Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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 last week at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. 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’ve written about this subject before, and I always try to build in some recovery time after Blue Ridge, but for some reason this year has left me floundering more than usual (please, no one remind me it’s because I’m getting older). Definitely NOT a good thing, I have deadlines looming and I need to be on the top of my game. I looked more closely at my situation and even those it’s slightly different, the same three issues are the root of my problem.
  • 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. You’d think coming off the high of being with other writers would give me confidence. Not me, instead it feeds the you’ll never be that good with this kind of competition voice that lives inside my head.
Having ferreted out what I think are the root problems, I immediately put my previous plan into action. Here are the steps I’m working through to get back into my regular routine:
  • 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? In the past it’s worked well, although not as quickly as I want. Truthfully, it will take me at least until next Monday before I’m one hundred percent. But, if I don’t start taking action I know from experience it’ll take even longer.
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. Edie, this describes my thought process perfect after Boot Camp. I had this problem...and add on top of that the post-conference blues and you've got yourself a major problem! I have 2 guest bloggers this week, so I can only imagine how it will be next week for me when I have to get back to work on writing posts once again. Thank you so much for your insightful information! And by the way, I want to publiccly thank you for taking the "type what you see" thing off of your comment process! For someone who can't see the thing, it's kind of hard to "type the letters I see!" LOL! Love you my precious friend and mentor!

  2. Yes, Edie! I feel this way right now. Mine comes from doing too much for too long. I'm starting to let go of various responsibilities that others can handle and already feeling the extra oxygen fill my lungs. Also, exercise, which I hate, is key to breaking out of my malaise. Played racquetball with my hubby yesterday and felt a world of difference. Thanks for your insightful post!

  3. Edie, mine comes from starting a new wip. I'm comfortable editing what I've already written and it's been sometime since I had to start from scratch. I keep repeating--you can't edit what you haven't written. lol

  4. I'd like to share a comment with you on the insecurity issue. I was at a song service at a little country church one Sunday several years ago. Various folks from the congregation were taking turns singing, playing musical instruments, etc. When it was one guy's turn, he said, "I can't follow Brother Jim." Brother Jim's reply was, "It's not a competition." That statement has stayed with me all these years. God created each of us with unigue talents and only you can fill the role He has for you. It's not really even a matter of talent. It's really about obedience - you being the best you you can be and showing up for duty in God's Army every day. Blessings on you, dear One as you recover from your busy schedule and as you help the rest of us through the writing maze.

  5. Okay Edie....you know that little voice of insecurity is not from the big man I know. I heard a voice recently tell me, "Fasten your seat belt, find some passengers, and be ready to ride."
    "God has a plan!" Thanks again for our one on one together:)

  6. Mental fatigue is something that plagues me often.

    That's why I go through so many cycles of burnout. It's always push-push-push, cram-cram-cram. And it wears me out.

    Yesterday I had to literally force myself to do no work--instead I did things I don't usually have time for--watched a couple of episodes on TV, rewatched an old favorite movie. And of course I felt guilty ever since for letting that rare free day slip away without working on my goals.

    I need to learn to take breaks more often--and not feel guilty about it.

    The insecurity thing--I think that one will plague me till I die.

  7. I definitely understand how you can feel like this, especially after BRMCWC. I attended last year and it took me several months to absorb everything I learned. I was overwhelmed and overloaded. Siphoning through everything to pick out the nuggets of gold took time and energy - both of which I had very little of to begin with.

    When I am down and feeling unmotivated, I watch a movie, go to a diner and eavesdrop, color (outside the lines!), anything to declutter my mind and help me see that art comes in many forms. Life motivates us with its eccentricities and beauty.

    I think being a writer means being self-conscious and lacking confidence in our art. And that's ok. I imagine even the most seasoned, well-published, revered authors experience the same feelings. It means they are human. Focus, though, on the feelings of conviction and not guilt, on the passion for truth God planted in you.

  8. Have you been snooping around in my head, Edie girl? LOL! Thank you for your transparency. You are a blessing.

  9. thank you all for your great comments and encouragement!
    Jamie, I should have removed that "type what you see" a long time ago.
    Linda, yes, physical activity helps me too. I need to add that to my list.
    Pat, I'm right there with you. For me, editing comes much easier than creating, especially when I'm struggling with self-confidence.
    Cathy, you're so right - thanks for the wise advice!
    Blessings All, E

  10. Judy, it's just so hard to take my own advice - LOL! Thanks for the reminder.
    BK, I'm like that too, all or nothing. Or should I say, all and then nothing left!
    Heather, great thoughts - thanks for sharing!
    Nan, you know what they say, great minds and all!
    Love you all,
    Blessings, E

  11. "All and then nothing left." Now that sounds like something that needs to become an official writer's creed. LOL! Or at the very least a rubber stamp for my journal entries. 8-)

  12. When you feel like you aren't good enough, let's compare salaries ;) I've finally coming to the conclusion that I will never reach any goals until I set specific writing times. I'm still looking for those times...even after coming back from blue ridge so motivated, I'm struggling. There is always something else that MUST be done. Hummpph.

  13. I'm right there with you, Edie. Thanks for sharing these words of encouragement.

  14. Oh, now I don't feel alone anymore...appreciating everyone's transparency and realizing I'm not so unique, just human. Getting outside in creation is what will do it for me. I am planning on walking, retrieving a few thoughts from the view,and then getting to work. Thanks, Edie

  15. Glad for the post, Edie. I'm dealing with missing out on BRMCWC. I'm sure I missed my last opportunity to meet and learn from writer friends who I hoped to see in person one day, also missed out on once in a lifetime workshops and advice on how to do my job better, and, well, the list goes on. Thanks for sharing ... your posts help me not feel alone in day-to-day challenges.

  16. I see a common thread in your post and the comments. Most of you are just worn out! You expect so much of yourself every day. Remember, Jesus had to get away from everybody and regroup. I think that's what you need. Do something fun that is totally non-related to work, responsibility or writing for a couple of days. Play. Eat something you don't usually eat. Call up a friend you don't make time for when deadlines loom. DON'T read anything (that kick starts your brain into work mode and you'll feel guilty). Do the one thing you have put aside in your life because of your "business."

    I go through this, too. I've always had issues with overload. It doesn't have to be writing, it can be anything we push ourselves to the limit to accomplish. The answer to a momentary malaise is to recognize it as a symptom. You need a recharge!