Working on Productivity for Writers recently has got me thinking about the reasons I write, and what I want to achieve with my writing. It’s also made me realise that the reasons why we write can affect how much we write, how often we write, and how we feel about what we write.
Take teenage me. I wrote because I wanted to write. I enjoyed it. The most successful projects were the ones my friends became attached to: the more they pestered me for new chapters, the faster I wrote.
On some occasions, that was enough. On others, it wasn’t. On those occasions where it wasn’t the self-doubt took over and I fobbed off my friends with excuses about why I couldn’t write because I had ‘writer’s block‘.
What motivates you?
Take a prolific writer such as James Patterson or Stephen King. They’ve forged successful writing careers over the last few decades because they see their writing as a business/career, not a hobby. Sure, they enjoy it, but that’s not the main reason they write. They know that in order to make a living out of it, it’s as much about quantity as it is about quality.
Fifty years ago one book could sustain you for life. (Look at To Kill a Mockingbird or The Catcher in the Rye.)
In the twenty-first century, this just isn’t possible.
With the rise of self-publishing there’s more books out there than ever, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a living as a writer. The average advance is less than £7,000. For the amount of effort a book requires, it doesn’t feel worth it.
If you’re writing for fame and the fortune, you just won’t get it.
Most people have no idea what their favourite author looks like or even sounds like. Since most writers are introverts that’s not a bad thing, but if you want a pat on the back for writing a great book, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
On the other hand, if you write as a side project to your business, or you view your book as part of an ongoing project, you have more motivation when you don’t sell as many books as you wanted.
When you wait for your book to become a bestseller and it doesn’t—especially if it’s your first—it’s easy to become disheartened when you’ve put a lot of work into it.
It’s easy to lose track and decide it’s just not worth it anymore.
If I was still motivated by the same things as teenage me, I would’ve given up a long time ago.
But I’m not that person anymore.
The main things that motivate me are helping people, and entertaining people. Everything I write—my fiction, my poetry, my nonfiction and my blog posts—follow this mantra. Some tick both boxes, some just tick the one. So long as it fits one of them, I’m happy.
Many people have commented about how inspirational my journey to publishing What Happens in New York was. While I will always view it slightly differently, it’s always flattering to hear this. It shows that every step I’ve made so far is in the right direction!
Why do you write? What inspires you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!