Does Inspiration or Desperation Motivate You?

What motivates you, inspiration or desperation?

What makes you show up to the easel or the blank page every day?

For me, that question is easy to answer. I’d like to be positive and rosy and say that I write everyday to connect with my creative source and realize my inner potential. But that’s only part of it. It’s a very important part, but nonetheless – it’s not the sole motivation that keeps me going.

Anthony Robbins once said, “There are two things that motivate people to success: inspiration or desperation.”

In a way, I’m also motivated by desperation. And more specifically, fear.

I fear returning to being the Blocked Creative that was once terrified to write.

I fear turning to a bottle of JD instead of to the blank page.

I fear the act of soaking in Negativity-this and Negativity-that, instead of turning it into fuel for creative action.

I fear not being able to construct the airy ideas in my head into real objects for other people to enjoy, to be inspired by, to learn from.

I fear being a Hopeless Romantic for the rest of my life; I want to be more of a Romantic-Doer.

I may be terrified to write, but I’m more terrified of the frustration and guilt and restlessness that embody my being when I don’t write.

I remember writing my first story when I was ten years old. I walked down into the dungy, dimly lit basement of my house, the wooden stairs creaking with every step, and sitting down in front of an old, dusty computer. I wrote about an Apocalypse that was invoked by huge, fire breathing lions. I never finished it, but I remember that moment as being the first time I tried exercising my imagination.

Then I went through a period in my life where I got away from that. My creative energy would show itself at times, it would seep through in random ways here and there, but mainly it was hushed deep inside.

I fear not giving that creative energy a chance to breathe.

I think inspiration and desperation both motivate me to write.

Two Types Of Motivation Direction

There are usually two ways people are motivated.

Some NLP experts call these different styles of motivation moving away from and moving toward.

The former is when you’re motivated to do something so that you move away from something you don’t want in life, i.e. pain, discomfort, and failure. The result is that you act on your dreams to avoid some negative consequence, e.g. finishing your monthly quota of pages so that you’re publisher doesn’t drop you. You might think of people with this style as the grounded problem-solvers.

The latter is when you’re motivated to move toward something that you want in life, i.e. pleasure, joy, and success. So you do work that brings you closer to something that excites you, like a creative vision or greater purpose, e.g. you jump out of bed in the morning anxious to make music because you know it will bring you toward a feeling of joy and sense of accomplishment. You might think of people with this style as the optimistic dreamers.

What Motivates You?

Usually, you will have a dominant style. The key to staying motivated is to know which personal style of motivation you take. Then, amplify it. Surround yourself with images of negative things you want to avoid, or images of positive things you want to achieve.

If you grew up in difficult circumstances, such as poverty, it’s likely that you’re personal style will be to move away from that life. Hold the image of poverty in your mind and intensify it – this will surely inspire you to take daily action on your goals.

Did you ever hear of Rapper 50 Cent’s (Curtis Jackson’s) rise to fame? He grew up without a father, his mother was killed when he was eight years old, and at twelve he was dealing crack cocaine in the City Slums of Queens, New York. It makes sense that Fifty was probably motivated in life to never return to those glum, dangerous circumstances ever again.

One style of motivation is not necessarily better or worse than the other; people have their own reasons for why they do what they do.


I’m curious, what motivates you, inspiration or desperation? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Image by Gravity Grave


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