I believed for a long time, in my naivety as a writer, that I needed motivation and inspiration to write. I believed that without it I wouldn’t be able to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I wondered how so many famous writers or people who’ve achieved success could say that the way to your dream is to simply start. I respected and admired quotes by wonderful people like Nelson Mandela, who said that “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” I could always understand all these words, but I could never apply them. I always just relied on motivation, a temporary advantage that arrived in amazing surges, but after an unpredictable amount of time left me feeling like I’d lost something powerful. And once those feelings are gone, they may take a long time to come back. I never realised how wrong I was to take that approach, which translated to little more than slowing progress to a frustrating level, and ensuring that my dream was left behind. I didn’t realise it until after I finished my first book. I didn’t realise it until someone told me they enjoyed reading it.
The true lesson that I’ve realised from completing and publishing my first book is that I don’t want motivation anymore. I don’t want to work off inspiration. Both are too unreliable, and when they leave they take too much away from you. I’m currently on a small hiatus from writing while I focus on my studies and my EGMR endeavors (the gaming website that I write for daily), but I plan to jump right back on it come June holidays and go full speed ahead with my second book, The Black Glass Killer. I know that the only way I’ll be able to do that is if I don’t expect motivation and inspiration to help me do it. Look, they’re amazing when they are there and you can feel fantastic and do wonderful things when it’s there, and of course I love the feeling and make full use of it. But I don’t want it to be the force behind my “mojo” so to speak. You might be thinking then, that if I don’t want motivation then what exactly do I want?
Simple. I want commitment.
Motivation is temporary. Inspiration comes and goes. Both leave you struggling when they go. But commitment? It’s a choice. It’s an active determination that empowers you to put your head down, collect your thoughts, concentrate and write, paint, compose or construct. Many of the late nights I spent writing my first book were not spent filled with huge waves of motivation. They were spent in concentration, applying myself and focusing on the task at hand. They were spent communicating to myself that my dream was in front of me, and no one was going to achieve it for me. There wasn’t going to be a “some day” when I got around to it. I’m twenty. I believe I can. So why can’t I apply myself and do it?
There’s another massive reason I believe in commitment to a cause. See, due to inspiration and motivation’s fickle nature, despite how powerful they can be as positive tools, at the same time they can also be destructive when faced with failure. They can sizzle out and become wounded, hiding away like a scared child. But if you’re committed to a belief and a goal, failure itself can breed new motivation to succeed.
I will mention that I’m a Liverpool supporter to make the next point. I love my club and my team. Yes, even though we didn’t win the Premier League title this season, I can’t be more proud of the team or have expected more. There is no shame in losing to a brilliant team and manager like Manchester City and Manuel Pelligrini, especially given what we had. But despite that failure, there is one thing that still sits deeply in my mind and my heart. It’s club captain Steven Gerrard’s team huddle after the victory over Manchester City at Anfield, where he spoke the now-famous words among supporters, “We go again.” I resonated powerfully with this message, which is still being used even after losing out on the title, as a reference to next season’s challenge. It seems so simple, yet the inspiration to be found in those words is remarkable. To me, it speaks to keeping your eye on the prize, and no matter what happens you get up and fight again.
That for me is the essence of commitment. It is belief as much as it is turning that belief into action. When famous people tell you that the best advice they can give you on how to succeed is to “start”, they are being as sincere as they could possibly be. I’m not some messiah myself. I have failed a number of times in my life. Whether through personal relations or my studies, I have failed. I have no shame towards that. But I’ve also succeeded in a number of ways, and I believe the only way you can achieve is through commitment to a goal and the belief that you can succeed, even if that success doesn’t entail worldly recognition, fame or wealth but simply personal growth and development.
Pat Riley once said, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either IN or you’re OUT. There is no such thing as life in-between.”
I believe that’s the sum total of it. If you’re struggling to lift a pen or a paintbrush or to play a note, whichever art form you aspire to achieve in, resort to your mind. Formulate a goal, even in stages if you have to, commit to it, make the time even if it’s only an hour, and just start. This is what consistently enabled me to write the pages of my book. So what if it wasn’t literary genius unfolding, the equivalent of the next Mona Lisa, Beethoven or Tolkien? It was my art. It was my goal. And it was through my commitment. There’s hopefully many years ahead to improve. But a starting point should come sooner than later. The development of commitment, self sustaining motivation, is important now.
I’ve stressed numerous times in this blog that I’m only twenty. I haven’t lived long enough to know enough – not that you ever can know enough. But it’s true that I am still young with plenty to experience. However, I feel that I am fortunate to have achieved one dream I set out for myself when I was eleven years old, and that was publishing a book. Even if it’s not a great book, it was a dream and it was achieved, and the only thing to do from there is to keep on going and trying to do better. I feel that, while this doesn’t paint me as any authority on the subject matter, it at least puts me in a position to offer advice to others who may be experiencing the same things that I did. In fact I’d like to believe that any young person could benefit from the words I write here, in any way, and for me that would be a heartwarming pleasure.
Commitment is hard. It’s not supposed to be easy. And you will slack and have bad days or even bad months. The key is to refocus, often with the help of someone you care about or by turning back to the basics and what resonates with you, and then simply go again. That will be my philosophy going forward.