When Your Fire Fails
What to Do When You Lost the Will to Work on Your Dreams
Some days you’re so full of fire.
You take inspiration for breakfast, motivation for lunch, and positivity for dinner, and you do this on a daily basis, that you can’t help but regurgitate rainbows and unicorns and pretty butterflies.
Some days you’re just so full of passion, and you’re brave and bold and brilliant all at once, and you feel as if nothing in the world can ever stop you from making your dreams come true.
We get those days.
We get fired-up days, and we work and we hustle and we strive hard for our goals like runners on steroids, or race cars on nitro boosters.
Some days we feel unstoppable.
Other days, though, we just stop.
You stop, because you want to. You just stop, because you lost it.
Maybe you lost the fire. Or maybe you lost the will. Or maybe you lost the drive. Or maybe you just ran out of gas.
For whatever reason, for whatever it’s worth, you just stop.
We get those days.
Project Beautiful Words was stalled for months
For the past few weeks, I felt like running on auto-pilot. I was so sure I was fired-up a few months ago, especially after I got accepted into the UP National Writers’ Workshop. After spending an entire week with some of the country’s biggest names in Philippine Literature, after spending hours upon hours poring over brilliant works written by brilliant writers, after countless precious moments being mentored by generous teachers, I was ready to do whatever it takes to keep writing beautiful words.
I was… what’s the word? Inspired. Motivated. Empowered.
Because how can you not be inspired and motivated and empowered when you just spent an entire week with the people who are actually living the dream you’ve always wanted to achieve? How can you not be inspired when so many people have affirmed your talent, your work, and your craft?
But somewhere down the line, I lost it. I lost that feeling. I lost that high. I lost that drive, and I lost that fire. The dream is still there, still far out of reach. I’ve got miles to go before I actually cross the finish line. I’m not yet done — far from it, actually. The dream is there, still powerful, still vivid, still alive, but somehow I stopped walking towards it. I stopped working towards it. I just… stopped.
I wasn’t exactly uninspired or demotivated. I wasn’t disempowered, not by a long shot.
But somehow, I just stopped.
I Stopped Working on My Dreams, and I Didn’t Care.
I didn’t know why, exactly. Looking back, I think I was maybe a little bit tired. I was on turbo mode the weeks following the workshop — read books, did a lot of research, studied how to write better, brainstormed for new concepts, built new worlds, worked on character profiles, practiced until the wee hours of the morning — so I guess I ran out of gas. Maybe I needed to take a breather, a break, a short time in the pit stop so I could check my engine, refill my fuel, and switch tires before I going back to the race.
We all need that. Pause. Rest. Retreat. So I took a long one. I took a break from writing, and from working on my books and stories. I took a break from working on my dream. I took a retreat from my goals. I took a pause from posting for Project: Beautiful Words.
During this period, I just spent whatever free time I had (mind you, I had lots), going through memes and videos on Facebook. Sometimes, I’d still read. I’d jot down notes on my journal. I’d still write whenever I felt like it. But I really stopped working on my book.
At the time I knew I was just going through a phase, and that I’d get out of it pretty soon. But days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. Months had passed and I had so few things to show for what was supposed to be my next book.
But we humans are wired to feel some sort of discontent in our souls when we are not moving towards the path we’re destined to take. This disturbance started out as a small whisper, so I ignored it and went on my merry way laughing at, and (privately) sharing funny pictures and videos to my friends. But the whisper started to get louder, until it became a clamor that I couldn’t ignore.
We humans are wired to reach for our goals, and stopping for too long would cause some sore of disturbance in our very souls. We can ignore this disturbance — some people sadly do — but it will always be there. Something in our spirits won’t rest until we’re back on the race track of our goals, until we’re once again working purposely towards something much bigger than our desire to marinate in memes.
So I decided to go back to the race… but I had one big problem. I still wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t feeling the drive yet. I wasn’t feeling the fire yet. I wasn’t feeling the passion still.
How do you work when the fire has been reduced into dying embers? How do you run your race when you feel like you still don’t have enough gas?
How do you actually work when you’re not feeling inspired?
