What motivates you to pick up a pen or put fingers to keyboard and write? Is it the hope of riches and fame? Is it the need to communicate your thoughts and opinions to others? Or is it because those ideas buzzing around in your head won’t go away until they’ve been captured on paper? Or may be just because you enjoy it?
I expect most of us write for a combination of these reasons. Riches and fame might be at the back of our minds but we know that penning a bestseller is as likely as winning the lottery, so money alone is rarely the primary reason for becoming a writer – but the odd cheque for a story, article or reader’s letter certainly helps the enthusiasm levels!
As well as the ‘grand motivation’ for writing, we all make smaller motivational decisions over each piece that we decide to write. For instance when you decide to enter a particular competition – is it because the prize is good? Or is it because it’s smaller competition and prize, so therefore there’s a greater chance of winning? Similarly, do you only write when you have known publication or market to target? Or if an idea pops into your head do you get working on it and worry where to send it later?
Long ago I learned that it’s virtually impossible to make any sort of living from the written word so I suppose I must write because I enjoy it – although most of the time it just feels like hard work! I like the satisfaction of completing and submitting a piece, along with that surge of hope that this could be ‘the one’ that successfully hits its target.
As far as the smaller motivations, I only write if I can see where I can submit the piece. But my chosen market doesn’t have to pay a fortune (I might choose differently if I didn’t have a ‘proper’ job and therefore relied on writing for an income) – I prefer to have a greater chance of small prize/payment than a smaller chance of a bigger pot of money.
Sometimes it’s not the ‘carrot’ that’s important – it’s the need to show those that have made fun of our writing ambitions that they are wrong and that we can write well enough to be published. John Malone discusses this ‘negative’ motivation on his blog here.
So, why are you writing?
#1 by blogaboutwriting on March 8, 2012 - 11:32 am
Sally, I do sometimes wonder why I do it?! But the buzz when something gets accepted – then I see it in print and then a cheque arrives – makes it all worthwhile!
I do think it’s possible to make a living from writing – not a fortune, but a living – but most writers have to subsidise their writing with other work. I teach 3 creative writing classes, which may not sound much (it’s only 6 hours a week, after all!) but it seems to consume my time! 40 students, all with individual needs, homework and ‘individual learning plans’ to mark every week and preparation for the classes, means I’m all too often thinking about other people’s writing rather than my own. If you’re going to subsidise your writing by teaching, you really need to get the balance right. Otherwise, you’re a teacher and not a writer!
#2 by Sally Jenkins on March 8, 2012 - 1:06 pm
Helen – you’re right, seeing one story in print can keep me motivated for ages! And I take your point about the teaching – it’s a bit like an iceberg with a lot of it happening behind the scenes!
John – thanks for stopping by. Will have a look at ‘My Year of Living Dangerously’ when I get a chance (am typing this in my lunch hour at work!)
#3 by johnlmalone on March 8, 2012 - 12:11 pm
good blog, Sally. re motivation seeing you;’re thye one for seeking out blogs if you go just a little bit back from this blog — or is forward? — you;ll find one called ‘My Year Of Living Dangerously’ which will answer many questions. Let me know if you can’t find it
#4 by Terry Whitworth on March 8, 2012 - 1:52 pm
I agree with your comments re ‘smaller motivations’ but what really makes me annoyed, is when certain magazines think the work of a writer is good enough to publish but not to pay for. If an article, short story or whatever is of a high enough standard to be published and enjoyed by the readers of the magazine, then the work is certainly worthy of payment.
As writers we work for our art; often when writing an article I will have put hours into the research prior to my fingers striking the keyboard and in my view this constitutes work. And as such the finished item, if good enough to publish, should be paid for.
#5 by liz young on March 8, 2012 - 4:50 pm
Sally – I wrote about how I got started – see my blog – but what keeps me going? Sheer need! If I haven’t written for a week or two, as when travelling with OH, I get twitchy and cross.
And then there are al the ideas that I must get at least into note form before I can sleep!
Money? Hardly likely with all those rejections. Recognition? It would be noce at least to put a copy of my books in my children’s hands before I drop off my twig!
#6 by susanjanejones on March 8, 2012 - 5:57 pm
I write because I enjoy it, and always love it when something gets accepted somewhere, even if payment is a copy of the magazine it’s in. I would be quite stressed if I thought I had to earn a living from writing, it would be good if I could though.
#7 by Sally Jenkins on March 8, 2012 - 8:48 pm
Terry – In my opinion, if the publication is run for profit then definitely writers should always be paid, if it’s a charity then things are slightly different. I agree that we are often undervalued and it’s annoying when publications think we will be happy just for the ‘prestige’ of appearing in their pages – even though they are making money out of the publication.
Liz – You sound like a true writing addict! Isn’t it annoying when idea pops into your head just as you’re falling asleep & you have to risk the wrath of the OH by turning the light on to write it down!
Susan – I agree that if you know selling a story is vital to pay the mortgage then the enjoyment might go and writing will become a chore.
#8 by shirleyelmokadem on March 10, 2012 - 8:35 pm
Poems often scream at me to be written and I have no choice but to write them down!
#9 by Sally Jenkins on March 11, 2012 - 4:52 pm
That’s a good place to be, Shirley!
#10 by robinnis on April 1, 2012 - 7:06 pm
I write to share information to either inform or entertain people. I don’t make a living at it so it is just as well I don’t have too. But, naturally, I don’t object to the odd small remuneration coming my way.
#11 by Sally Jenkins on April 1, 2012 - 7:13 pm
Hi Rob – I don’t think any of us object to the odd small remuneration!