I keep a large whiteboard in my office, that I mainly use for to-do lists. But I also keep a certain quote on it, at right:
Because it makes me smile. Because it reminds me I have work to do. And because the writer who said it is so famous and successful that she reputedly owns a sizable chunk of Maryland.
And who doesn't want that?
The tchotchkes that litter my desk also have well-known quotes on them, as if the words of the celebrated and important are a golden motor of sorts, capable of powering me over the obstacles in my path to success.
And pithy quotes are fine, sure. Famous people are probably nice, too. But motivation isn't always fine and nice; motivation can be strange. It can come to you at inconvenient moments, like an oblivious houseguest. It can use foul language, and occasionally, it grammars not so good.
Other times, motivation is boring. And anonymous. It comes at you with no frills, no élan. In other words, motivation is arbitrary and capricious. Or at least, my motivational muse is.
To wit: Before I became a writer, I was a bureaucrat who wanted desperately to become a writer. My job involved taking the meeting minutes for a government task force, and the material was tedious, repetitive, and obtuse. I did my best to make my write-ups (they were more summaries than true "minutes") compelling and streamlined. I gave them a narrative.
There was a veteran newspaper reporter who participated in those meetings, and one day, while the group was conducting its business, he took the opportunity to state for the record that my minutes always made him sound better than he did in real life. I looked up from my notes in utter shock and later, was even more surprised when he told me privately that if the writing he'd seen was any indication, that I "could probably execute on anything."
So...not exactly tchotchke material. But oh, how I cherished those words. How I still cherish those words. He'd essentially told me: You're spinning stories from the driest of source material. You could be writing something else. And it's those words--more than the ones on my whiteboard and tchotchkes--that have urged me on, through all the twists and turns on the road from government hack to award-winning romance writer.
Motivation is wacky, y'all.
So where do you get your drive? What less-than-flowery quote gets you all revved up, like coffee that's been in the bottom of the pot too long? Is there an old pep-talk that's stayed with you, through your hardest days? A Broadway musical number that pumps more blood to your brain, whenever you hear it?
Or maybe you're motivated by something painful--by an especially cruel review, or the memory of a mistake you once made?
I do know one thing: If nothing else, motivation is everywhere.