Friday, April 04, 2008

What Motivates You?

The question is going around the blogosphere, prompted by a post at BookEnds.

I've been thinking, lately, about motivation. I've often said that money motivates me, but that's not quite true. In fact, if you read the studies, money does not motivate employees all that much, not as much as benefits and atmosphere, and all the other stuff.

And when organizations look for help? Volunteers will gladly do things, but if you pay them a little bit, then they will monetize it and say it's not worth doing. Strange, that, but true.

Y'all know I've had difficulty motivating myself to write a spy thriller, when I'm making money from pseudonym, money that's definitely needed. Luckily, I have a break in my schedule for a little while, but ... still.

Getting published doesn't motivate me, because I feel I am. Getting my real name in Borders doesn't motivate me, because I've done that. Getting more money kinda motivates me, but that's not a sure thing and it comes with a huge risk of getting none. Getting readers doesn't motivate me, because I already have them.

So I've been lolly-gagging on my "real name" career.

The other week the editor for another anthology emailed me, and, well, truthfully, those doesn't make that much money. When you add in the research (re-reading 18 books!), it may be 4,000 words, but ... it takes at least a whole month.

BUT, I love my editor. I learned so much, last time. I'm thrilled to do it, for mostly that reason, and also because the message of my essay is something I feel deeply.

Then, the other day, when Erica was talking about her editor? I realized: how cool would it be to work with a brilliant editor on a novel? How cool would it be to have an agent who wouldn't mind brainstorming with me? How cool would it be to have those opportunities to take my writing to the next level?

I don't believe you can "wait" for an editor to take your work to the next level, don't get me wrong. I think you need to get what you have perfect, and then better than perfect, so an editor can point out the things you can't see.

Anyway, since I had this realization, I've been totally motivated. I am SO excited by the thought--it feels like when I was practicing my fingers off to get into conservatory. I want to LEARN!

Getting published is a thing. It's not really a real thing. It's just a thing that's out there, kind of separate. The readers are another thing. They change the way you write, and that's cool. They're joys and cake and dessert. But all that stuff doesn't ever feel real to me. I've always known that, but ...

I've never put two and two together: I had to find a different motivation.

What motivates you? And if it's getting published, that's cool. It's a thrill, a roller coaster ride. I don't mean to say otherwise.

13 bonus scribbles:

Rhonda Stapleton 4/04/2008 02:52:00 PM  

Wow, that's a good way of viewing things. At first, I wasn't super motivated, which is why my first book took so long to write. But once I realized I wanted to write for publication, I became motivated by the search for an agent...and then the search for a publisher.

Now, knowing that I have a deadline and a wonderful editor waiting to help me whip the book into shape is a great motivator!

Melanie Avila 4/04/2008 03:00:00 PM  

While I'd love to be published some day, my real motivation is to see if I can write a book. I wrote my memoir and was shocked I had almost 100k words in me. Yes, I plan to edit that down.

Now I'm working on my first novel and once again, I'm curious to see if I can do it. I'm excited about the story and seeing where it takes me. That feeling is motivation for me.

R.J. Keller 4/04/2008 03:11:00 PM  

Yep, I 'found you' through the BookEnds post. I'm glad I did. Great post, great question.

I love writing. I love the feeling I get when it's rolling out quicker'n I can keep track of. It's the second best thing in the whole world (the third being getting to eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's by myself.) That's what motivates me to do it. But what motivates me to do something with it--other than keep it in a shoebox--is: FEEDBACK.

First of all, that helps me improve. I hate the idea of being stagnant. Secondly...EGO. Sorry, I know it's not pretty but it's true. I know I can write good stuff and it makes me feel good when other people read it and think it's good, too.

To me, the possibility of being published doesn't mean the possibility of BIG MONEY (I'm not quite that delusional). It means the possibility of having lots of people reading words that I wrote, and being moved to tears or laughter or lust or joy.

Of course, that's rather delusional, too.

avery 4/04/2008 03:41:00 PM  

What motivates me is the desire to do better, to learn more and make what I have in me the best it can possibly be. I suppose money could be a motivating factor at some point, but, as I don't make any now, it really doesn't matter for the time being.

Zoe Winters 4/04/2008 03:49:00 PM  

Hmmm what motivates me? Well if I hadn't read your post first and really thought about it, I'd say money. But money is a means to an end. Eventually I have to make money in some form or I'll have to go get a real job and who wants that? yuck.

So really what motivates me is freedom. More than anything. I want readers. I want to be published. I want to make money. I want to work with a wonderful editor or agent or maybe someday the stars will align just right and I'll get both. But what really motivates me deep down is freedom.

Writers who make enough money doing it to just do that are the lucky ones (and while fiction is my passion, I'll whore myself out to any type of writing if it means I can stay home in my underwear.)

What I want is to be able to continue going to sleep when I want. Getting up when I want. Eating when I want. Going to the bathroom when I want. Working out when I want. Soaking in the tub when I want. Cleaning the house when I want. Sunbathing when I want.

And these are things you can do when you do your work, but on your own schedule and out of your own home. It's a kind of freedom most human beings in the modern world dont' get to experience. Hamster wheels are not for me. I am not a hamster.

spyscribbler 4/04/2008 05:26:00 PM  

Rhonda, I hear you! I've been just thinking about stuff like that. I want to write the best book possible, the perfect book. But to put out a top-notch book, to put it out into the world ... that doesn't happen all by oneself. It takes a team. I want to put out that kind of book.

spyscribbler 4/04/2008 05:27:00 PM  

Melanie, yes, I love that! It's such an amazing accomplishment. I mean, wow ... 100,000 words. Last summer I added up all the words I sold, and I was stunned. Stunned! How does it add up like that? How in the world did we write so much?

It's an amazing thing, sometimes.

spyscribbler 4/04/2008 05:29:00 PM  

R.J., I love that flow! I'm not sure I agree on the ego bit ... for me, that's like a roller coaster. I seem to be getting more and more neurotic, LOL.

And your third reason, wow. Yes. Communicating with someone else, writing someone else into feeling something, that's amazing. That's an amazing, shared experience.

I don't think that's delusional at all.

spyscribbler 4/04/2008 05:30:00 PM  

Avery, I think you've hit upon it. It wasn't until I connected being "better" with NY, that I really started feeling enthusiasm for it.

spyscribbler 4/04/2008 05:32:00 PM  

Zoe, having been self-employed for most of my life, I can't imagine getting on the hamster wheel. I will say that I work fifteen hours a day. I don't even have time to cook for myself. But it's for me. It doesn't all feel like work (some of it does).

But I'm creating my own life. I really love that part.

So yes. Back to the money.

That's a "have to," though. It's not terribly motivating, at the end of the day.

On the other hand, I've written rather quickly when I really needed money.

Zoe Winters 4/04/2008 06:25:00 PM  

when you think about it, working a 15 hour day isn't really more than someone who works full time in an office then comes home to write.

I only need to come up with part time money though, so I won't have to work 15 hour days. I'm too lazy to work that many hours a day.

spyscribbler 4/04/2008 06:30:00 PM  

LOL, Zoe, that pretty much describes my life. :-)

If I ever "just" write, I'd probably spend the extra time marketing. But I'd preen it down to at least 10 hours. I want time to enjoy dinner. Cuddle with hubby. One can't be a working machine forever.

Zoe Winters 4/04/2008 08:38:00 PM  

yes, cuddling is important bizniz. Ask any cat. I've become a believer that cats know how to live.