motivation. n. 1. The act or an instance of motivating, or providing with a reason to act in a certain way. 2. The state or condition of being motivated. 3. Something that motivates; inducement; incentive.

Sometimes I struggle with the motivation thing. Sometimes it’d be easier to pick a random (probably shitty) TV show and eat ice cream while I binge-watch all thirteen seasons. Instead of, you know, doing responsible adult things like preparing meals and getting regular sleep and going to the gym and fulfilling the requirements of my job while moonlighting as a crime writer.

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t struggle; I’m pretty motivated, all told. I tend to get shit done when it needs to be done, even if I don’t want to. Is that still motivation? Either way. Type-A personality. You know where I’m going with that. (Note to self: blog post about Type-A personality forthcoming.)

Lately, my incentive has been this: “if you do [insert odious task], you can write fiction and/or (usually and) have beers.” Call it the crime writer’s curse (we’re often motivated, strongly and sometimes unfortunately, by alcohol). Call it whatever you want. It motivates. Both of those things motivate me; I hear my protagonist’s voice in my head, asking me what the fuck I’m doing and why I’m neglecting her. She’s kind of high-maintenance that way. She motivates me.

Another one? Having [insert odious task] just being done and off my desk. That feels good. It means I can write the thing on the to-do list and then cross it off right away, which is one of my favorite motivational tools.

Lately, my main function has been that of motivator, which is a totally different thing. By that, I mean this: I teach first-year writing at a large public university in the Midwest. One of my main jobs, which I have to do well if I want to enjoy my job, is to figure out which fires to light under which asses. And so far, even though this is my first year of full-time teaching and I was a little wigged out there for a couple of weeks, I think I’m kicking ass as a motivator. By that I mean that I enjoy my job. A lot.

I’m my own goddamn motivator. Seriously, I mean it. I mean, there are things I have to do (grade the papers, finish the manuscript, draft the second novel so that super-agent can try to sell two instead of one, etc.), but the other things? I just wouldn’t do them if I wasn’t such a goddamn motivator. It’s all about figuring out which fire to light under my own ass.

Here are my upcoming tasks, some less odious than others:

  1.  Write blog post, since you’re a complete slacker in that department
  2.  Rewrite prologue. You know what I’m talking about.
  3. Respond to those first drafts that you’ve had for two days. (only half done? Only half crossed-off)
  4. Write that goddamn conference abstract, if only because then you’ll do interesting research that might lead somewhere.
  5. Consolidate your goddamn catastrophic student debt and figure out how to pay it back without blowing a goddamn gasket and/or retreating into an existential death spiral.
  6. Send those two short stories out for review.
  7. Send those two articles you’ve been working on out for review.
  8. Write blog post about goddamn catastrophic student debt. Call it “existential death spiral” or “mistake” or some such thing.
  9. Write blog post about Type-A personality.
  10. Finish drafting Murder Book.

That’s the title of the next book. It’s very meta. I hope you’ll read it when it emerges from the womb of whatever publisher decides to sign me. I hope that a publisher will sign me and put my prose in its womb. This is getting weird. I’ll stop now with the creepy metaphor.

In the meantime, think about motivation and what it means. It’s kind of a big deal. If I were one of my students, writing about it? I might write something like this: “In today’s society, motivation has been a big deal since the beginning of time.” And then someone like me would step in and ask a bunch of annoying questions, meant to motivate a big revision to that sentence. I mean, what? Really? Since the beginning of time? Nothing has happened since the beginning of time. But you’re right about contemporary American society. Can you draw that out a bit more? What’s the most interesting thing about what you want to say? Why does it matter? Who cares?

But whatever, I digress. I did the things on today’s list, so I’m off to have a beer or three.

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