June 18, 2010

Motivation is A State of Mind

I have been inspirationless for more than a week; with no thoughts, no ideas and no posts. To justify my lack of inspiration, I was very tempted to whine and give you a string of excuses in this paragraph. I had planned to talk about the showery, dull weather, the kids, the paper-work and how  all these factors influenced my state of mind. But on second thought, I decided not to cos I know it'll only sound lame.

So. Let me move on and tell you what prompted me to write this post okay?

Yesterday, I did my 5th round of data collection work in College X and I managed to work with 9 international ESL students. The setup of my study required the participants to write a timed-essay in English (L2) and they were given a very general topic that most  L2 students could relate to. When I gave them the signal to begin, I noticed that most of them had trouble starting the first sentence. I saw them writing a sentence, then erasing it, trying another sentence, then scratching it out. You could say that 99% of them had a writer's block while attempting to write the first paragraph. Two students, who seemed more troubled than the rest got stuck for more than half an hour before they could even start the first sentence.This was a bit surprising for me as they were all clustered in the upper intermediate class.

As I observed these students, I reflected on my own writing behaviour and realised that I too have had my fair share of writers' block. Some lasted for a few minutes and some lasted for months.  The first draft for my research report for instance took almost 3 months to complete and that was only 18 pages long. I guess this happened because of the intended audience I had in mind. My audience was the high and mighty Yoda, my mentor and supervisor who assesses and reviews my progress report. So  understandably, writing a draft for Yoda is very daunting.

When it comes to blogging however, the occurrences of writer's block are minimal because my audience is you; family, friends and fellow bloggers who do not expect much from me. I can count on you on this one right??? Just nod. Anyway, according to Hale (2006), "We normally choose a writing strategy based on who we think of as our reader." When I blog about Alden's poop for example, my intended audience  would be my sister and I would then imagine myself having a long, one-sided conversation with her. In this conversation, I need not worry about my text being lame, inferior or inappropriate. So this helps a lot.

Having said that, having an intended audience in mind is not enough. These past few weeks, I've been having difficulty starting a blog entry. I don't know what's gotten into me. I wanted to write so badly  and I had stuff to write about but I just couldn't make myself do it. No mood I guess. Same ol' excuse. So what happens if this goes on forever? How do I get in the mood to write?

I Googled this question on the net and found this site (full article). According to McCamment the answer is simple.

Writing creates the mood.

He came to this conclusion after reading a book entitled Write is a Verb: Sit Down, Start Writing, No Excuses by Bill O'Hanlon. He also said:

"The next time you don’t feel motivated to write, sit down and begin writing anyway. Get your fingers moving and watch what happens. It is almost magical the way it works."

This may not be a big revelation to you and I'm sorry if you're disappointed. But  from what  I 've gathered in his  article, we can change our mood by forcing ourselves to write. This sounds so obvious but it is so true. One common way of doing this is to free-write without worrying about mechanics, punctuation or grammar.   Just write non-stop for 5-10 minutes. My students usually find this stressful at first but as they write for a minute or so, the juices start  flowing and they soon begin to warm up to the idea of writing. Like Nike, my point is: Just Do It!

All this fuss about writing and writer's block and how to get in the mood to write  bla bla bla is just my way of telling myself: You need to be consistent! Be it in blogging or thesis writing. Lizee1: Have I made myself clear? Lizee2: Crystal!

Okay. I think I've got enough motivation to last me a week. I leave you with this quote taken from  Hanlon's site. He got it from Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin. I think that both books are worth investing. But that's just my opinion! Have a great weekend.

There are three states of being: Not Knowing, Action and Completion.
Accept that everything is a draft. It helps get things done.
Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
Failures count as done. So do mistakes.
Done is the engine of more.

– Bre Pettis


chegu carol said...

kalau writer's block on your thesis tu, i no comment la cos that has time line to complete. But if it's blogging related...i say, dont worry if you have writer's block...it happens to all bloggers. But once you see the bulb light on, i guarantee you macam melimpah2 itu stories mau kasi share :)

TheWanderingSumandak...... said...

HAH! it took me about 1 and a half year to unblocked my 'writer's stumbling block'! would you believe that?

Lizeewong said...

Kay - I guess...But sometimes it takes months for me to see the 'light' hehehe...Macam last year la, I wrote so little even though I had wanted to write about my pregnancy.

Ennie-WOW...Lama juga??? Sayang kan if you don't write anything for a long period of time?