Delaying gratification

I am super excited. I’m about to start on an entirely new and foreign-to-me part of the country on my Andrea Reads America reading project: Idaho. What I’m most giddy about is that there is an author I’ve been hearing about for years — on book podcasts and in my book-nerd circles — and I’ve been waiting to get to Idaho so I can finally read her. The author? Marilynne Robinson.

Robinson is probably best known for Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, but Gilead is set in Iowa and I haven’t gotten to Iowa yet. Instead, I’ll be reading Housekeeping, which is set on a glacial lake in Idaho, Robinson’s home state. Like Gilead, Housekeeping glitters with awards and nominations, including nominations for both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award.

I’m dying to download Housekeeping, which is apparently set on a glacial lake and is a dark and intense read. I know nothing about Idaho, and even less about glacial lakes in Idaho, and so I’m eager to not only read a (hopefully) phenomenal book, but a (hopefully) phenomenal book set in a harsh, unknown-to-me climate.

I’m dying to download the book, but I’m refraining. I’m delaying gratification until I’ve finished my write-up for the Hawaii books I read. I’ve been sitting on these Hawaii notes for months, and it is time to compile and post them. Housekeeping — and Idaho — will be my reward for publishing, and for finally getting back on track with Andrea Reads America. I can’t wait!

A quieter Miami

barnacle private path

Property owner’s note to bamboo carvers, 1890’s

When my husband and I traveled to Miami Beach this summer, we took a trip into the city to find the Barnacle State Park, a tiny tropical oasis in Coconut Grove, where Ralph Middleton Munroe, a pioneer and one of Miami’s earliest settlers, built a house on Biscayne Bay. It’s a lovely site.

barnacle bamboo

Bamboo at Barnacle State Park, Miami Florida

barnacle snail shell

Tree snail shell on a quiet path

barnacle snail

Tree nail in Barnacle State Par, a tiny oasis in Miami, Florida

Motivation

Everything that gave her pleasure was small and depressed him.
– “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” Flannery O’Connor

When I first read that quote, it made me laugh. Then, it puzzled me. It made me question myself*, because most things that give me pleasure are small: a flaky pastry, a smooth cup of coffee, the smell of dew on a cool summer morning.

And these:

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On the rare occasion that I’ve played an online game that awards badges, I didn’t care a whit about the little digital trophies. But on my blog? I get a jolt of glee every time one pops up on my phone. They totally motivate me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about drive lately, and in fact am reading the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us on the recommendation of a friend and colleague. I would classify myself as an intrinsically driven person. I often get so wrapped up in creating, whether writing, blogging, photographing, or working onĀ  my reading project, that I have to actively pull myself out of my own head and pay attention to my family and life.

Nobody is giving me anything for my writing, blogging, or photographs. I do them because I can’t not do them. I identified immediately with this statement the author makes in the early pages of Drive:

Enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, namely how creative a person feels when working on [a] project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver.

At the same time, at work we’ve been discussing intrinsic vs. external motivation, and what it means to want external validation for a job well done. I find this discussion fascinating because of this key question: does a desire for external recognition indicate that a person is not sufficiently driven internally?

It seems paradoxical that someone who is driven from the inside would need recognition from the outside, but I am a walking example that it’s possible to enjoy both. My husband teases me about my love of praise. What can I say? I respond to positive re-enforcement.

Like “You’re on a streak!” trophies.

Internal drive and external appreciation do not have to be either/or, and they are not at odds with each other. Instead they work together to create a positive feedback loop. Even if it’s a simple digital badge. When I see that streak badge, I’m like, “Hell yeah! I’m kicking ass!” and I am inspired to keep posting.

 
*And that man in the Flannery O’Connor quote who was depressed by his mother’s small pleasures? I realized after finishing the story that he was the questionable one.

Note: on publication of this I will be on a 14 day streak. YEAHHH!