Friday, May 22, 2009

What's Your Motivation?

This post by Rebecca Knight started me thinking about why I write. I’m not the type who will tell you I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first held a pencil. In fact, when I was a kid, I wanted to work for Disney as an animator when I grew up (along with a long list of other things, but we won’t get into that--this post is going to be long enough as it is). I’ve always enjoyed writing--except for my sophomore year in high school when my English teacher tried to take all the joy out of it with the accursed 3-prong essay--but until I started this blog almost one year ago, the only voluntary writing I did was in my journal and a children’s book I wrote about five years ago. That’s still sitting in the darkest corner of my documents folder, waiting for me to do illustrations for it. As you can see, I’m very motivated to finish those.

My mother always kept a journal and encouraged me and my siblings to keep one as well. Since her passing, I’ve been very grateful to have a record of her life from her perspective, and it’s motivated me to keep up to date on mine. But the stuff I write in my journal is not something I want to share with the world or even something that anyone else would be interested in reading. So, how did I go from writing in a journal to thinking I'm capable of writing a novel other people will want to read?

Well, there’s a bit of arrogance behind the answer to that question. Whenever I attempt to do something new, it usually starts with the thought, “If so-n-so can do it, I should be able to do it too. Probably better.” This is usually not the case, but a little delusion never hurt anyone, right? I’m also very interested in learning new things, and that often plays a role in my decision to try something new, but the main focus is usually the challenge to do something as well as or better than someone else. I’m constantly comparing myself to others. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but it also motivates me to do better. Elana Johnson posted on this subject a few days ago.

Last fall, I read a book that I’m sure many of you have read, and upon finishing it, I thought, “If this got published, surely I can write something good enough to publish.” It was a nice thought, but I’ve learned since then that some people are just lucky and even if I could write the perfect novel (subjective, I know) there is still a good possibility I will never get published or even find an agent. I’ve also learned that my writing was terrible then (and not necessarily great now, but better, I hope), and I was seriously delusional about a lot of things about the publishing industry. But even knowing what I know now, I’m still motivated to write and share the stories that are floating around in my head. I think maybe I’ve finally discovered the thing I can be truly passionate about it. Miracles do happen. Now, if I could just make some money doing it. :)

So, tell me. What motivates you to write? Why do you block out the real world to delve into imaginary places? Is it something you feel compelled to do or just a creative outlet?


  1. *shifty eyes*
    *leans in to whisper*

    Writing about them makes the voices go away. ;-)

    Writing is work. Hard work. But I love doing it. It helps keep me together and sane. :D

  2. I've read your stuff, and it's pretty darn good, lady ;).

    I guess I am one of those freaks that has always been writing stories just for fun since I was a kid, but I was so afraid to try to write a novel forever, because I simply didn't believe in myself. I'd started longer stories a few times and then crapped out by page 10 or 20.

    Finally, I just had to know if I could. And I did!

    I can't help but compare myself to others, too (and drive myself nuts--because you're right, there's a LOT of luck involved) but I mainly write because I have to. I actually feel funky and weird when I'm not doing it.

    I feel like I've been given something that I do moderately well, and I want to use that however I can.

    Hopefully I can make a career out of it, too, so I can do it all day long :). Yay!

  3. Danyelle-I love your sense of humor. Sometimes I feel that way too. :)

    Becca-Thank you! And I don't think you're a freak. At least you've always known what you love to do. I've changed my mind more times than I can count.

  4. There's something for you here: :D