What to do when you don’t have any motivation to write or compose (Tool #54)

When I examine the current election cycle, I find it easy to fall into a pit of pessimism.  I see a lot of suffering, and not much willingness to listen.  I feel disillusioned by the current state of affairs in which we live, and I become depressed.

What do I do, in these times when I have no motivation to scrape myself out of bed and compose?

I practice Opposite to Emotion Action.

This practice comes from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a type of therapy that is very effective in treating certain types of psychological ailments, but which has many applications in general daily life.  This page goes into detail, but I will explain in this post how I use it when I have no motivation to compose.

Opposite to Emotion Action acknowledges that, yes, you do not have any motivation to write or compose.  It also acknowledges that writing and composing will provide benefit to your quality of life.  It thirdly recognizes that you cannot suppress these feelings of not wanting to do anything, but there is a way to get to a better place.  So, instead of giving into your emotions, and instead of suppressing them, acknowledge that you do not have motivation to write, and practice an action that is the opposite of what your emotion would normally have you do.

So, if you do not feel like writing, and that feeling would leave you lying on your bed staring at the ceiling, get up and take a walk.  Go play with a cat or dog.  Go check your mailbox.  Go for a drive.  Exercise.  Just go through the motions of doing anything that your emotion would not want you to do.

In doing this, you will be getting started towards better motivation and impulse to write.  Your first opposite to emotion action could certainly be to just get up and write, going through the motions until it “clicks”, but bear in mind that you should not suppress your feelings nor bury them in your work.  If your first opposite to emotion action is not writing, that is great too!  You will gain the motivation to write as your mood improves via your opposite to emotion actions.

If your emotion tells you to obsess, do something that takes your mind off the obsession.  If your emotion tells you that you cannot start back up from where you last left off, try taking small “bites” and don’t turn the “starting up” into a mountain to climb–trust, me: you’ve walked up larger hills than this before.  Above all, be mindful of what your needs are, what your body and mind are telling you, and how you can acknowledge your emotions without letting them control you.  That is the essence of this process; you are not ignoring your emotions, but replacing their “energy” with something positive and helpful to your well being.  It is healthy to write, within moderation, and every bit of constructive action you can take towards your goal of writing will make you feel better as a person.

This may seem flowery and naive, but trust me: this is a difficult and distressing era for all of us, and in general, we all struggle with having no motivation.  Acknowledge that you have no motivation, and take a physical, literal step out of bed.  Do the opposite of what your ennui would have you do, and make your way back to the desk/piano/studio/computer.  You will pull through.


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