[Create 101] ⚡ How to Stay Motivated
Congratulations on creating the next big thing! Your idea is genius, original. How on Earth did you think up something this incredible? Surely it’s deserving of accolades galore, and on a personal level, it’s proudly stamped your growth as a creative and individual.
That is, if you actually follow through with completing it.
Whether you’re one page into your novel or one frustrating brushstroke away from creating a masterpiece, creative block is one of the most feared enemies of creatives. It’s written in the name of the problem: you can’t do what you want to do — create. Something inside won’t let you. Perhaps you’re stuck. Perhaps your fiery passion is suddenly nowhere to be found. Or maybe you’re not afflicted by it yet, but the impending threat of being creatively blocked one day is enough for you to want to know how to counter it.
Here’s an understatement of the century: staying motivated isn’t easy. (Especially as a Cornell student during a pandemic.) In addition, what works to motivate some people might not work for others. With this in mind, my advice on staying motivated will branch out into multiple options, all centered around one key word: headspace.
As creatives, we always strive to reach a flow state. Have you ever been so motivated to work on your project that you’ve canceled plans? Skipped a meal? Gushed about it to your friends, family, that random guy from your freshman writing seminar you ran into on the street? That’s what I’m talking about. While the importance of self-care should not be diminished, a burning passion for your craft is ideal, and when flow strikes, you should work to feed that fire.
🤔 So... what do I do?
I remember distinctly three conversations I’ve had with Cornell alumni or faculty in the entertainment/media industry. When I asked them what they did to stay motivated to create, each simple answer rang quite similarly even though these interactions were in separate events.
“I watch movies.” - Alumnus who works at Paramount
“I read.” - Alumnus who works at Viacom
“I listen to music.” - Music Professor at Cornell
Deep-dive into the world of your craft. Don’t let yourself run on empty. Consume, consume, consume. Listen to a podcast, read, watch a documentary. Not only will you solidify a basic understanding of your passion, but you’ll also be likely to generate new ideas or new spins to try on old ones.
If you find joy in sharing your passion with others, don’t be alone in this! Collaborating with other creatives or even just keeping each other updated on your respective projects is a fun way of staying connected, accountable, and growing at the same time.
When flow stops pushing you, however, carrying excitement over from one day to the next can be surprisingly difficult. I personally counter this by leaving notes for myself. Over the summer, I started writing on the mirrors (with erasable marker!) that face my bed. Every morning, I’d wake up to a to-do list, brainstormed ideas, or even just notes of encouragement, and it helped me remember where I’d left off, or at the very least, gave me a dose of motivational energy to start the day. In school, we can do the same, even if it’s digital. Platforms like Trello and Notion can serve as our own erasable markers and mirrors (and let’s face it, you’ll be on your computers for a good chunk of the day anyway).
💡 But what if it’s too late, and I’ve already lost all motivation? How do I get it back?
This is where I stress self-care. Especially in a sea of seemingly inhumanly productive Cornell students, it’s easy to compare, burn out, and feel like you’re drifting without a purpose. To get over this, I actually suggest taking a break.
It might seem counterintuitive, but specifically planning downtime in your schedule gives you needed space to breathe and reflect. Try a social media or news break; it’s not easy to focus with 2020 pulling at your emotions. And if you come to the conclusion that your priorities and goals have shifted, that’s perfectly okay. Inspiration for your next creative pursuit is just around the corner.
I remember babysitting this young kid once. He was playing with one of those toys that has holes at the top meant for different shapes to slide through. He picked up a triangular prism and slid it through the triangular hole. Easy. Then he tried the same with a cube, but it didn’t go through. This didn’t make sense to him. Maybe he wasn’t trying hard enough? Soon he was pounding the cube over and over again against the triangular hole, face red in fury and embarrassment. Why wasn’t it working?
I think of this incident whenever I feel overwhelmingly frustrated with my lack of progress. If you’ve lost motivation because you’re stuck and frustrated, it’s another reason to take a break. In this case, you might be hyper-focused and, just like the kid, you can’t see the forest for the trees. Sometimes, after a break from my projects, I can come back and see them as if for the first time. This illuminating perspective makes it easier to see past the creative block, allowing me to jump back in and try once more with new insights.
There are myriad ways to stay motivated, to cling to the love that first drove you. Feed your brain and keep it safe. Consume your craft, keep in touch, set goals, and don’t underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned nap.
Wishing the flow state on all of you. Best of luck on your creative endeavors!
Euna is a senior majoring in English and Music in Arts & Sciences. She enjoys storytelling through all different mediums, from cinema to blogs to song to fiction.
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