What motivates you?

Woz Delgado-Hand, whom I met as a result of PEN ON FIRE coming out, e-mailed me the other day. She said she found it hard to stay motivated and she asked, “What motivates you?”

The question gave me pause. What a great question, actually. What motivates me, indeed! All writers at all stages of their writing careers have days–weeks, months, years even–when they feel unmotivated and find it hard to go on. It may be as simple as not knowing what to write or maybe what you’re writing is boring you. We all have these moments and some last longer than others.

It was settled long ago, the fact that I am a writer. I’ve made my living writing for long enough, now. At a certain point you don’t question it anymore. You write because it’s what you do, even if some days you just don’t feel like it.

So, motivation…. One thing that helps motivate me is to have a few projects going on at once. I have my paid work–editing jobs, articles due–and I have my novel that I don’t expect to sell until I finish, but which is gratifying to work on. Nothing (aside from watching my 10-year-old son grow and develop and seeing my students grow in their work and identities as writers) is as gratifying as taking an idea and working on it, sculpting it, refining it and watching it turn into a finished piece of writing. And then when that piece of writing becomes manifest and others benefit from it, that’s an incredible feeling. And quite motivating.

At one of my signings for PEN ON FIRE, a woman came up to me with her copy of my book, all marked up with pencilled notes she made. I loved that my book had moved her to take out her pencil and mark up the pages with questions and comments and things to remember. This motivates me.

When you haven’t yet sold your work, that’s the hardest time to remain motivated. That’s when having a writers group or even one writing buddy helps you stay on the writing path.

Our own personal motivations are made up of numerous and sundry things. It’s a constant challenge. Some days all I want to do is knit. (And during the holidays, that’s largely what I did–that and made goodies and wrapped presents.)

But usually I remember I’m a writer and writers write and if I don’t, then I will have nothing to show and will be in a bad mood, which will be bad for my family and for me.

You take motivation where you find it. And like friendship, you can never have too much of it.