I didn’t know how, really. But I felt like I just had to do something. Anything.
So I did.
One day I woke up an hour earlier, opened my notebook, took my new gel pens out, and wrote.
And just like that, I was back in the game.
There is no how. You just do something.
A few days ago I’ve read this book entitled, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. The author, Mark Manson, says that every day, we get bombarded by a thousand different reasons to not do what we’ve always wanted to do: We lose our drive, we get afraid, we get anxious.
We’d rather be comfortable staying in the status quo than actually take the risk of failing, or being rejected, or worse, mocked for our efforts. So we don’t do it.
But always, when we finally decided to confront these fears, when we suddenly get the guts and the grits to actually do something, we ask, “How?”
Oo nga, ’no? Paano ba? Paano ba magsimula ulit? Paano ba habulin ang pangarap?
How do you resign from that job that’s been killing your spirit for more than 10 years now?
How do you break up with that person whom you’ve fallen out of love with?
How do you approach the girl you’ve been crushing on since high school?
How do you take charge of your life?
How do you reach for your dreams?
How do you start a business?
How do you write a book?
(Also, how do you write a blog post when you don’t know what to write? How do you write an article when you’re feeling rather uninspired? How do you start writing another book with another great concept, but with no discernible plot? How do you post your daily motivational posts when you yourself have run out of motivation?)
Manson says there is no how.
You just do it.
So I just did it.
When I read that, the first thought that came to my mind was, “Oh. Where was this when I needed this push?”
The second was, “Oh. I guess I’m on the right track.”
Let me just throw that down again for you: There is no how. You just have to do something. Anything.
So, okay. There is no how. So does that mean that we’ll start scrapping every self-help book, article, or blog we come across with?
Gee, I hope not. I agree that there’s no particular how to doing anything… but here’s what I did to get back on the race I’ve set out to win.
1.Take the first step.
We dream big dreams. And because it’s so big, so grand, so fabulous, we spend so much time planning it out, without ever having to do anything to achieve it. Because our dreams are big, we want our steps to be big. Because our dreams are grand, we want every step to be just as grand. And because our dreams are fabulous, we can’t do normal, ordinary things.
This is what paralyzes us. This is what keeps us from actually achieving our dreams.
We forget that great things start from small, awkward, and oftentimes “wrong” beginnings.
Extraordinary dreams are fulfilled when ordinary steps are taken.
So what’s the first step you need to do to write that book? Write the first word.
What’s the first thing you need to do to start a business? Find mentors. Identify your product or service, maybe.
What’s the first thing you do to get that girl? Ask her out.
What’s the first step you need to do when you want to quit your job? Talk to your boss and/or write that resignation letter.
Whatever first step you need to take, take it. It doesn’t always have to be right. It doesn’t always have to be successful. It just has to be done.
2.Take the next step.
So this might sound as if I’m kind of messing with you, but I’m really not. Take this from someone who’s awesome at starting something and then dropping it off like a hot coal. I’m super great at beginnings, but super crap at endings.
And no, I’m not going to give you that jazz about hating endings and good-byes. For crying out loud, I have no excuse. I’m just really lazy. But it’s because I know that I’m crap at continuing things that I had to force myself to take the next step.
What’s the next step when you’ve written that first word? Write the next. Or maybe get a mentor.
What’s the next step to starting a business? Depends. Maybe you need to register it. Or put up a website.
What do you after the first date and you realized you really, really, really like her? Ask her out again.
What do you do now that you quit your job? Find another, maybe?
I don’t know. We all have different step ones and step twos and step forty-fives. But whatever yours are, make sure you follow through on that great big launch.
3.Take another step. Then another. Then another. Keep at it.
There is no secret, really. You just keep doing what you do. You just soldier on. You just keep at it.
One step after another. One foot after the other. One more milestone after the next.
We will fail. That’s okay. We learn.
We will be disappointed. That’s okay. We’ll deal.
We will be rejected. That’s okay. We’ll try again.
We will lose heart. That’s okay. We’ll find it again.
We will lose our fire again. That’s okay. We can always start another.
