Motivation – the Train that Never Arrives

“We always have time for the things we need to do,
But never enough time for the things we ought to do.”

I have been waiting for the right motivation all my life. I have created many stories and characters in my head.  I’ve been dreaming of the day when I would finally finish my masterpiece. Then it hit me: Will I ever get it done? Where is my Motivation? 

Thinking is not doing. I know this. The above quote is from a friend and mentor who warned me about this nearly forty years ago. Still, it has taken me a very long time to truly understand what he was trying to express to me.

Why does motivation arrive for what I need to do and not for what I ought to do? It’s because writing, with the aim of publishing, is a risky business and the survival instinct in humans is all about reducing risks. Do I want to stand out from the crowd? Sure, I do. But, only in theory. Just thinking about how it will open myself up to public criticism makes me want to stay in bed all day safely hidden under the blankets.

This fear of risk-taking is the same reason why so few people do anything out of the ordinary. They fear starting their own businesses or speaking in public. It’s so much easier to simply keep our heads down and do the things people expect me to do. Mowing the lawn or washing the dishes may not be pleasant things, but they are familiar things to do, comfortable things. But when I up my pen – ink or digital – to begin something new that fear begins well up in my chest. To make it go away, I begin to look for the things I “need to do.” The fear subsides, but the desire to write continues to gnaw away in my heart and mind.

Motivation is never going to arrive. At age 61, I know that now. I must push on without it.

I wonder will it get easier? Will obscurity be my future? If so, I am afraid of nothing. Will fame cure that fear? Doubtful. Most famous people say celebrity status only made all their insecurities worse. What if the worse happens and I’m humiliated? Well, I’m old enough to have been there already – so what am I really afraid of? I think it’s a phantom fear and that’s how I must think about it to continue on.

How will I do it? I have thought about it a lot these past few months. And now when I start to recognize that terrible, debilitating fear of the risk welling up, I try to take courage and push that fear away.  I must concentrate on what I want to write. I must dare to make time for my art and do it regularly. Lastly, I remind myself: I need to do what I ought to do.

WORDS: Chronophobia (or Memento Mori)


I was watching an episode of Jonathon Creek the other night called Time Waits for Norman. The mystery revolved around a character who was described as “temporophobic.” This was defined as a person who is “terrified of the relentless passage of time.”

An internet search turned up another term “Chronophobia,” but a dictionary search on either word proved fruitless. Apparently, it’s an old term for a specific type of phobia that now is classified along with other phobias into general classes of disorders.  See the Free Medical Dictionary entry for Chronophobia.

There is a Wikipedia entry for  Chronophobia  which has some interesting links that might be worth investigating for writers.  There are a number of citations about the condition affecting the elderly and prisoners.

I recently read Memento Mori, by Muriel Spark, in which a group of elderly friends receive mysterious phone calls with the message: “Remember you must die.” How each character reacts to these calls makes an interesting tale.

Aren’t we all just a little afraid of time passing and with it our mortality? Isn’t that what the middle-age crisis is about? And what about the elderly? How often do we think that time is running out? How do we deal with it?

So, while I think that a morbid fear of the passage of time may be unusual, we are all  affected by Chronophobia. Worth pondering and writing about, don’t you think?  😉

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