What’s your motivation?

Recently I was asked, “How do you find the motivation to do what you do?”

Funny, I had been asking myself the same question. I asked my therapist, even.

She poised this in a different way, “How do you find the courage to continue?”

My immediate response was, “I don’t know what else I would do. I don’t want to do anything else,” in regards to performing, writing, etc. I need to feel I have a meaning behind it, though. I had told a colleague recently I felt like I needed more purpose in my life, to feel I was having an impact. My motivation had been very low since I had been involved in a string of very solitary projects, with borderline heavy topics which were making me focus a lot internally. It was making me wonder if all my effort doing what I do even made a difference to anyone.

Recently I had been to the Van Gogh experience, and had listened to another piece on an artist whose worth was “realized” long after their death. It made me really sad and, I hate to say, hopeless. It seems very unfair that these artists, now world renowned, were not appreciated and compensated in their own lifetime. Now, others are benefiting from their work, spiritually sure but also financially. Hardly seems fair that one has to die before being recognized.

With this gloomy thought in mind, I reviewed the projects I had completed, and those I still had to attend to. It made me think a lot. These artists continued, though it seemed like no one cared. They continued because they were compelled to, and felt peace by practicing their art. I’m sure they would have loved to be financially compensated, but that wasn’t the drive.

I realized that while there are many things I could do, I need to feel something from it – whether it is in a voice over or a musician role. The drive for me is in the performance of the work, giving breath to text, and texture to (proposed) notes.   People seek collaborators when they cannot singularly achieve their vision or express the intention. This is where I come in, and try to be their solution. One director said, “You’re like an instrument I can play!” That was probably the highest compliment I’ve received; I love being a creative conduit, but just like over-playing can strain a muscle (another topic…), we also need to give ourselves rest. This allows new ideas to come through; you ever notice how some of your best ideas come while you’re in the shower or bath? You’re relaxing. When we get out of balance, and don’t allow time to rest, you’re not allowing creative recuperation, either.

And here is where I finally realized what was going on. I was overworking myself to reach financial goals, and neglecting the temple in which I was living (my body, my mind). The motivation was lacking because I kept “cranking out” work – and, as Marilyn Monroe said, “We are not machines, no matter how much they wanna say we are, we are not.” A machine doesn’t need rest, a machine doesn’t need a dirty martini with friends on a Friday night. A human, this human, does. In order to work with human emotions, you need to actually be one.

Whether that is through storytelling or musical composition or performance, each of these audio forms has expression and a core truth. Not only do I get to express myself through this material, I also get to help others express and reflect on their own situations and feelings. Something about the work called to them to either attend or listen, and likewise called me. 

As Sloane Warren has put it, “Our job is to hold a mirror to the world and let people know they are not alone.” The work I do these days is very solitary. That in itself can be exhausting. It’s much more fun to play with others, to work with others, because the energy is bouncing around and you’re feeding off each other. It’s how songs and ideas are born. I personally need that social energy to recharge myself. Again, if it’s too much, it becomes exhausting and I just want to go back to my hole for a while. And sometimes, that’s okay – but you shouldn’t stay there too long, lest you wither away.

The courage to continue this work comes from my desire to express creatively, and to instigate thought and reflection. We all have different ways of looking at situations; books and music help us see things from different perspectives, since there are different creative voices presenting these everyday issues. It is the way we all can connect, and feel human. A part of being human is needing rest and recuperation, whether it’s physical or mental. Motivation may come in waves, but I definitely have more of it when I am well rested. I encourage anyone having a motivation issue to do something out of the ordinary, do something FUN or relaxing, and don’t feel guilty about it. You NEED it in order to live fully.

“Just allow your body and mind to rest like an animal in the forest. Don’t struggle. There is no need to attain anything. I am writing a book, but I am not struggling. I am resting also. Please read in a joyful, yet restful way. … Practice in a way that does not tire you out, but gives your body, emotions, and consciousness a chance to rest. Our body and mind have the capacity to heal themselves if we allow them to rest.” – Thich Nhat HanhThe Heart of the Buddhas Teaching

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