Writers frequently hear the “m” word when talking about the characters they’ve created. We even hear actors talk about the “m” word when they’re trying desperately to get “into” the character they’re playing. But what actually motivates a writer to physically sit down and write?
It’s understandable that an actor would want to know what motivates the character they’re playing. If they can figure out the characters needs and wants and desires, they might be more effective in their portrayal.
Same thing for writers—and I know it’s true for me. It helps me understand the characters I’m writing if I know the things they want and need; if I know why they’re doing the things they do, they I think the character will be more believable. The ability for a writer to “get inside their character’s head” is a great one.
But why does a writer sit down and write? What motivates them?
Over the years I’ve heard some say they do it simply because they love to write. There are those who say they must write, that even if no one read their work, they’d write anyway.
I have a hard time believing that. Didn’t say it wasn’t true, just that I have a hard time believing it. Writers write because they want to be read, they want people to read what they have to say. Heck, I could try to fool you all and tell you that I write this blog for my own enjoyment…but that would be lying. I want people to read what I write.
That’s not saying that writers can’t love to write or that they can’t feel they must write, but I don’t buy that as the sole motivation. So, then what?
Money is certainly a motivating factor. And I’m not talking about that million dollar advance that every writer dreams of, but I’m talking about that $50 article for the newspaper or the $25 column written for the small magazine or the couple hundred dollars for a comic book script. Like many writers, I’d love to have all the $250s, $1500s, and $50s turn into enough that they equal a decent amount at the end of the year. No, it doesn’t have to match S. King’s form 1040, although that would be nice. But it would be great if it would get most writers above the poverty level.
Sharing knowledge is another reason that writers write, and that’s a very good motivating factor. If you’ve ever taught anything, you remember how cool it was to see your students “get it.” Being able to share something you know, to teach others something is incredible.
Wanting to leave something behind after you’ve gone is another real motivating factor. Several of the writers I worked with in writer workshops write for that very reason. Part of it is, I think, they want to be remembered. Most of us won’t make it into the public school textbooks, so we write memoirs, journals and diaries, most of the times with the hopes that someone will read it once we’re gone. Yes, they’re written to be read!
Having a story to tell is another motivating factor for many writers. Sometimes it’s to illuminate some evil in the world; sometimes it’s to cheer readers up; or warn readers; or whatever…but there’s a burning story that the writer feels must be told. Most of the time, they can’t rest until that story is told.
So, if you’re a writer, what’s your motivation?