The delightfully quirky magazine Mental Floss ran an article recently about strange ways people motivated themselves. For instance, Richard Wagner, when composing his opera Tannhauser would play parts of the composition to a friend who sat on a stool next to the piano. The friend was his dog, Peps. If Peps responded negatively, Wagner would rewrite. Friedrich Von Schiller composed his poem "Ode to Joy," making sure he had around him plenty of rotten apples. He believed the smell would inspire him.
Perhaps the most unusual motivator was utilized by Demosthenes. When he wandered from the task at hand, he would shave off half his hair. He knew he looked ridiculous, so would keep working on his task until the hair grew back.