What's Your Motivation?

Blog | craft
January 7, 2016

 By Jan Fields

The new year is a good time for self-evaluation, as much as it is for
planning and goals. To really understand how best to plan for your writing
adventure for 2016, it's a good idea to look inward and ask yourself, why
are you writing? What pressure comes from within and makes you want to write?

To Create Something for Children or Grandchildren?

Many of us want to create for our kids or grandkids. I know when my daughter
was very young, I really wanted to create books she would love.
Unfortunately, she insisted upon growing up a good bit faster than the speed
at which I plodded along my writing journey. By the time I had my first
book, she was too old to be particularly interested in it. And by the time I
had lots of books, her interests simply did not include my work. She'll read
them for me to help catch mistakes (since she's a teenager and loves
pointing out where I messed up) but if she enjoys the books, it tends to
surprise her.

This means that if my only motivation was to write something for my
daughter, I would have been pretty disappointed in my writing journey.
Wanting to do something for my daughter worked in the beginning; it turned
my attention from the writing I was doing for adults to writing for kids,
but it wasn't enough to sustain a career. A motivation that sustains also
benefits from being bigger.

To Supplement Income?

These days I make decent money writing. In fact, it's our primary income.
But I've also been writing professionally since 1983 and I had a lot of
years where my income from writing was sparse, really sparse. Writing can be
a supplemental source of income, but writing is a craft and to get money out
of it, you have to put serious time, effort, and sometimes money into
improvement. Unless you're a celebrity, no one is going to give you a book
contract until you learn how to write, write well, and write within the
market you're targeting.

Learning takes time and effort and more than a little frustration. Part of
the frustration comes from the difficulty in telling when you're writing at
a professional level. Research studies have shown that it tends to take the
same skill set to tell if you are doing something well, as it takes to
actually do it well. That means that by the time we're a decent judge of our
own writing, we're probably doing it pretty well. Before then, we usually
weren't as good as we thought we were.

I know that was true of me. Some of the first stuff I wrote for kids was
pretty bad. Editors were a lot kinder to me than I deserved when they sent
rejection letters offering to look at more of my work. I had a lot to learn,
and that was on top of the fact that I was already making money in writing
for adults. It's not a one to one swap. Writing for kids is a challenge, but
it's one that's well worth the effort to master.

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To Teach Kids Something?

I don't see this motivation as often as I do the other two, and it's not one
that has ever driven me, but I do know people who get into children's
writing because they things kids these days are in need of fixing. And they
hope they'll write the story that will fix them. So they write lots of
stories filled with whiny, lazy kids who are entirely too fond of electronic
devices who learn their lesson and become obedient darlings. Or they shoot
for the older reader and they write stories filled with teens who drink, have sex,
and do other things that lead them to horrible, catastrophic results.

The root problem with writing to fix kids is the belief that other people's
kids need to be parented by your writing. Publishers mostly don't buy books
like that, because parents don't buy books like that and kids certainly
don't choose books like that for themselves. Stories about dreadful children
who come to bad ends did have their time in history, but that time isn't
now. Mostly children read for the same reason you do. They want a good story
that lingers in their imagination. They aren't looking for stories to nag
them about their behavior. They have parents for that.

Now, there is one area where writing to teach kids something excels:
nonfiction! Many young people love informational nonfiction and will turn to
it specifically to learn things. They'll buy books to learn about animal
mummies or tiny dinosaurs or the future of robotics. That's because when
kids want to learn something, they turn to nonfiction, the same as adults.

Because of a deep love for books and stories?

The writers who tend to stick in this business are the ones who write
because they feel a passion for the storytelling. They do hope readers will
love it. They do hope it lingers in the minds of the reader. They do hope it
offers insight into life. But mostly, they're in it for the story. These
writers feel these stories building up inside them and they need to pour
them out. Sometimes that outpouring is an ecstatic river and sometimes it's
a painful drizzle, but without writing, these folks feel something important
is missing. These writers read for pleasure, and write for love (even when
they hate it just a little bit). And those motivations will keep them
writing even through the learning curve, the frustrations of the business,
and the questionable support of those around them. They write because
writing is its own reward. They want more, of course, but they've learned to
love the process.

Loving writing is a lot like loving a person. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes
it's hard. But somehow it feels a little bit like you have no choice. You
need to love this person. You need to love this writing. Fall in love and
that motivation will change the journey for you and keep you on the road


If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!



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