In our home, silly gets a good place. Somewhere between the hot water boiler and the computer. We’ve come to rely on it, fall back on it, pull it out when we’re stressed and a number of other clichés I could fit in here. We’re silly people, what can I say? So a typical dinner conversation might be:
Son: What is ice made of?
Husband: Pants. Really cold pants.
And we’re all okay with that. I guess at some point a member of our family who knows science pipes in and provides the correct answer, which is handy for kids learning the basics and succeeding in school. I’m aware of what ice is made of, but I usually stay away from the science questions because I do want them to succeed in the school area.
When I’m feeling unmotivated, sometimes I refer to the silly book. I ask bizarre questions. Look for unexpected answers. Today begins a new week, hopefully one without any writer’s blocks, procrastination or other dirty words. But just to make sure I’m doing everything I can to ward off the evils of grumpy muses, I’m sharing my top go-to methods for motivating myself when the muse refuses to visit:
- Ask what an alligator would do.
Silliness rules every time. Why? Because it takes the focus off me and puts it on something else. I’m not sitting there saying, ‘But I just don’t feel like writing.’ And it doesn’t only apply in creative situations. What about, ‘I know I need to do the laundry, but isn’t there a robot that can help out? I remember going to Epcot when I was a kid. They promised me robots by the time I was an adult.’ So I ask about the alligator. I stop whining and realize an alligator doesn’t procrastinate. She just does what her natural instincts tell her to do.
This tactic is silly though, reminiscent of trying to get my kids to clean their room when they were three. It’s a question designed to make me laugh. Or think of outrageous settings and answers. What would an alligator do? Go sunbathing? Eat the hyena? Which in turn usually leads me to brainstorm a story, or idea. Sometimes I get angry at the stupid alligator. Always working hard. Doing whatever it is alligators want to do while I’m sitting here struggling to open my laptop.
But it works. It always works. Try it next time you’re feeling unmotivated. You’ll be surprised. You might also end up with a lot of alligators in your stories, but that’s easily fixed.
- Take a walk.
I do this a lot now with the dog. More than I probably want to. In lots of snow. And ice. And -58 degree weather. But for the sake of this list, we’ll pretend it’s warm and sunny outside. Ready?
Taking a walk is wonderful! It stimulates the brain, the body, and the soul. Nothing beats the warm sunshine and crisp golden air to stir up the creative juices. I know, I know. Old news. Doesn’t make it any less effective (unless you’re walking through a blizzard).
When I really want to push myself, I’ll make a scavenger hunt. I’ll search for objects that begin with the letter ‘c’. Or red objects. Or three objects I’ve never seen before. Or different shapes. Listen for three different speaking accents. Find five people wearing a hat. What happens more often than not (when I’m not grumbling about the weather) is I end up taking the impressions from my walk and plugging them into whatever project I’m working on.
- Do something new.
I like this one and wish I did it more often. Ray Bradbury says to keep a muse you have to feed it. You feed the muse with other work and life experiences. So if I was a painter, I’d feed my muse by devouring other paintings and by experiencing life.
It helps that I enjoy learning new things and what better age to do something new than our current age? Most of the museums are free in Stockholm. I can find a variety of courses available year round from making sushi rolls to silversmithing to geocaching. Meetup has groups for every interest under the sun. Interested in learning to sew chili pepper costumes and parkour? I’m sure there’s a meetup just for you. If not, you need to move to a different city. Shoot for one in California. The sun still shines there.
As I mentioned in the previous point, reading feeds the muse–well, at least it feeds my muse. Maybe your muse has a different diet. And I have so much to read! Noir novels (my latest book club theme). Biographies. Fantasy. Sci-Fi. Literary. Classics. If I’m particularly unmotivated, I’ll read a genre or author I don’t typically read. I think I do it to shock my system. I get so comfortable with my books. They’re my friends and sometimes, without realizing how it happened, they all end up looking alike. Then along comes a book that’s different, and bold and brash and screams, ‘WAKE UP!’ and I love that book more than all the others for its ability to kick me in the butt.
- Remember the Fun.
My final point brings us back to the silliness of the beginning. I create stories because it’s fun. But sometimes I forget that. I guess we all do. We get caught up in the technicalities, which are also important, and along the way the fun slinks away into the corner to pout about how boring everyone is. So I try to remember the fun. I write a silly story and I let the crazy out. Having children helps. My daughter and I will sometimes make up stories as we go. We have this game we play where she starts a story with one sentence.
“The dragon woke up.”
Then we take turns and build on the story, one sentence at a time. Talk about fun! It takes the focus off the rules. Who cares if everyone in the story is named Bob? (My son’s favorite trick). Every sentence has only four words? Great! Everyone our little heroine meets turns into an ice cream? Yes!
What’s important is the fun, not the rules. And making connections you never thought you’d make. Think it’s tough to write a story about a pig, a potato, a pinata and a penguin? Not in our home. And after even one of these fun sessions, I’m itching to write.
So there you have it. Five of my best motivating tricks. Maybe you use some of these, too? I always enjoy hearing about how others motivate themselves, so if you’ve got a story or tip, leave a comment :).