Writer Motivations

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski

Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Why do you write? Why do you want to be published?

I think all writers need to address these questions. If you don’t identify and understand your motivations, how can you effectively write a project to reach your intended audience? Or how do you even figure out who your audience is?

I must admit that if I were to write a book, my only motivation for publication would be the money. I would want to be published so that I could have a best-seller. That’s probably the most selfish motivation out there, but I think every person, author or not, would love to write a best-seller and make piles of money.

Because that’s my only motivation, I haven’t written that book. The dream of money, for me, isn’t enough to force me to do all of the work required. I don’t think there’s enough of a chance of my becoming that best-selling author. It would be like playing the lotto. I could invest the time, but without promise of reward, I wouldn’t do it. I would need a better reason to write the book.

Most writers have other motivations in addition to wanting to make at least some money. These motivations usually are layered and complex, and they are entwined with the core of who the writer is–the writer’s self esteem, worth, etc. This is why the ups and downs of the publishing process affect the writer so deeply. The writer becomes connected to the book, not just because he or she wrote it, but also because he or she wrote it for a reason.

Here’s a list of some possible motivations:

1) To help others not to make the same mistakes that the writer has.

2) To prove worth.

3) To entertain others.

4) To write the story that has been laid on the writer’s heart.

5) Revenge (exposing someone real in “fiction”).

6) Sharing what has happened to the writer to help the writer heal. Writing something down can help to process past experiences.

7) To prove a point.

8 ) To strengthen the audience’s faith or to share insights the writer has learned.

9) To impress someone.

10) To be something other than who you are.

11) To create a new life for yourself through your characters.

12) To create a legacy.

I’m sure hundreds of writer motivations exist. I encourage each of you to dig deep, to peel back the layers to find out what the core of your passion for writing is. This might even be a painful experience for some of you, but I believe understanding your motivations will help you to identify your audience and to write a more focused project that will have a better chance of fulfilling your dreams for your writing.

Also, some of your motivations might need to be re-evaluated–like if you are writing for revenge. Clearing out the negative motivations, while there’s no easy way to do this, will help you to write a better book.

Now it’s your turn. What motivations can you add to my list? They don’t have to be your motivations, and they can be both negative and positive.

16 Responses

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  1. Teri D. Smith says:

    I write because I love it with a passion that comes from deep within me. I think the dream of all dreams is not the best seller list or any of the awards, but a letter from a reader saying it blessed her life in some way.

  2. I started writing because writing is fun. It’s certainly work, and sometimes it doesn’t feel all that fun, but part of the enjoyment comes from the difficult journey.

    I love all the elements of story, from the creation to the execution to the presentation. It fascinates me.

    Also, I wanted to write books that I wanted to read, and wasn’t necessarily finding on the shelf.

    I think that some people write (or want to write) because they imagine that authors live these cushy lifestyles in big houses and write a few hours in the afternoon by their swimming pool. Maybe that’s true for Stephen King or Dean Koontz, but it certainly didn’t start that way for them.

    Why do I write? Well, I guess I’m just a little crazy. Yep. Just a little.

  3. NikoleHahn says:

    I realized as a teenager writing is not going to bring much more to my life than pure satisfaction and escape. Over time it evolved into spreading God’s Word in my stories or telling good lessons. Then, one night I had a dream and on the next night, dreamt the second part of it. Thus, my fantasy novel series was born and suddenly I discovered a love for fantasy I did know existed, but peeked out from beneath the folds of youth from time to time. Now I am wedged between my foremost love of fantasy and my sometimes love for romance-suspense.

  4. Lori Benton says:

    I write for the joy of it, for the challenge of it, for the way it stretches me and keeps me closer to the Lord. I write because I cannot not create. If I wasn’t writing, I’d be painting, the (paying) career I abandoned for writing, because writing involves me spirit, soul and body, and demands my all, and I do like a creative challenge. 🙂

    And I write because the characters in my head need a place to live.

    I want to be published for the same reason Teri stated. I want to create for readers the same connection and impact, emotionally and spiritually, that the best novels have for me.

