Monday, December 17, 2012

Motivation: Don't blame, just fix

I remember an incident when I was a kid, where there was a mess in the family room. Mom walked in and told my brother and me to clean it up. "It's not my fault!" we both cried.

"I don't care whose fault it is. Just clean it up."

Wisdom in a nutshell.

"It's not my fault that I can't write today; my husband forgot his lunch, so I had to take it to him." "My boss won't let me go home early." "The computer is too slow; it drives me crazy and stops me from writing." "My Facebook friends keep messaging me, which distracts me from writing." All of these statements are ways of assigning blame.

But that's a problem, because blame does nothing. Blame is the excuse not to do something. Nothing I do will ever be complete if I focus on figuring out whose fault it is that I've got an obstacle in my path.

Instead, if I want to be productive, I focus on fixing. Is there a problem? What is the problem? Then how can I fix it?

"My husband forgot his lunch and can't eat out, so I'll take him lunch, but he's in charge of dinner so I can make up my writing time." "My boss won't let me go home early, so I'll make time this weekend." "My computer is slow, so I'll run an anti-spyware program." "Facebook is distracting me, so I'll post a status message saying that I'm off to do some writing, and disconnect the Internet."

A huge motivator for me is to never state a problem out loud unless I tack on a solution. It doesn't matter whose fault the problem is--in fact, I try to actively avoid assigning "fault," because it distracts me from my purpose: Fixing the problem. 

(I try to do this in editing, too: if I have a problem with a passage, I state what the problem is and offer a possible solution.)

Because when we focus on fixing, we get things done. It's a completion-oriented thought process, and like most psychological things, how we view the world affects how we interact with it. So when I make a habit of focusing on solutions, I put myself in a can-do state of mind, which means I'm more likely to get things done despite challenges.

So instead of getting mad at someone else for stopping you from writing, try focusing on the problem: You're not writing enough, and you don't have time to do more writing. Then formulate a solution: Ask someone else to watch the kids for an hour three days a week; use a cloud-based writing platform that allows you to write on your work break; rope your Facebook friends into helping you write more by starting a 1k1hr session.

Sometimes it's tempting, when faced with a solution that I cannot fix, to just assign blame and move on. It's an easy way of handling it, because I don't have to stress. But the thing is, it still doesn't accomplish anything, and the problem still exists. 

For example, no agents have requested MANUSCRIPT X.That's a problem. An easy blame would be "traditional publishing is terrible and agents are all evil," or "I'm a bad writer with no talent and I should just give up." Not my fault, nothing I can do. But it doesn't fix anything.

A better way to address this is to address the things I can control. I cannot make an agent like my story. But I can: A) improve my query through thorough editing, B) find other agents to whom my story would appeal more, C) take a query-writing class to get professional advice, D) analyze the market to figure out if my manuscript is a niche product, and if so, make connections in the niche community and then self-publish, E) put the manuscript aside for a few years and focus on writing/selling a second until the first is back in vogue, F) decide I have the resources available to go it on my own, hire an editor and a cover artist, learn how to effectively promote my book, learn the best practices of self-publishing, and then self-publish, or G) realize trying to publish isn't going to make me happy, and take up a hobby instead.

All of those are solutions I can implement. They all solve the problem, and yes, they all require effort from me (except possibly giving up). They all motivate me, because I can accomplish them, because they are things that I can actually do. Whose fault is it that MANUSCRIPT X hasn't been requested: mine, the agents, the editors, the book-buyers, maybe E.L. James for stealing all the customers' book money? I don't care.

What I care about is what I can do.

To me, blame is useless. It doesn't matter whose fault a problem is. The only things that matter are the problem, and the solution. And it's putting myself in that mentality that helps me become more productive. 

Does solution-oriented thinking motivate you? Has blame (or being blamed!) ever stopped you  from accomplishing something you wanted to do?

No comments:

Post a Comment