Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Motivation Malaise

Dictionary.com gives this definition for malaise, a vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy or discomfort.

That totally describes my feeling today. As you know, I spent most of June traveling. Then this past weekend was a holiday weekend. So it feels like a long time since I’ve kept regular working hours. Because of this, I’m finding it hard to get motivated.

Now I pride myself on being a go-getter when it comes to my writing/work schedule, so this unexpected set-back caught me by surprise. I couldn’t resist trying to find the basis for my lethargy and the results surprised me.

I found three issues that seem to be the basis of my malaise.
  •  Mental Fatigue: like I mentioned, I’ve been traveling for the better part of a month. Add to that the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in early May—with all the preparation needed and I have been living in overdrive for just under two months.
  • Disrupted Routine: I’ve discovered writing takes a certain set of mental muscles—and mine are woefully out of practice.
  • Insecurity: yep, you read that right. I’m the poster child for low self-confidence when it comes to writing. I find myself fighting against that voice in my head which insists everything up to now was blind luck and I’ll never write another publishable word again.
Having ferreted out what I think are the root problems, I immediately set about devising a plan. Here’s what I came up with.
  • Mental Fatigue: I’ll be watching the clock and taking frequent breaks during my workday to stretch and walk around my house or neighborhood. I’m convinced exercise is the key to breaking through this roadblock. 
  • Disrupted Routine: for this, I’ll be very dogmatic with my schedule. Watching the time I spend on specific tasks will help me make up lost ground in the quickest way possible. This kind of discipline will also help build back up my writing muscles.
  • Insecurity: this one is a little trickier. I’ll be building in rewards for accomplishments—like lunch or coffee with a writing buddy or a trip to the local bookstore. This will help me begin looking for my successes, as well as easing me back into a regular routine. 

So how well does this work? I’d love to tell you this is a foolproof answer, but I’m just starting this part of the journey and I really don't know. I started this post early this morning and am writing this paragraph at 7pm, so I can say these strategies have worked amazingly well for today. You’ll just have to stay tuned to see if it continues help me refocus and regain my momentum.

What about you? Have you ever dealt with a similar issue? If so, how did you ease back into the real world? Any advice . . . warnings? I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. I understand Motivation Malaise. I've been dealing with vertigo for 6 weeks, along with multiple deadlines and a wedding in 10 days.
    One thing that helps me is NOT multitasking. One thing at a time.You would think multitasking would be a good thing, but it's not. It just overwhelms me and my focus is distracted by too many To Dos.

  2. Great suggestion, Beth! I hadn't thought about it on a conscious level, but today I planned one goal and kept at it until I got it knocked out. Praying for you - blessings to your family on your upcoming celebration!

  3. I'm just coming out of a long Motivation Malaise...and I can relate to all 3 of your reasons. So far, the best thing I've found for getting over my paralyzing insecurity issues is to write - especially when I don't feel like writing. At first, it feels hopeless. But after a few days of consistent writing, the words begin flowing and insecurity begins to loosen its grip.

  4. Thank you, Edie. I needed this today. I have a HUGE deadline for tomorrow and every day this week I'd planned to work on it, but other things took over, I got distracted, I decided to do "one more small thing" before I started the big thing. And yep, here I am, the day before it's due, and I haven't started. Dr appt this AM and then I'm hitting the computer with email off and total focus on my project.
    Thank you for your nudge in the right direction!

  5. Disrupted routine is killing me this summer as my 13-month-old keeps changing up his schedule. Family trips are so much fun, but it's been interesting scheduling around them. I'm in the process of looking at activities and goals for the rest of the year. Trying to work around the remainder of the family trips. I passed along a Stylish Blogger Award to the blog today. I appreciate the information you share. Thanks.

  6. Lynn, you're so right - the best cure for writing insecurity is to write! Thanks for the reminder.
    Vonda,I'm glad the reminder helped. Good luck with your deadline - I know you'll come through with flying colors!
    Blessings All, E

  7. Edie, What a great post! My issue isn't so much the motivation as the distractions lately. In preparing for our trip this week, I'm deeply desiring to write but finding myself preoccupied with ministry, trip preparations, cleaning, and other such life concerns. Hopefully it will all lead to writing prompts for me rather than fatigue and a desire to sleep for a week straight! I love everyone's comments, too...

