Turbo Monkey Tales is a group blog focusing on the craft, production, marketing and consumption of Children's Literature. We are illustrators, writers, animators and media mongrels. We are readers! We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path. Join our Tribe and grab a vine. The more the merrier!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Motivating Ourselves - Just Try!

by Marilyn Hilton

"The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life." -Robert Browning

In a writers' workshop a few years ago, the leader asked us to stand up and twist around as far as we could, and then note how far we had turned. Then we did it again, but this time before we twisted we chose a spot farther than we'd reached the first time. You know what? The second time, everyone reached their farther point. The difference was that for the second time, we set a goal and were motivated to reach it.

Chances are, many of us have set goals for 2013. Now here we are, nearing the end of January, and we may be having trouble reaching those goals--or we're wondering how to go about reaching them. 

A few years ago I read a story about Beverly Cleary that inspired me to try new things. When Beverly Cleary was a young girl, she entered an essay contest because her mother had always encouraged her to try new things. She won the contest, and learned from that experience always to try, regardless of the certainty of the outcome.

After reading that, I adopted the "Just Try" method for doing many things that seemed impossible to accomplish. And it worked! I found that just trying frees me from the paralysis of fear and self-doubt; it allows me to explore, to play with ideas and directions, and to go beyond what makes me feel comfortable. "Just Try" includes the possibility--and acceptance--of failure and looking foolish, thereby dissolving their power over me. I've danced more, sketched more, sung more, traveled more, written more, explored more, experienced more--accomplished more--than I would have by wishing or dreaming about it.

Here are 4 simple steps for trying anything:

1. Write down what you want to try.
2. Imagine yourself doing it. What does that look like? How will you feel?
3. Imagine yourself accomplishing it. What does that look like? What rewards come with it? How will you feel?
4. Try doing it. You don't have to do it perfectly or be the best at it, or even finish it--you just have to try doing it.

You'll find that whether or not #3 comes true, you will have done #2--which has its own rewards and is a lot further than #1.

I asked our turbo monkeys for their motivation tips, and here's what they told me:

If I get a really devastating rejection or something equally demoralizing, I stew on it for a while then send out a bunch of new subs.

I sometimes just tell folks that I've had a bad day and need encouragement. Other times, I'll go back and read something good that I've written to remind myself that I CAN write. But I think the biggest solution is, like Amy, to do something. Most of the time, that means I keep writing.

- Make a schedule for each (working!!) day and meet those goals ... ticking off is my best motivation
- Have a treat at the end, or to work towards. For me it's usually the next writing retreat/conference.
- Always have chocolate on hand.
- Read other folks' blogs and a good book - both morale boosters.

Hazel's tips for illustrators:
- Visit an art gallery or museum to feed the soul.
- Create a fun project that is totally personal to you, that you don't care if anyone ever sees, and forget about impressing people.
- Try a new medium, or sign up for an art or craft class that you have never tried before.
- Check out bios of your fav major illustrators and be inspired by the journey we are all on.

I set a small goal I know I can reach and once I reach it I set a bigger goal and build from there. 

When I'm down I think. I mostly go back inside my book and think about new scenes that might make the story better. I also like to wander the bookstore and read new releases. Sometime I put my nose into the pages because new books smell delicious, and I dream about smelling the pages of my own published work!

Normally I'm a pretty buoyant soul, which might have come from my bike racing days of climbing up an impossible mountain, only to find....another mountain. When I get hammered down, I dream about extreme success...not just monetarily. I dream of romance and love, a fun car, a horse named Rowie, admiration from my mentors, firmer abs and possibly the ability to sing and play the guitar like Brad Paisley. I believe you gravitate towards your dreams, and the endorphins that are released when you dream a great thing is addicting, and your entire body will naturally gravitate to capture that feeling again. And often without knowing it, you will find a way to overcome the thing that brought you down, or hurt your feelings, or made you sad. So I dream of happiness...I don't sing that Julie Andrews song but it's sort of the same thing--"I simply remember my favorite things."

Now it's your turn: What do you do to motivate or inspire yourself?


  1. Great Blog post Marilyn,

    One of these days i will speak French and play the guitar like Brad Paisley.


  2. Just on my walk today, I told my husband I needed to make a list and voila! There's the suggestion on your post! Well done, Marilyn!

    1. I read your mind, Ellen! Now, go try the things on your list :)

  3. I need to do all these things! ALL THE THINGS! Motivation is tough sometimes...