Underlying Motivation – Getting Through the Rough Spots
Writing after you’ve sold is very different than writing with the goal of selling in mind. I wouldn’t say it’s either better or worse…just different.
Instead of writing toward your own vision, a reckoning force now has altering input. This force will take the shape of your agent or your editor, or both. If you’ve chosen these professionals well, their ideas and suggestions will take your skills and storytelling to a new level. They will push you and challenge you. They will, ultimately, make you a better writer. And this is exactly what you want, because you’re look at writing as a career, not a single contract. Right?
Your answer at the sign of contract:
And after you discuss changes:
- Shock: Wow. That’s a lot of work. Like…a lot.
- Reaffirmation: I’ll be a better writer. This will be a better story. It will all be worth the effort. This is what I want.
And somewhere around ¼ way amidst revisions:
- First inkling of fear: How in the heck am I going to do what she wanted? In the page count she wanted? I’m good, but…am I that good?
- Reaffirmation: She believes I can do it. This is what I want. I love this story. I love these characters. I can do this.
And somewhere about ½ way through:
- Frustration, doubt and recognizable fear: What the hell did I sign up for? Why am I doing this again? What if she hates it when I’m done? Could I face doing this again?
- Resignation: If I back out now, I’ve killed any chance of having that writing career I’ve dreamed of. I’ll lose all self-respect. The story is strong. The characters are compelling. I have to push through.
And about ¾ of the way done:
- Apprehension & disbelief: Holy shit. Was I high when I said I could make those changes she wanted? By that date? In that word count? When was the last time I went to the grocery store? Did laundry? Showered? Can I kill these characters now? Is it too late to change my plot to something worthwhile? Who are these kids running around my house calling me mom? Who is this man calling me honey? What day is it? No…more importantly, how many days do I have left to deadline? Will every book be like this? Is this really what I wanted?
- Blind ambition and an incongruous trust in the universe: Don’t look up to see how far you still have to go. Don’t look down to see how much work you’ve already done. Don’t look around to see what else is passing you by. Just. Keep. Working. You gave your word. You have to follow through.
This is where knowing your underlying motivation for writing will pull you through.
I’m not talking about surface motivation: Writing is fun. It’s fun to make up characters and tell stories. Writing is creative. It’s my outlet.
None of those will get you through those rough stages. At least not time after time, book after book.
Only recognizing and honoring your core motivation will keep you focused and give you the purpose you need to push up that hill.
So, why do you need to write?
Yes, it can be a creative outlet, but it had better be one that speaks to your soul. One you feel empty without. One that can’t be filled with any other creative media, because I’ve tried many, and they’re all a hell of a lot easier than writing. And most pay more, too.
Yes, it can even be for the money, but that sale must be something that validates you on a visceral level, because there are far easier ways to earn a paycheck—bigger, faster and in an equally creative field.
I’ve know for a long time that writing for me is both a curse and a calling. In my gut I know I couldn’t stop writing, no matter how grueling.
Only after going through all the above stages twice, first with the revisions of my debut novel, FEVER, and again with the completion of my second novel, BLAZE, which shares an overarching plot and characters in common, did I discover why.
My underlying motivation to write is communication.
At the deepest part of me, I need to communicate. First and foremost, with a core part of myself. But just as important to the process is sharing the result of that communication with the reader.
I am a lover of prose. Not purple prose, but purposeful prose. I craft and recraft and recraft sentences and paragraphs and scenes with the ultimate goal of expressing whatever deep emotion simmers within my character. Whatever it is he or she needs to voice in order to grow and change and ultimately find happiness.
That’s what we all seek, isn’t it? Happiness in one form or another?
My goal, I discovered, is piecing words together in an effort to find the most powerful way to express my character’s struggles on the path to reaching this goal. The battle of their individual inner demons. I strive to portray situations and characters and ultimately toil a compelling story that speaks to the reader through emotion.
And story is emotion.
So in the darkest moments of writing, when I’m sure I’ll never weave the threads I’ve pulled from the bolt into the tapestry I imagined, I remember that base need to communicate.
I need to communicate in order to understand myself and others. I need to understand myself and others in order to make sense of this world and my life and all that happens day to day.
I need to write in order to be me. Authentically.
Why do you write?