As a writer, one thing of late that I have considered is my motivation to continue writing.  Not my motivation for publishing, but my motivation for writing.  I think all of us have fairly similar motivations to publish, and those reasons are straightforward and can be summarized in three observations:

  • Publishing affirms our efforts. It says our work is good enough to share with others.  Publication is a pat on the back that says well done. Your writing has merit—others want to read your work.
  • The second reason we all want to publish is because we want to be paid for our work. To earn a paycheck from writing is the dream and end-goal of every writer.
  • The third reason is to bolster the resume. Publications—especially publications of real merit—look good on the resume, and that opens the door to new opportunities.

So, our motivations to publish are indeed straightforward.

The more difficult question to answer is:  What motivates us to write?  I submit that when we can answer that question with personal clarity, we will know what we want to write, have a clearer vision about the process, as well as understanding more fully why we invest in the endeavor.  Some avenues to explore are:

  • I write to consider my past in relation to my present and my future.
  • I write to allow myself the opportunity to walk in the shoes of individuals who lived in bygone times. This motivation sends the writer into research and into thoughts about individuals who lived, and breathed, and worked, and loved in times that are now part of our collective history.
  • I write to amuse and entertain. Daily life is hard and full of stress. I write to lighten daily burdens for myself and others.
  • I write to reflect and understand contemporary social and personal conflicts. The writer, Jodi Picoult, does this. She places characters in the middle of current social struggles and allows the reader an opportunity to explore particular issues from a specific character’s point of view.
  • I write to explore certain ideas or themes. Certainly Annie Proulx explores the themes of surviving, and achieving self-respect, and gaining love without pain in The Shipping News. Richard Russo explores the theme of moving into the future instead of stagnating in the past in his novel Empire Falls. In a novel-in-process that I’m working on, I’m motivated by a desire to explore self-forgiveness and moving beyond personal accusation.
  • I write to explore particular types of characters—to get inside their heads and walk in their shoes.
  • I write to understand friends or members of my family.

There are as many motivations as there are writers, but when we begin to think specifically about what motivates us, the steps from beginning to end of the novel become clearer.  We understand what we want to achieve—what we can offer that is fresh and provides new insight.  Understanding our motivation to tell a particular story will keep us going–will help provide the strength and insight to write and see the project to its conclusion.  I think understanding our motivation to write, will also provide greater insight into SELF.

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