It’s in the back of your mind. You go throughout the day thinking about it. You say to yourself, “Self, when I get home I’m going to sit down and write a chapter or two of my book.” You imagine yourself doing it, you imagine what it will feel like to be finished and you get excited. So, what happens when you get home?
You open whatever writing tool you use and stare at the screen. Or you get caught up in home stuff – dinner needs to be made, the lawn needs mowed, the kids are screaming or guess what? Your favorite TV show just came on.
With no energy left, or the big blank screen staring you in the face, you stop. It doesn’t go at all like you imagined. Not a word is added to the page.
Or if you do manage to add a few words to the page, you end up hating whatever you wrote. It’s gross. Terrible. Awful. You write and then rewrite and rewrite some more before you finally just give up.
You quit. You feel defeated. You let yourself down.
The next time you decide you’re going to write, your energy and enthusiasm have dulled some. You experience less motivation than before and before you even sit down, you’ve given up. You just don’t care anymore.
What I’ve just described happens to me far more often than it should and it’s one of the key reasons why I feel I’ve lost control of my life. My job – my business – centers around creation. Creation of words, of images and stories. The creation of code or music. If that work isn’t completed, then the business will ultimately fail.
Back when I started I was a college student. I hated college. I hated a job and after I discovered that, holy crap, you can make money online, I knew my calling was working for myself. I couldn’t – and I still can’t – stand having other people tell me what I need to do and when I need to do it. Sitting in a stiff classroom setting, having a professor doll out boring instruction while I took notes was bad enough. I then had to go work at home. Homework. Blech. And I was paying to do this work.
I had so much motivation…but I also had unlimited amounts of time. I was living on student loan cash and a part time job that the school had. I didn’t have a family, nor did I have any expensive vices such as alcohol. (Heh, that came later) Sitting down and working for myself, even when I didn’t see any immediate income, was a breeze. I was young, motivated, and ready to make it happen. And happen it did.
My first successful campaign was making me 20 to 30 bucks every couple of days promoting Travis Sago’s get your ex back stuff. Back then, EzineArticles was all the rage and small, 250 to 400-word “articles” could land you on Google and get crap tons of traffic. I quickly found out that other people wanted to experience my success. How did I do it? I decided to teach people and I built my first IM product.
That was a 2,000-dollar launch. Pennies for some, but it was a windfall of cash for a broke college student in the process of dropping out. I knew there was something to this and so I pushed hard for more. My next product, Slap EzineArticles, was selected as WSOTD by the Warrior Forum itself. That was a 10,000-dollar launch.
With money, however, comes responsibility.
Seeing my success, I figured I could do it all. Money came in, money went out just as fast. I met a girl. I got married. I moved to an expensive area with a huge rent payment. I did the American thing and racked up massive credit card debt as I figured I could just make more money easily. I then had a child. It then came crashing down.
Eventually, things catch up to you. Debt, family, responsibilities…back when you’re young and it’s only yourself, it seems easy. Maybe it’s not. Maybe you just have more energy, I don’t know. But at least for me, those times seem simpler.
I don’t know how it happened for you, but that is how it happened for me. Regardless of what happened, things must change, that energy and motivation must return. And you must make it happen.
I can’t offer much advice on finding motivation, other than just being tired of stressed or broke. Tired of working for someone else. Desiring change. I think that, perhaps, is something we must all figure out on our own. But what I do know is this:
The more you create, the better you feel. Even if what you created is garbage.
The question, then, is how do you start? How do you get to it?
You start by starting. And not stopping for at least 15 Minutes.
The 15 Minute Hump
I’ve talked about this before in an email I believe, along with a product about writing. It’s called the “hump” and it’s a dreadfully awful thing. It stops you from working, from focusing and from getting stuff done that you really want. What is this hump?
It’s the psychological desire to save your energy for when you’re facing a tiger and need to run or fight. You might think I’m joking about that, but I’m not.
Idleness, procrastination, laziness…it’s named all sorts of things, and the desire to do something else, especially when the task ahead seems daunting, can overrule our motivation and desire to get stuff done – especially when that “stuff” is a 40 chapter, one-hundred-thousand-word novel we want to write.
I’m going to stop you for a second, though, and say this: You are not lazy. No one is lazy. Except for that dude who lives in his parent’s basement playing video games all day long, right? As a gamer myself, I can say this: video games take work. Problem-solving, creativity, and effort are all required to successfully play a game. Building a giant castle in Minecraft or successfully managing a mega-city in SimCity certainly isn’t lazy.
What’s the problem with gaming? What’s the problem with watching TV? Or mowing the lawn? Or managing the family?
Nothing. Until it’s used as an excuse to avoid the real thing we want to do and can make time to do – for whatever reason. It’s hard. It’s scary. Or it’s just massive.
This hump is what causes us to choose other, less cognitive demanding activities or activities that provide a more immediate reward. Video gaming does this. As does seeing a freshly cut lawn or eating a hot plate of straight-out-the-oven cookies. Some of these things we need to do, such as bath the dog or help your child with homework. We use these things as an excuse. The hump wins.
Why 15 Minutes?
I call it the 15 Minute Hump, because that’s the time it takes to defeat it. If you do the activity you’ve been wanting to do for at least 15 minutes, you’ll be “over” the hump. You’ll have the focus and energy to get the rest of the task finished.
When you work on a single task for fifteen minutes, such as writing, your brain goes into “flow-mode”. Suddenly things get in focus and the activity becomes easier. Words begin to “flow” (ha!) on a page. The plot you designed comes to life as you write. The plan activates.
But it takes time to get into this state…and it can be a nightmare to get into if you’re in the cycle of depression. Trust me, I know.
But it’s real. And it’s been studied. Again. And again.
Before I move on, I do want to say that 15 minutes is an average. It might take you more. It might take you less. But after about 45 minutes, you should be in “the flow” and working hard, with the words flowing on the page.
How to Get Into The Flow
Before I sign off for today, I want to briefly cover getting into this flow – defeating the 15 Minute Hump and hopefully enjoy the benefits of creation.
1. Break any large task into small tasks first. If you’re writing a novel, break the task down into planning stages (Fractal Method – start with a sentence, then a few paragraphs, then a plot outline, etc.)
2. Start by writing whatever you want first. No plan – just sit and write something. A fantasy you have or journaling about your day. The point is – write for at least 15 minutes without interruption.
3. The key to flow – and defeating the 15-minute hump – is no interruption! Lock yourself away, turn off the internet, TV, and anything else that will distract you.
4. Don’t edit your work the same time you write. Those are two different brain activities. If you’re writing, then write. If you’re editing, edit.
5. Admit to yourself the first 15 minutes or so will suck. You’ll struggle. It’ll be hard…but once through it, you’ll start to feel immensely better!
6. Admire the work you’ve done. After half an hour of free writing (or working on your project), look at the word count. I’m looking at mine right now – almost 1600 in less than an hour. WOOT! Use that energy to continue!
Once you break this hump, you’ll feel soooooo good. At almost 1600 words, I feel like I’m on fire! My brain is working, the words are flowing and I’ve been incredibly productive. I feel like I have energy to keep going. I’ve been creating…and creating is breaking my depression.
I hope you guys got something out of this. I know it’s long, but I wanted to type instead of making a video, as I know some of you prefer reading instead of watching.
Now, go break that hump and get in the flow!
Latest posts by Rob (see all)
- The Sneaky Independent – Issue #6: Planning vs. Pantsing – Part 1 - January 22, 2018
- The Sneaky Independent – Issue #5: Master of One - January 11, 2018
- The Sneaky Independent – Issue #4: Building Systems - January 8, 2018