You Can’t Teach Motivation

It’s nearly impossible to be a writer today and not have attended a writer’s conference of some sort, even if it is simply as a speaker/presenter. I would definitely say it’s impossible to be a writer and at least not be aware of them. Writer’s conferences serve a lot of purposes and are particularly good, I think, for writers just starting out. For experienced writers it’s a great time to hang around like-minded creatives and yes, be reminded of all the writing-type strategies. And as a teacher of creative writing, I’m a fan of them and will encourage all writers (of all skill levels) to make an effort to attend at least one per year…even if you are going just to hang out.

But that got me thinking about all the things covered at conferences and in creative writing programs. We can teach (and learn) things like plot, pacing, characterization, dialogue, etc. etc. And if we know about them, we can be reminded of good strategies to use those tools effectively.

But there is one thing teachers/speakers can’t teach, and that’s motivation. I don’t mean fictional character motivation—we can teach that (even if hardheaded students aren’t willing to learn!), but what I mean is writer motivation. Yes, I believe teachers can inspire and encourage and think we should work to do that (but I also think if you love what you do, that’ll come through in the teaching)…but there’s nothing I can really do (not just me, all teachers) that will make a writer give us time on Facebook, or television and write…and then write some more…and then do more writing after that. And then when they’re done writing, finish up with a little more writing.

I don’t know who said it, or I’d give the credit, but I recently read it takes 10,000 hours for someone to reach the stage of successful whatever it is they do. SO, a musician must spend 10,000 practicing in order to reach the level of professional…and so on. So many writers think they’ll slap it down on the page and then they’re done. Oh, maybe an “editing” revision to look for typos and misspelled words—but some don’t even do that!

And with the Olympics just finished (it IS finished now, right?), we’re reminded of all the hard work and HOURS that these athletes (even the ones who lost) put in just to make it there. It takes motivation to force yourself to spend that kind of time practicing. It’s the “WANT TO” of achieving success.

That’s not something that can be taught…it has to come from within.

So whatever it is you do…how bad do you want it? Do you want it bad enough to spend 10,000 hours to get there?


Filed under writing

5 responses to “You Can’t Teach Motivation

  1. Gladly. Can you find them for me? 🙂
    My retirement plan consists of 5 days of writing and 2 days part time employment – but I still have two year sof 6 days of full time employment and 1 day of writing to get there! If 10,000 hours is the goal, then it will be about two years after I retire before I start even looking for success! Hope I’m around to enjoy it!

  2. Oops! That’s if I write 24 hours a day. Hmmmm…..maybe four years?

  3. Lou Mougin

    Yeah, I did, but as you well know, Roland, since I submitted some stuff to Malibu, it didn’t get much of anywhere. Thanks, though.

  4. Hi! Malcom Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success writes about the 10,000 hours. Love his books even though I can’t read them quickly. Lots of stopping to ponder along the way. Sometimes we think about motivation in reverse. If we are motivated, we will DO something. For me, though, the DOING, the action, seems to feed the motivation as long as I am not too critical of early efforts. And the NaNo writing project is perfect for this! I was amazed at the number of words that would come just from typing anything to continue. Then ideas had an avenue. I didn’t tackle it this year, but I will again!

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