One Writer’s Motivation

One Writer’s Motivation

This article first appeared in the FWA (Florida Writers Association) member blog, March 2010.

As a freelance writer/children’s author who often speaks to groups, and has done a lot of signings over the past twelve years of publication, a question I’m often asked is:  how do you stay motivated to keep writing daily?

A good question, in good times.  After all:  no boss looking over the shoulder, no fixed deadlines for project completion (other than those imposed by myself), no guarantee of a paycheck for a book manuscript when it is completed.  But in today’s shaky book marketplace, with a poor economy causing cuts in lists and cancelled contracts, and the publishing industry reeling in uncertainty as to what technological formats tomorrow’s books may take—it is a GREAT question.

It’s a question that each one of us should ask ourselves:  why do we feel compelled to put ideas and images into words each day?  It’s important to dig deep inside to find your motivation, because within your own answer, you’ll also discover the key to bringing out the very best in your writing.

An appropriate example might be my personal motivation for writing.  After years of thought, I can say that I write in the hope that what passes from my heart to the page may someday, somehow make a difference in someone else’s life. This idea of potential connection with a reader, of touching a life word by word, keeps my fingertips to the keyboard in good times and bad.  The change engendered need not be huge for me to believe my mission has been accomplished:  a smile, a slight shift in viewpoint, a misty eye.  The best outcome would be that this reader/writer connection actually helped someone  re-connect to his or her own heart…if only for a moment.

Hope and heart sum up my approach to any story that calls to me for the telling.  My guiding principle is to find what it is about the characters, setting, or plot resonating with my own life experience or beliefs…and to use that energy to make the story come alive for the reader.  When I use the word, “heart”, I am speaking about the emotional anchor that I have to feel first before I might possible write a story that will resonate with a reader.  Then, there’s the ‘hope’ phase, hoping for some type of connection.

When people ask me if being a writer is something they should ‘go for’, my immediate answer is always a somewhat odd question:  is there anything else that would make you as happy doing as writing?  If so, you might be better off doing that.  I say this only because the hurdles between the ideas in your mind and publication on the page are many, the monetary compensation small for the long hours spent working alone with your plots, characters and dreams.  The chances for best seller success are there for everyone, but of course not everyone who is graced with publication will climb that ladder.

Defining what makes you write is a useful tool.  The bottom line is that writers who can continue to write(no matter what!) must view it as their healthy obsession, the one thing on this earth that brings the deep joy only found in doing the thing you were meant to do with your life. It’s that determination that grants your words power and grace. This isn’t quite the thrill of being on the NYT best seller list, but the creative motivation this self-knowledge gives will last a lot longer.

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