It’s hard to describe a crippling lack of motivation to anyone who has never felt it themselves, but in my case, it’s something like this:
You understand completely what you need to do, how to go about it and when it needs to be done by. When you actually come to look at it, everything drains out of your head except a faint numb feeling of “no”.
You procrastinate. You re-order your sock drawer. You delete people off Facebook who you haven’t spoken to for years. You play and re-play Temple Run 2 until you beat your high score. You donate money to charity and stare at blazers on ASOS. You paint your nails. You take a long bath with a glass of wine and tell yourself to relax, that you just need to de-stress. You do everything you can physically think of to avoid having to do what actually needs to be done.
You look at it again, load up the document and stare at it for hours. You convince yourself you can magically transfer the words in your head onto your computer without having to actually type anything. You check Twitter. You close Twitter. You disconnect the internet. You check Twitter on your phone. You try again.
You find your mind thinking about all the other things that need to be done, the other projects you’ve been putting off, and the plans you haven’t yet confirmed. You realise you are behind in every sphere of your life. Then you remember how all your friends are going out on Friday, and you didn’t get invited – and that’s okay, because it’s not like you could have gone anyway, you just have so much to do – but you’re bitter, and you spend a good ten minutes planning your micro-aggressions and carefully choreographed responses in case they mention it in passing. Then you realise that's stupid, and bitchy, and you have things to do.
You realise you’ve been feeling this indolent for two months. A week, people can understand. More than that, and they look at you funny. You’re not depressed; you still function properly in all other areas of life. You still laugh and go on dates and watch television. But you just can’t work properly.
The more you think about how much you have to do, the more wound up you get, and the less you actually do – and suddenly it’s one in the morning, and you’re writing a blog post because it seemed easier than trying to find seven hundred words about something you can’t bring yourself to care about. You get frustrated and irritable, and snap over the tiniest transgressions. Then you feel guilty for being angry, and add that to the guilt over not being able to work, and you end up too mired to stress to do anything but brood some more.
You tell yourself to stop being stupid, that this work is important and your future hinges on it, but you find it very hard to think about anything as big and abstract as the future being pinned to anything as mundane as an essay.
You stand up and make a cup of tea. You sit down and drink the tea. You stand up and get a biscuit. You sit down and eat the biscuit. You wander into another room in the house and sit there instead to see if you feel any different, and then feel guilty for wasting ten minutes that could have been spent working.
So you load up your computer again and tell yourself that this time, you will concentrate. For real! No distractions! You can do this, and it won’t be as bad as you think it will, you promise! And you manage to write something – a whole seven lines! You reward yourself by putting on your pyjamas! And then you return to your computer, and realise what you wrote is irrelevant, and you delete it, and you once again have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going.
And you’re so, so sick of feeling like this, because it’s getting in the way of doing things. You want your motivation back. You want your sense of purpose. You want to do anything that will make you finish this essay. Except, you know, actually write it.
You stare at it for another hour before going to bed. You go about your daily routine the next day looking awful, because you didn’t get enough sleep, and you say you were up late working, when really you were up late worrying about the fact you can’t work. You tell people you're finding it hard, and they just tell you to take a break and try again, and you promise yourself that is exactly what you'll do.
Then you get home and have a nap, and tell yourself you can do your work now you're better rested, and you realise you could really do with a cup of tea…