This month being the famous NaNoWriMo month, I thought it would be fun to explore our motivation for writing. Motivation and inspiration are closely linked but actually very different. Inspiration is often soul deep while motivation may be very visceral. There are traditionally two types of motivation, carrot or stick. In grammar schools of old, many erstwhile students were motivated by the ruler across the knuckles– definitely a stick. But nowadays we tend to apply the carrot for motivation. I’d like us to put our heads together this week to answer the question: What motivates you?
I came up with a few to get us started:
- Money— Let’s be honest. A workman is worthy of his hire. We need to eat and put a roof over our heads. Sometimes this is a strong motivation.
- Deadlines— I’ve heard those writers with no a contract and no deadline say that they can’t get the writing done without the pressure of a real deadline. There’s no question that a deadline motivates. Is it carrot or stick?
- The Love of Writing— While a deadline is a negative motivation, the pure love of writing may be your motivation. A positive motivation. One of my friends loves writing to the exclusion of almost everything else. She feels guilty about it, knowing she needs the balance of family and friends. But truth be told, she writes because there is nothing she’d rather be doing.
- Accountability— Whether it be NaNoWriMo, a contest, a critique group or an accountability partner, having to answer to someone may be motivation enough.
- Work Ethic— Some writers need no motivation. They write out of sheer work ethic. I always loved the bit in writer Louis L’Amour’s bio where he said he never waited for inspiration to hit. He was no prima donna. He said he could write in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard with a typewriter on his lap. He also said, “If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”
- Legacy— Many writers write their books to leave something of themselves behind.
- Reward— I tended to use this motivation. No coffee until you have 1200 words. No three-day weekend until you are one-fourth of the way through the book. I’d mark that last word of each book with a special celebration or the purchase of something meaningful.
So how about you or your writing friends. What motivates you?