#IndieLife: The Motivation to Write…Something

male hand with pen isolated on white background

In the previous six posts – I explored some of the prime identifiers for writing – whether we write for money, or perhaps sheer persistence against some staggeringly depressing odds for writing success. And why.

Those posts drill down into the age-old adage that “real writers” write in response to a calling that means we would write anyway, despite making no money or finding little success from the craft.

But there’s another level to it all.

In my previous posts, several writing gurus like Steven Pressfield, Larry Brooks, Jeff Goins and Jeff Vandermeer were quoted over what a calling is, and most proffered the advice that writing is not about the money, or accolades:

It’s something we can’t not do.

Fine. But that didn’t answer the question around why we write certain kinds of things, or find the flow easier and the sense of contentment bigger over certain ways we write. Today, in this final post, I’m looking into that, specifically with my choice of Indie publishing.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing a hacked version of NaNoWriMo – predominantly non-fiction (like this blog post series, which formed part of my wordcount for a day), but with some short form fiction also.

What I noticed was that I felt discontented with this jumping around between various forms. Most of it was because the NaNoWriMo challenge concentrates normally on one big form of writing – a novel. That allows you a lot of pre-planning and preparation beforehand. But for my hacked version, I was jumping from day to day into planning something (anything!) to write for the next day. And my flow was lost.

I was much more content when I was writing larger pieces, where the flow was allowed to continue over a couple of days. And ultimately, Fiction pieces gave me the most “yeah, I’ve done it” feelings at the end of the day, but other types of content work also gave me more of a thrill than some others.

Sometimes we look at much of this content – our blog posts, newsletters, etc, as part of the throwaway society we live in. Fiction has more presence, seems more permanent to me somehow – but that is altering as I dwell into flash fiction also. But there was one kind of writing over the last two weeks that accidentally provided me with more answers to why I write.

And coincidentally it was summarised in one final blog post I read recently.

Not About The Money: 10 OTHER Indie Author Motivations

Via the Must-read Carnival of the Indies blogfest (via Joel Friedlander’s blog) last month I discovered and savoured a post at Electronic Bindery.

This post lists many fine points of particular relevance to those of us who choose to go the Indie way.

Let me pull that aside for a little too – Indie Way. Indie stands for Independent Publishing. Publishing – see. Many of the excerpts I’ve used in this Wednesday post series come from traditionally published authors with publishing companies sitting behind their books. Their slant towards why they write might be not to publish, as most of them seem to suggest, but to simply write, but never-the-less, all of them have published before. And that experience and success has allowed them the platform where I am now reading their thoughts about why we write in the first place.

When we say we want to Indie we are in essence suggesting that we are writing to publish our works independently. There are far too many reasons behind that decision to go into here.

We may write a lot of other stuff also, some will be published for free as blog posts, other content, some is written just for us – journal entries, or fiction that’s meant only for ourselves or close friends perhaps. But – a big motivating factor in our writing is to get (indie) published. This exists also for traditionally published authors or self-publishers using services.

It’s okay to say that’s why we’re writing, or that we hope to make enough money out of it for a living, or to pay for professional services for our next, or whatever.

Sometimes, unfortunately, with everyone looking at the artistry quotient of the writer – the true calling to write no matter what – then we forget that nowadays no writer is really sitting in a cave, for their work to be found after their death, if they’re lucky.

None of us are Mary Shelley’s or Lord Byrons anymore, with other means to support us while we write a novel. It’s a business, a hobby, whatever. But it still has costs, and rewards, and motivating factors for that work. We are still true writers if we admit that we are writing to be published, for money, or even attempting to write for some recognition or to be heard. We are also true writers if we’re writing to remind the world of our scar, to change the world, or simply to change us alone.

Some of the other points in the Electronic Bindery article centred on Indie writing are gloriously right for me also, but they hit me on the mark with number six: –

6. You like making stuff

I’m still searching for a good definition of craft, but my own definition is ‘art where good technique is essential’…The indie publishing part of authoring is largely craft: you take the writing, the art, and you apply technique to perform the essential: the publishing. There is so much more to self-publishing than writing: cover design, marketing, planning, budgeting, quality control (editing!), layout…

As the post suggests, this is about the business side of Indie, not the writing side. But my own identification with this is to do with choices of writing topics, and how I gain flow personally.

As I said earlier, the last two weeks has seen me accidentally experimenting with writing. Because I hacked out my own writing marathon, with a bit of short fiction for NaNoWriMo, and a lot of non-fiction work, I have found that some comes a lot easier than others. And some of the writing projects give me more pleasure to write, but less contentment afterwards.

I worked out that the crafting side of writing (not just the publishing side of Indie) are very much motivating factors for my own writing. I’m a proud geek, and have always enjoyed the technical side of things. Once I have those set, I can release the creative side of me, the creative muse, and run with it. But I must have that technical or crafting side in place to get any sense of contentment at the end.

It’s obvious that being a plotter as compared to a pantser is important to me, and allowing me to plot and plan beforehand, or investigate and research before writing, is one of my most powerful motivating factors, sitting sharply on top of the calling to write. It’s so powerful, that it has coloured the calling somewhat – to the type of writing I’m called to do, and the further motivating factors behind why I continue to push through the odds against writing and succeeding publicly.

For me, that’s the primary motivation factor to contentment in writing, and therefore the call to write. It has been for years, but who knows – it may change alongside changes in my writing career.

For everyone else, the motivation to write may be something entirely different. And you know what – that’s they way it is, and should be.

I see it as two levels to the base of your writing pyramid. At the bottom sits the calling to write – something you can never get away from.

On top of that is the one or few primary motivators to your writing – what makes you write the types of writing that you get the most fulfillment from (and sometimes that’s money, or writing for publication). These motivators don’t change very easily – they are the types of writing that you return to all the time, the types of writing that enable the rest of your writing career.

Above this on the pyramid are all kinds of other productivity factors such as habits, routines, time management, rewards and incentives, your personality type, your belief systems – all of which are changeable and evolve with your writing career.

But the base – that’s pretty rock solid.

What’s your motivation to write right now? Are there differences between your calling to write, and what you write?


IndieLifeThis post was the final in a 7 post series running from last Wednesday to today. You can find the index post for all from the series here.

Index to Posts in this Series.

Because this post took the topic out to a personal level for me, and is to do with Indie authors, this post is participating in today’s Indie Life blogfest. You can find other Indie Life posts via the IndieLife signup at Indelibles.

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