Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mindgames; or, the Fine Art of Self-Management

The difficult part in being in occupations involving writing is that so often we are required to manage ourselves to get our stuff done. Many times, we don't even have anyone breathing down our necks to finish our novels except ourselves, and even when we are externally motivated, we still have difficulty getting past our internal roadblocks to getting the work done. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly as an at-times-procrastinatory graduate student with an interest in the workings of rhetoric/persuasion.

The art of self-management, I've been reflecting, is a bizarre one, involving a rhetorical situation that pits oneself against oneself, as both rhetor and audience. In order to convince oneself to do something one does not want to do, one has to:
  1. Partition the part of oneself that wants to get something done from the part that really does not want to do whatever it is.

  2. From the perspective of the part that wants to persuade the recalcitrant part, study the audience (i.e., the part that really does not want to do whatever it is). This is, perhaps not surprisingly, difficult, as a large part of one's mind will be resisting this process. Free-writing helps--I think this is why morning pages are so helpful.

  3. Consider and try motivational strategies. Figuring out what has worked in the past helps with this. But also be creative in finding solutions. Collect these on paper or in your head for later use. Note: Being hostile to one's audience isn't such a good motivational ploy.

  4. Lather, rinse, repeat. Only do this when needed. The way I look at it, there's no need to do this all the time, as one is not blocked or unmotivated all the time. When you've found a set of formulas that works, no need to muck with them for awhile, until one forgets again. One can get more done when one isn't always fiddling with one's self-motivation processes.
It feels weird, this process. Very strange. But a week's worth of morning pages certainly seems to have helped with this, and gotten me back into the game. The thing is, the morning pages get my creative side so jazzed up and productive that I think I should take a bit of a break from them for awhile, while I go and work on the things they've inspired me to do, and work out the finer points of the insights they've given me into the ways I work best.

Anyone else find their process to be similar to or different from this? Anyone have creative ideas for motivating oneself?

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