    I don’t think these motivations have changed much since I wrote and illustrated my first story at age 9.

  5. Lynn Rush says:

    Right on, James. I’m a little crazy too! LOL.

    Yeah, I’m often asked why I started writing or how could I, someone who is so active, sit and write ten novels?

    I smile and say, “It’s a God thing.” Stories just pop in my head, and I write. I know that the chances of me ever being published are close to none, but I’m still compelled to write.

    I love the escape. My characters are strong women who take charge once they find their confidence . . . oh, and have multiple super powers usually (LOL) . . . so it’s fun putting them “through the ringer” in their crazy, supernatural worlds.

    So, I will continue to write for the love of it, and if I accidentally get published, hey, that’s just icing on the cake.

    Great post, Rachel.

  6. Definitely to share a story. I think if I stopped writing, I’d stop breathing. And the voices in my head would never find another place to live.

    Also, for me it’s a ministry. My hope is that God will use the stories he gives me to impact others.

    Have a great day!

  7. Rachel Zurakowski says:

    I love that each of you feels such a passion for writing!

  8. Ashley says:

    I starting drawing a lot when I had cancer (i was seven). then it somehow turned into writing over the years and now I’m on to novels. I’ve always made sure to have a family member have cancer in my novels because it’s sort of like a reminder, and if it one were to be published I’d be ecstatic. Unfortunately, YA mysteries aren’t a big genre. . .Fantasy and paranormal are taking center stage at the moment.

  9. LeAnne Hardy says:

    I write to stretch the minds of children and young people with images of God and themselves. It also stretches ME.

    As to the revenge motive, I have heard that if you write mysteries you get to murder that person you are angry with over and over in new and creative ways.

  10. I write because I love to read and want to give back some of what the things I’ve read have given me. Getting rich or famous has never entered into my motivation. I write for children because when I was an asthmatic kid who got teased at school books let me escape to wonderful worlds and taught me things that changed my life. I hope the books I’ve written will do that for at least one child.

  11. Lyla says:

    This is great–I was just reminding myself of why I write today, trying to put together a summary paragraph of my novel that wasn’t boring 😉

    But what it comes down to is that I love it. It’s my hobby for a reason; it’s what I want to make a career out of for a reason. I can’t see myself ever being permanently bored with writing.

  12. My reasons are jumbled:
    a) St Paul said, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” and Jeremiah had a “fire in his bones” –those guys resonate with me. I want to nudge people closer to God thru Jesus.
    b) I also want money… which is funny because my friends think I got rich off my first book, and Janet Grant knows better!
    c) I also love it…
    d) And I’ll stick with James’ motivation… craziness works for me.

  13. Sarah Sundin says:

    I write so you can earn money, my sweet agent. He he he.

    Seriously, I write because I love to lose myself in story. But my writing became deeper when it tangled itself with my primary spiritual gift of teaching. My characters are usually dealing with some issue or sin I’ve dealt with. “I’ve been there – don’t you dare go there,” combined with, “if you’re there, here’s the way out.” I never set out on purpose to do this, but it just comes through in my characters’ stories.

  14. Linda Rue says:

    I’ve written and deleted about 30 entries to this post and still struggle to answer the question. It’s all of the above, in every quote written. To reach out, to reach in and to move forward. If I don’t write everyday, I dream of writing and my characters won’t let me sleep! I want to share who I am, what I’ve learned, what I don’t know by keeping my characters in a quandry and sometimes, just like life, I don’t solve all of their problems. A good book makes me fall in love. That, I think is why I write. I want to feel what those characters are feeling and I want to take my readers with me on a journey that I create. Hmmmm, still not satisfied with my answer! Sorry for the ‘mini book’ response Rachel!

  15. Writing gives me a satisfaction of letting my thought out. I pen down it to my blog and diary regularly.

  16. BethDazzled says:

    First, kudos for admitting you’d write a book just for the money.

    Personally, I write to escape the mundane blah of the real world. The best escape I know is my mind. Everything’s just fabulous in there! I want to share the fabulousity.