Motivation Monday: Get Thyself to the Page

Happy Monday!

And dig that cool little graphic I just made. That’s because I am hoping determined that this will be a regular feature in the coming weeks. I won’t go so far as to say every week because then I’ll just rebel against myself.  But it will be regular in some form or other, okay?

Because I figure we can all use a little bit of motivation on our Mondays. (And it is also a thing, a hashtag thing, on the social medias.)

So let’s get to it.

I have long held that you can be the best writer in the world, but if you don’t have yourself a healthy dose of motivation, it won’t matter. Because if you aren’t motivated to get your butt into the chair and write, all the talent in the world isn’t going to write the book for you.  So motivation is key.

In the class I’m currently teaching, Do That Thing, we’ve talked a lot about motivation. (One whole session was devoted to motivation and inspiration, as a matter of fact.) And I learned something fascinating, which is the role that dopamine plays motivation.

Yes, dopamine. Our old friend who we associate with pleasure (and one site goes so far as to say sins and secret cravings). Turns out it also has quite a bit to do with motivation.  I’m not going to get all scientific on you and describe how the brain works, because, um, I’m not qualified to do that.  But as a quick refresher, dopamine is a neurotransmitter,  a chemical signal that passes info from one neuron to the other.

When your brain recognizes something important is about to happen (it can be good important or bad important), dopamine kicks in and get you motivated to do something.  That something can be running from the rattlesnake that’s about to strike you (bad important), or start a writing session (good important).

Okay, so that is a vast simplification, but you get the gist. People with low levels of dopamine have been shown to have low levels of motivation.  Dopamine gets you moving, literally–Parkinson’s patients have low levels of dopamine in the substantia nigra area of their brain.

I know, I know, I love anything to do with the brain but you might not. Rather you might be at this point asking how this information can help your motivation to write.  Well, if you increase your dopamine levels, you can increase your motivation.  And here are some ways to do that:

–Baby steps. We’ve been talking about this over and over in the class, because baby steps are the best way to get things done. My mother had a saying for it that I always return to: step by step we travel far.  Baby steps give you a sense of satisfaction and positive accomplishments increase dopamine.

–Micro-accomplishments. Cross items off your to-do list.  The  more you do, the better you’ll feel, and the more dopamine you’ll create.  I’m following this one today. I woke up totally unmotivated, cross and tired.  But I have my to-do list sitting next to me, and just looking at the things I’ve already crossed out is helping to energize me.

–Focus on results. As in, how great you’ll feel when you are done. Remember, dopamine fires when something important is about to happen.

–Eat dopamine foods.  Things like dairy, fish, nuts, foods rich in Omega-3, and, wait for it–dark chocolate. More here and here.

–Praise others.  Recognizing the work of others has been shown to increase dopamine in our brains.  Find some other writers to work with!

So there you have it, the first edition of Motivation Monday. Fun times.  While you’re here, please do tell–what motivates you?

And if getting published motivates you to write, the first step in getting a traditional publisher is finding an agent.  If you’re perplexed or overwhelmed by the process, I’ve got just the class for you–the aptly named How to Get An Agent. Read all about it here.


photo from Wikipedia.

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Hi Charlotte,
I’ve become a fan of Ted Talks. Your name came to me today after I watched Ann Lamott. Halfway thru I said: Wow, I must tell Charlotte that even Ann Lamott can fall on her can. I spoke too soon. She finished her fifteen minutes in really fine fashion. I highly recommend it, and, oh yes, she does mention writing. Peace, love.