  8. Hi Edie!
    It is comfort to know that you are not alone. I guess the heat of summer and all of the schedule changes get the best of us. The key for me is intentional prayer, saying, "Lord, I feel tired and unmotivated. I want to work for You. Please help me. Guide each step of my day. Make me productive in my home, in my writing, and however You see fit." Amazing...when I yield to Him, He comes through! Why should I be surprised???

    I'm praying for you!

  9. Malaise is part of it for me too. It's good to know I'm not alone. For me, anticipating the fatigue that comes with writing is a big part of it.

    In order to fight it,I decide how much time to spend on something and set a timer. when it goes off, I make myself get up and do something else, setting the timer again.

    Without a timer, I easily get so wrapped up in something that I do it to the point of exhaustion.

  10. Story of my life! I'm hopefully back to writing after several months of letting everything else come first. Pray for me that I will overcome my motivation malaise while I pray for you to do the same.

  11. I can really identify with your post. I am also just emerging from a long stressful time and have learned to be gentle with myself as I get back to my writing and speaking. Guess it will take time, like a sort of healing. I caught myself yesterday with lots of negative self-talk - like your lack of self confidence - made myself stop right away and tried to focus on the positive. Mind games, maybe but I didn't want to get sucked into that downward spiral either.

    Good Thoughts!

  12. Stacy, thanks for the award!I didn't meant to ignore you in my last comment - I would swear your comment just showed up. I guess it's been too long to blame it on jet lag! Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Alycia, I fought the same thing as you before I left on my trips. One thing I did while I was traveling was to keep notes on ideas I had as I went from place to place. Those notes are invaluable now.
    Blessings All - E

  13. Kristi, I appreciate your comments so much - prayer is vital to the process! Unless we plug into God's truth, we're listening to the wrong messages. And it's great for me to know I'm not the only one dealing with this issue!
    Ellen, I love your suggest about the timer. I've used it today and it's been a great help. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Bren, I have been praying for you. I've really missed your blog! Your suggestions for organization are so applicable and easy to follow - Glad you're back!
    Jean, you're so right, it is a lot like healing. And it is important not to give in to negative self-talk. We've all read the statistics about how many positive comments it takes to offset one negative comment. (I've heard everything from 3-9, so I'm not sure where the truth lies.) The same holds true even when we're the ones making the negative comments about ourselves. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Blessings All - E

  14. Hi Edie, I had a total hysterectomy on May 18TH and I have failed to keep a normal schedule since. The encroachment of malaise has gotten the better of me too. I have gotten away for a few days twice in the last 3 weeks, and I am sure the planning and preparation of that has pulled me away from my writing too. Typically, my writing accelerates in the summer and this time I am having a hard time just getting started. Thank you for convicting me that I need to work on this every day!

  15. Thanks Edie. How did you get into my head?? I don't have all the bona fied reasons for contracting Motivation Malaise as you and the others. And yet, I still battle with it. I have all the time I need to write, but do I use it wisely? I'll just say God is working on me.

    A disciplined person, I'm not. Yet when I'm motivated, I'm more disciplined. Now, I'm trying to figure out how to be disciplined just enough to stay motivated so that I'll be more disciplined. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for helping me think through this stuff.


  16. Sometimes I have to change my writing project to get motivated. Other times if I act excited about it long enough, I really will get excited about it and can't wait to start writing. Normally though, I just have to sit down and make myself write. I'll read the scene I last wrote to get my mind on the right track.

  17. Edie,

    I do understand the battle with insecurity. Beth Moore has a book out titled
    So Long Insecurity you've been a bad friend to us.


  18. I'm struggling myself. I've given myself a goal of 10000 words on my novels this month and I'm keeping count. Yesterday I only wrote 40 words, but 40 more than the day before. Slow and steady...