Action precedes motivation

Ramadaan was an amazing month for me, both spiritually and creatively. In terms of writing, I counted ten poems and one reflection, which feels like it may be a record, but I won’t go back to check because stats don’t matter. What does matter, though, is that it confirms my feeling that I was just in a state of creative flow so consistently – which is something that I haven’t really felt in probably 15 years.

One possible cause of this river is my participation in a daily Ramadaan journaling programme, which I partook in mostly during a nightly period of solitude where I had about 30 minutes to myself (away from home). Those are precious periods that I only get each Ramadaan, at night after the Taraweeh prayers.

And near the end of the month, an idea came to me to compile many of the new pieces with some of my older ones into a dedicated Ramadaan poetry book. At the time, I felt so inspired: the concept was strong, the possible pieces sprang to mind easily, and there was an ongoing flow of ideas on how to put it together, who else would be involved, and even some marketing initiatives (which is usually the scariest part of any writing project for me).

But once the month ended, and I tried to resume work on it, I found myself falling flat. The momentum was gone. The passion had dissapeared. I felt tired – both physically and mentally. And this is understandable, because the month itself was particularly intense for me.

I wouldn’t say I was burnt out, but I recognised that I definitely needed a break. A break from constantly pushing myself on numerous fronts, because – while I didn’t particularly feel overly tired at the time – all of it eventually took its toll. And after the month, I found myself being physically tired even though I was getting more sleep. My body was speaking to me, and my mind and heart needed to listen.

And so, I’m on a sort of hiatus from the project. That project, as well as attempts to formally launch my freelance business. And the other book: my second collection, which has now TWICE been interrupted by other ideas (the first being Corona Times, and now this one…which may reveal something about the destiny of that second book…but I won’t try to analyse that just now).

And I know I need to work on these things. I need to because I intended to make this a year of progress. My study plans fell flat (I’ll maybe write about that another time), but I saw that as an opportunity to push forward on these other projects which are more in line with my heart’s desire for growth (rather than professional or academic advancement, which the studies would have fed into).

But as I slowly ponder when to actually resume work on all this, I find it’s still too early. I find the motivation still isn’t there.

But I was reminded of the crucial lesson:

Action precedes motivation.

For creative ventures, I’ve almost always relied on inspiration. Most of my poetry comes that way, and it’s a modus operandi which has served me well over the 15 or so years of this parallel writing career (which shadows my actual job).

But now, with these important projects already defined and screaming out for me to not let them die, I cannot leave it to whim. I cannot wait until it “feels right”, because life happens, and other things will almost certainly bury these dreams into a distant memory of the past.

The concept of action before inspiration also ties in with the Arabic saying:

Fi kulli haraka baraka.

Which can be translated as “moving is a blessing”, or “there is blessing in action”.

And so, I need to sit down and structure my time so that I give myself consistent pockets where I can make progress on these goals. And even if they don’t appear to be baring any fruit, I have to remember that it’s a long game.

The journey – even with what seems like slow progress – is what matters here. We plant seeds in the ground, and we consistently water them and give them what they need. But we don’t constantly dig up the ground to see how fast they’re growing. We just keep doing the work, knowing that eventually, we’ll see the results of our efforts.

So, my mantra for the moment is precisely this: action precedes motivation.

And I put it up here – on this blog – as a reminder to myself for when I will face challenges on this road.

Hopefully, it’ll serve as a reminder for you as a reader, too…particularly if you’re someone who over-relies on intuition and inspiration.

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4 thoughts on “Action precedes motivation

  1. Excellent advice, Yacoob. One thing you read a lot in writing advice columns is to simply force yourself to sit down and do it for a set period of time every day, whether you feel motivated or not. Kudos to you for recognizing the importance of this even though you might be burned out from the heavy work you’ve put in recently. It’s something I personally have been lousy at, but it’s still inspiring to see someone else adhere to it.

  2. Gentle peace as you rest, gather your focus, and return to a soft place of inspiration. I hope the action that grows from your “inner garden” will be both playful and deeply satisfying, Yacoob.

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