on writing when you have -578 motivation

Motivation is one of those things that is completely elusive to me. I barely recognise and make use of it when I do have it; and most of the time, I have to find ways to compensate for its lack. Writing is hard enough on a good day when the magical elixir of motivation flows in plenty. But on those days when it is below zero, there is no coffee strong enough to tempt me to write a single letter, let alone a word. I could stare at the blank screen until the cows come home, and nothing would get done. It also goes without saying that through this all, one part of my brain is screaming at the other part about what a useless waste of space I am. 


Now, I am no subject matter expert, but I am an expert on my own procrastination. I understand that introspection has to be done on why I procrastinate the way I do and what is at the root of it and all that. However, in the meantime, the show must go on. And the latest in a long line of hacks and tricks that I have implemented in my life to be more consistent in my work is: speech to text. 

Speech to text is an amazing tool for people with accessibility needs. It is also useful for writers struggling with a blank page and less than zero motivation to fill it up. 

Let me set the scene.

It’s a dreary day. Which, for me, means the sun is out and blazing through the windows in my flat. My to-do list clearly states that all I need to get done today in terms of writing is a mere 1000 words. Just 1000. I already know what’s happening in the next scene. So, it’s not like I’m stuck with writer’s block. I reread the last line I wrote seven times before the word ‘food’ starts to lose meaning. Food. Food. Food? It’s called semantic satiation, apparently. And of course, that’s another twenty minutes down that Wikipedia rabbit hole. I look up in a daze to see the clock staring at me steadfastly: 11:33. I swear silently and take a deep breath. Okay, no point in self-flagellation. Just get back to the work at hand. To no one’s surprise, I spend the next thirty minutes taking quizzes to find out what kind of procrastinator I am. A dreamer and an avoider, apparently. That sounds about right. By 12, I give up and lie down on the bed. Guilt and shame hit me with renewed force, and I reluctantly open the document again. I rack my brain, attempting to remember how I used to write. It’s not always this hard, is it? How does that part of my brain work? How do I usually get the job done? Nothing. My fingers are heavy, and it feels physically impossible to lift them up and press the keys to make the words appear. There is that brief moment that all writers experience every once in a while. I wish there was a tool that would extract the story that I’ve imagined in my brain and magically put it into words. And it hits me then. I could do that. Well, not exactly that. But at least a variation of it. I activate the speech to text feature and re-stare at the last line I’ve written.

It’s only 9:30, and apart from the odd food stall, the mall is still sleeping.

The microphone icon blinks away, and I slowly begin. It’s just five minutes of near incoherent rambling. I go on and on with several ums and uhs, backtracking often, and ignoring formatting completely. But I get to the end of the scene. The word count at the bottom of the page is now higher by 700, and that is enough. Of course, speech to text is horrendously inaccurate and about 50% of the text makes no sense. But that’s okay. 

This mere five minutes has given me a sort of base, raw material I can work with and edit to some semblance of meaning. Seeing those half-baked words on the page, my fingers feel lighter, and I am able to start from the beginning, just rewriting the whole thing into a more acceptable mess of words. The rewriting takes about fifteen minutes in all. And so, with twenty minutes of work, I’ve managed to write 500 words. Which is impressive, in my opinion. Because on a ‘good’ day, when I just start typing and don’t look back, I usually write about 1000-1500 words in an hour. 

And I was literally able to achieve that same level of efficiency/productivity on a day of -578 motivation by reimagining what ‘writing’ can look like.

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