Gaining a foothold as a freelance writer and entrepreneur while moving once every year hasn't been a simple process. The biggest challenge in my first year wasn't a lack of knowledge or an overbearing boss. I am the boss, and with the internet and libraries, I have access to most of the information I need to be successful. My biggest challenge was finding motivation on the tough days.
When you take the time to identify the things standing in your way, they tend to lose some of their power. Perhaps you'll recognize a few of these.
Motivational challenge#1: Welcome to the roller coaster
Creative types and entrepreneurs know how this goes. An idea strikes, and you set a project in motion. All is well until...family stuff starts happening, you don't get enough sleep, you watch the news, an opportunity falls through, you find out your orders are changing, etc. You go from feeling like you can conquer the world to wondering why you even bother.
The roller coaster was the first thing I had to recognize. Just because you tell yourself that you're in the driver's seat doesn't mean it's always going to be a smooth ride. That is a valid thing, and it's okay.
Motivational Challenge #2: Set your own pace
This one got me into loads of trouble. I used to think that Muses alighted on the shoulders of great writers and whispered sweet nothings until The Grapes of Wrath and The Handmaid's Tale came screaming into the world. I used to think, "Well, I'm not a great writer. I can't call on the Muses, but they tend to swing by every fifth Friday. I'll just pencil them in then." No. No. NO!
The most successful writers and entrepreneurs have self-discipline. They show up for work--inspired or not-- and make things happen. I learned that "set your own pace" is a challenge and a reward. There's nobody telling me that I need to be in a suit at my desk by 9AM or I'm fired, which is awesome. I might show up at 7AM in my gym clothes, but by golly, I've got to show up. Things only get done when my hands hit the keys.
Motivational challenge #3: The apples and oranges game
I'm pretty sure that it's in our DNA to compare ourselves to others, but in the creative sphere, this can be destructive. We always hear about how Stephen King has published over 50 novels, but we don't think about him washing the maggots out of tablecloths while peddling short stories to men's magazines. (True story!) Success isn't always a neat little arc.
There's only one Stephen King, one J.K. Rowling, and one Maya Angelou (RIP) for the universe. The great news is that there's also only one you. Nobody is going to do life like you. Don't fall into the comparison quagmire.
How to avoid the traps
For all these motivational poisons, there are antidotes! Here are my five favorite strategies for making it over motivational hurdles.
1. Operate from a place of gratitude
When you're in the fog of a thousand responsibilities, it can be hard to see what is really working for you. Your sink is full of dishes because you had dinner. What luck! Even when you-know-what starts hitting the fan, there are probably a few things working for you. Find those little things and be grateful for them.
2. Let Tony Robbins yell at you sometimes
In college, I used to play the famous Rocky Balboa motivational speech or listen to Muhammad Ali's "I am the greatest" on loop. I didn't think I was the greatest, which is why I needed to hear it over and over. I read books like Steven Pressfield's War of Art and Stephen King's On Writing when I hit a slump. We all need a swift kick in the pants once in a while.
3. Visualize a better future
You do the world no favors by playing small. Some people make vision boards, and others spend time meditating on how they want their future to look. The greats see their success long before they achieve it.
4. Make a plan
If someone isn't giving you deadlines, give them to yourself. Write them down. (If you need some guidance on how to do this, check out my post on how to make a schedule for yourself.) Beyond having a schedule, goal-setting can give you direction when you feel like you're swimming against the current.
5. Be happy for others
The green-eyed-monster look isn't good on anyone. I struggled with being jealous of others in the past. It wasn't pretty, and I'm not proud of it, but it sure was real. I grew to realize that I was responsible for my attitude about the world. There's always going to be someone smarter, stronger, and faster. Ditching jealousy was a major breakthrough. Being able to genuinely celebrate someone else's success is such a joy. Unburdening oneself from unrealistic expectations is liberating.
If this was easy to do, then everyone would be doing it
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one, I could just sit around and wait for the Muses to pop in before I started working because I wouldn't have to worry about bills anymore. There's a reason that so many people never get a chance to publish the stories in their heads. Starting your own business, creating a bold vision for your life, or generating art from the aether is no small feat.
I'm not going to hop in front of a green backdrop and scream, "Just do it!" at you like Shia LaBeouf, but know that I'm over here in my little corner of the internet rooting for you.
"When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on." Franklin D. Roosevelt