If you’re like me, then the prospect of starting a fresh new project is welcomed with an over-eager enthusiasm. Every first step is followed by a grand leap. Those strides maintain their length for a while until they do not. The enthusiasm fades away, the leaps turn to baby steps, turn to idleness. Suddenly, the oasis of passion for whatever endeavor in pursuit dries up into nothing.
Only the next hit of novelty will refill the pool and so the cycle repeats itself. I find my list of projects that made it to their planned conclusions very scarce in comparison to the list consisting of my works in progress.
This is unintentional; or is it?
Every time I start down the path of some new venture, a voice in the back of my mind begins sowing the seeds of abandonment.
Backing out is second nature now and I think that stems from a combination of a short attention span and habit. In childhood I was far more keen on drafting concepts than I was actually doing them. This behavioral pattern applies to all of my work. Be it schooling, science or modeling, the enthusiasm fades and I get lazy.
Even my great passion for writing suffers a similar and recurring fate.
I created countless attempts at blogs in the past with only a few posts per domain name. At first I would churn out content at a breakneck pace before burning out just as quickly and leaving those webpages to rot for internet eternity.
The difficulty for me now is keeping motivated and sticking with Scarface. Already, I am facing those familiar demons urging me to quit and to try something new. Ignoring their voices is difficult; always is. I decided to come up with a list of strategies I will employ to stay strong and fight the good persistency fight.
My hope is that these tips will not only help my chronic ghosting ass but also the chronic ghosting asses that may stumble upon this article. Here we go!
1 Realize inspiration isn’t a “feeling”
The biggest flaw in my past systems was the sporadic nature of content production. I would only work on it when I felt “inspired” to do so.
Here’s the thing with inspiration: it does not exist in the way I used to think it did. Inspiration is not a random whisper in the ear that propels you to do something. At least, the good kind of inspiration isn’t.
Long-lasting inspiration comes from forcing words onto a page until those words begin to flow on their own. It comes from working tirelessly on something even if it’s the last thing you want to do and making garbage until the needle in the haystack comes around.
2 Incorporate the project into your daily routine
This can take a long ass time and often does for me. The best way to milk those moments of flow and to find those needles is to give myself an opportunity to try every single day.
Writing everyday now sits comfortable in my daily schedule. Wake up, stretch, make coffee, write. The routine, when stuck to diligently, becomes habit and thus settles in as second nature. All it takes is a little bit of grunt-work and resilience to get the results.
Many of these writings never make it to my blog and are, in fact, unfinished. Perhaps one day these words and images will find their way into the public sphere but, for now, they act merely as reminders to stick with it.
This brings me to my second bit of advice.
3 Do not delete anything
Regardless of the quality, work is work and should be saved for purposes of reflection. Inspiration can lurk in these failed attempts at putting together something visionary. Hold on to the scraps and revisit them when you feel really stuck.
I like to organize everything I write into two separate folders on my computer. One is simply labelled “Works In Progress” whereas the other one has the fun “Flaming Shit” moniker attached. The funny name makes the actual shit lurking in there a bit easier to digest.
Organization is key to this process. Think of the folder housing scrapped ideas as a trash bin that never empties. Give all of those files memorable names for easy sifting when you find yourself revisiting them. Revisit them often. Even if revisitation merely means gawking at the accumulated trash.
It may surprise you how often you recycle these flaming garbage piles into real works to be proud of. My own goal involves repurposing everything lurking in my own trash bin at some point. The material waiting for a recycle is enough to keep me going for a long while and that’s the real goal here, isn’t it?
4 Give others the power of holding you accountable
This was the big one that changed the game for me. Before I got others involved on my project, I was flying totally solo. I kept everything a secret, posting anonymously and thus suffering with my own shortcomings in secret.
This strategy is one doomed to fail. If no one knows of your projects, it is far too easy to be rid of them without feeling much remorse. And thus that vicious cycle is born.
When I got a few friends involved, the motivation to keep going was not permitted to deplete to zero. Now I had to produce things.
Deadlines are a real motivator, especially when those deadlines are being observed by outside sources as well.
And why stop with just friends? Advertising my work strengthened my ties to the blog immensely. Viewers, regardless of the count, mean that people are paying attention. Personally, I do not want to fall off the radar due to inactivity.
I would rather it be because my content is shit because, if I continue to stick to producing more of it, that shit will eventually start to smell good.
That brings us to the penultimate tip of this little guide.
5 Learn to enjoy the grind
This is no cakewalk. Learning how to experience a dopamine surge over something you consider work is tough. Obviously, I am not to the point of truly enjoying it myself yet. The intention to make it enjoyable is what I hope will get me to that point.
Having a routine will aid in this process immensely. Fulfillment will not come until every item on your to-do list has been checked off. If writing becomes one of those things, true contentment will remain evasive until words are put on a page.
This alone will temper the mind into wanting to do the task. I also link writing to other things I enjoy. Listening to inspiring music, occupying a well-lit room, sipping on a warm and comforting beverage, all aid in the process of normalizing what begins as a chore.
The evolution of chore to hobby is slow and often grueling. Maintaining it is the only method of getting through forming habits. The journey is difficult but the end brings great satisfaction. Every step in the right direction should be applauded.
Every milestone should be rewarded.
6 Reward Reward Reward
To cement something into a routine, beyond simply learning to love it, supplement it with gifts to applaud the success. The most important part of my ritual is getting out and doing something I love whenever I manage to hit publish on my site.
The psychology behind reward is Pavlovian and extremely effective. Like dogs to a dinner bell, project creators should anticipate good things whenever they do something productive.
Purchasing treats, going out with friends, whatever gives a healthy dose of dopamine can act as gifts for good work. For me, writing is itself a reward. I like to write fiction as well as blog and often try to reward the harder, more cumbersome writing with the kind that is easy and fun to do.
If the mind can be conditioned to anticipate good after putting the work in, a new hobby has a better chance of becoming something real. This is my hope for this blog. For many things in my life. Writing this was enough to motivate me for a while.
Let’s hope my advice sticks.