Motivations

15 Sep

Being an author is a lovely thing: there’s a little piece of my own worldview that is entertaining and informing and delighting different readers. Not to mention, lots of folks seem to find it impressive. But it is fundamentally difficult to concentrate on writing when there are Big. Important. Things. pending – especially when there’s little or nothing I can do to influence those things. Pee suspect and beloved fuzzybutt.

The problem is that not all of the writing life is lovely. There are times when the writing is so drecky I have to start a new page so I don’t have to look at what I just wrote. But when the writing is done, I can celebrate, right? Of course – because otherwise there’d be no momentum left to drag me through the painful work of editing: the pruning, reshaping, bulldozing and knitting of the story together. And all that before shopping the book around, the further editing, publishing, and then the marketing…

Three-quarters of the way through the current novel I have to wonder: what keeps me going? I’ve tried to distill, record and admit my top motivators below:

5. Seeking fame and fortune, just like so many other writers dream of. Do I think these are likely? Absolutely not, but I do think they are possible. That I seek this kind of attention is kind of strange to me; I’ve only recently started to come to terms with it. I’ve always thought that this sort of public ambition is somehow wrong or, at best, déclassé. It turns out I’m a little bit wrong, then.
4. Participating in the act of storytelling. It may seem intangible, but I think it’s a fundamental human need. Other people may need to tell stories that actually happened to their children and friends, or write in their blogs. Some, like my brother and dad, need to tell important ideas by coding software that makes those new ideas possible. We each have points of view to express, and it’s important to me that I express mine.
3. Discipline is good for me. When writing is going well, it’s not that the story is flowing effortlessly. I’m more exhausted after writing 5,000 “easy” words than 1,200 words I had to scratch out of empty brain. But I feel accomplished whichever I manage – and more importantly, perhaps, it makes any other challenge look that much more possible. Can I change careers? Certainly! I’ve written a novel, after all.
2. Any word count is better than “zero.” Even if the quality is sh*t. Even if it didn’t move the story along, or moved it in the wrong direction. Editing improves even the worst storytelling. Sometimes the “wrong” direction turns out to be just what the story needed – like a certain poisonous shrew that was added to Gathering Grace. If Nathan hadn’t added it, while we were at a NaNoWriMo write-in… I’m not sure what would have happened.
1. Whatever else is happening, I get to write. Sometimes “royalties” are more aptly titled “pauperies,” the kids are involved in complex and contradictory teenage dramas, the computer breaks down and the cat is peeing on the rug. I can pursue steadier employment, promote the book, listen to the teenagers, pull out the paper and pencil and clean the carpet – and still, I can write. It means letting everything else go, while I’m writing; but once I do it, I can revel in it. In my story, if nowhere else, I get executive control.

So now that I’ve posted to my blog, I return to the novel. Back to the control, the increasing of word-count, the storytelling, the discipline, and the potential fame and fortune of writing.

Right after I clean up the cat pee.

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3 Responses to “Motivations”

  1. J.C September 15, 2008 at 8:17 pm #

    I really like your motivators and can relate to all of them – in particular 3 of late. I really do get a sense of accomplishment from achieving my writing goals, it does make me feel like I could do anything really.
    So thank you for sharing, and best of luck with work on the novel 🙂

  2. torreybird September 15, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    Glad you liked it! It’s funny to me how this solitary pursuit is so much nicer knowing that other people are also in it. 🙂 Good luck with your writing, too!

  3. Nate September 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder of why we authors do the things we do. I’m thrilled to hear your next novel has gotten so far along. I’m in the “anything is better than zero words” stage on my novel right now, but a surprise inspiration for my NaNo this year has got the creative juices bubbling. Hopefully that will transfer over to the laborious drek in progress. 😉

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