Inspiration, I believe, is an emotion. And emotions come and go. If there’s anything at all I’ve learned about this cycle of beginning-doing-stopping-rinse-repeat, it’s that we can’t let our emotions dictate our actions. Otherwise we’re never ever going to get anything done.
Instead, we let our actions define our emotions.
We don’t wait for the feeling. We don’t wait for the fire. We don’t wait for the fuel.
We just do it. We just go. We just run.
And then maybe with enough action, we get to feel inspired again.
Maybe with enough friction, we will be able to rekindle the fire.
Maybe as we cover more miles, we will find a place where we can refuel.
Go back to the source of the Fire.
In one of the episodes of Tea Time Thursdays, we had up-and-coming author Kirby S. Llaban as our guest. He wrote the book entitled, The Fired Up Life: Passion Principles to Motivate You for Work and Life. It’s a good book. Powerful. It can’t not move you.
But to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to that interview. Seriously! I didn’t want to sit down for an hour with Mr. Fired Up himself, because at the time I just wanted to marinate in my demotivated state. (An aside: Let’s be honest. When we’re feeling meh about life, it’s kind of annoying to stay in the presence of a highly-motivated person. Don’t worry, I told Kirby’s wife about it and we had a good laugh over it.)
I knew in my heart that the small whisper of disturbance I was feeling in my spirit would escalate into a full-scale marching band complete with trombones and cymbals. I knew that I would have to kiss my meme days good-bye. Because with Kirby, it’s an inevitability.
You cannot stay in his presence and not get fired up.
And lo and behold. He came. He spoke. He won.
The faint whisper in my heart became an all-out rally, and suddenly I wanted to go work for my dreams again. I wanted to write beautiful words again. Not just for me, but for the people who needed to read it.
But at the time, I didn’t know how to begin. So after another successful live episode, I went and talked to Kirby off-cam.
“Kuya, how do you get the fire back again?” I asked.
Without hesitation, he said, “You go back to God.”
I blinked at him once. And then twice. But it’s not like I left God or broke ties with Him! I wanted to whine in denial. But I couldn’t say anything, because in my heart, I knew the truth.
I was having a dry spell in my spiritual life.
My prayers were dry. My spiritual life was dry. My relationship with God was dry.
He went straight at the core of my problem and shot at it without remorse.
It was a hard pill to swallow.
Kirby went on, “When you lose your fire, it’s because you’re away from the Source of the Fire. And we only have one true source: God. So in order to get it back, you go back to God. You must repair your relationship with Him.”
He didn’t have to elaborate more after that. I understood, then and there, that maybe one of the (hidden) reasons why I stopped writing was because I stopped spending time with God, and I stopped spending time with myself.
I was so tired, so exhausted, so burnt out — at work, at my dreams, at life — that I took to mindless, temporary, fleeting pleasures: memes, videos, online quizzes, fan fiction, binge-watching, and other things.
That night, when it was time to sleep, I turned off the lights, sat on my bed, and stayed still.
I still didn’t know what to pray. I still didn’t have the words. I still didn’t know what to say. But I told God, “Here I am, Lord. I’m back. I’m home.”
I didn’t have any mind-blowing spiritual experience, but I think I did hear a faint voice in my heart that said, “Welcome home, anak.”
(Maybe I’m imagining things. But my faith stands. It was God.)
The next day, I didn’t miraculously rekindle the same fire and passion I had when I began. I didn’t miraculously become inspired. In fact, I didn’t know what to write at all.
But I did write.
And until now, I’m writing.
Friend, I’m praying for you. May you find the will to begin again. May you find your fire again. And may you find the strength to continue working on your dreams, not for your sake, but for the glory of the One who began it all.
Write beautiful words,
P.S. I’m going to start sending the Project: Beautiful Words newsletter within two weeks. It’ll be a monthly or bi-weekly newsletter where I’ll be giving you tips on creative writing, content marketing, digital marketing, book reviews and recommendations, and similar topics. I’ll also be featuring some works submitted to me by peers. If you wish to receive this exclusive newsletter, please subscribe to my list. Enter your details at the orange box at the footer of the page. Write beautiful words!