Sunday, November 30, 2014

Motivation Isn't Enough

A friend of mine asked me recently, "What motivates you to continue writing?"

That could have been taken in a number of ways. He didn't mean the question negatively, or so he assured me. It helped that he gave me three options to choose from:

1) Did I continue for the eventual recognition? He knows me well enough to know my ego, and how much it likes to be fed.

2) Or was it the allure of eventual money? I've not hidden my desire to eventually make writing my primary source of income.

3) Or finally, was my ongoing motivation the craft itself? Did I continue what I did for the sake of art, or (if you will,) the sake of ART?

To all of this, I replied, "Yes."

First off, I love that he saw all of these as eventual realities. It doesn't seem to occur to him that I might not find success.

Of course, people will eventually recognize how fantastic my writing is. They'll giggle at the right places, cringe at the purposefully cringe worthy sections, and crave more. This will result in my stories selling, and some amount of monetary success. And obviously, none of this will happen without the craft improving. Unless I create good stories, there's nothing worth recognizing or buying.

Honestly, each of those motivations feed the others. And, I've begun to see the motivations bear fruit, to some degree.

First off, I can tell the stories are getting better. Partly, this is due to feedback from my beta readers and occasional publishers. But moreover, I'M enjoying them. I've mentioned before, how I used to believe that being a good reader naturally made me a good writer. Then I'd write a story that might have been good enough, but good enough never is.

The craft is improving. If I'm honest, I'm finally (consistently) writing stories that I would buy and read myself.

I'm also receiving some recognition beyond my beta readers. Form rejections are turning into personal rejections. Stories are making it beyond the first rounds of editorial slush piles and competitions. It's not a given, but it looks like one or more of my stories might make it into a real-honest-to-goodness-professional-anthology. More on that when and if it actually happens.

Oh, and a story finally sold.

Sold.

At pro rates, no less, which is an important distinction. At least, to me it is.

I've self published stories. I've had stories accepted in non-paying online publications. With apologies to those publishers, most of those stories wouldn't have made it in a pro market.

But at least one has. (I'll post about it in January, when it's available.)

All of that means that within this past month, I've achieved, to some small degree, each of those 3 motivations. People are liking my work. Some of that work has sold. And, through writing daily, the craft itself is continuing to improve.

So, now that I've tasted a small part of success, I asked myself which of the options continues to provide the most satisfaction and motivation?

I can't say. All I know is that I'm hungry for more. Hopefully, that's a good sign. I've heard of writers who sold one or three or so stories, and figured they had it made. I'm quite certain I don't. Since starting writing again a little over a year ago, I've been adamant about continually producing and improving. No more shortcuts to success. There's no substitute for striving to get better and hard work.

If I had to choose one I'd pick #3. I'm glad to be one of those writers who enjoys writing as much as having written. At least, I do on most days. And I can immerse myself in a story I'm writing as much, or sometimes more, as I can in one that someone else has written. It's harder, but it's more fun.

I still want to make this my primary income source one day. So #2 remains part of the long term goal. And my ego hasn't been fed all day, so we mustn't forget the importance of #1.

But yeah. It's the craft.

At least, at this moment it is.

Back to the novel...