?
The simplest answer is this: because you’re not doing what you *really* want to be doing right now. If you don’t wake up every morning and leap out of bed ready to have the most amazing, creative and awesome day ever, you’re not where you want to be yet.
So, in all likelihood, either you’re in a terrible job but it pays or you’re spending time on work you love and getting into debt. Neither of those situations are particularly motivating. But that’s how it is for most people. The ‘dream job’ isn’t the norm.
There’s no easy fix to this one – it’d be wrong of me to tell you there is. This is the hard part, and it’s going to take some time. The good news is that you’re actively working towards better things right now, so chin up and slog it out for another day/week/month. This is character building.
How do I get my creativity back?
Before you can create, you need to be in the creative mood. That in itself might take some work. If inspiration isn’t striking you, try some of this:
- Go somewhere new, and take a notebook. Sit in this new and wondrous place and brainstorm for a bit. Sort the solid ideas from the random drivel when you get back.
- Have a go at a crossword, or sudoku, or whichever new puzzle we’ve brought over from Japan. You don’t have to finish it. You don’t have to get it all completely right. We’re trying to kickstart your brain here.
- Make a playlist of high-tempo music. Don’t just listen to it, dance to it. Nab a broom and become Mrs. Doubtfire for 15 minutes. The music will help change your mood, and moving about gets your blood pumping a bit faster.
- Have a drink. Ever heard the phrase “write drunk, edit sober”? Remember to write down all of the wacky ideas you come up with while tiddly, and hope it’s not illegible scrawl in the morning.
- Talk to people. Yes, actual human people. Don’t hole up in your room trying to struggle with an idea alone, get someone else’s opinion on it.
It’s not working. What now?
If you try your darndest and none of this is working for you, there’s a strong chance you’ve burned out. That needs fixing immediately, but I’m not saying ‘quit straight away’ because that rarely ends well. You could do with a plan.
Take a holiday first and use the free time to decide how you want to change things. Can you stick it out at work for another 6 months so it looks better on your CV? Are there other opportunities coming up you can spare some time for?
What do you even want to do?
In the worst case scenario… I don’t normally advise people to give up on their dreams. None of us would. We’re all still chasing ours, and having a blast on the way. What I will say is this: if you’re not enjoying being creative (or trying to be), like, AT ALL, you need to take a good, hard look at whether this is the right career. It’s not easy, by any means, but it should at least be fun.