Monday, 11 July 2011

What is Motivation?

Anyone who hasn't yet seen Maya Banks' frank Q&A session at Dear Author should check it out. It's fascinating reading, and all kudos to Maya for willing to open up about her financial stats, which are MASSIVE by the way. 600k per year massive, which has my mind absolutely reeling.

Maya assures all aspiring bestsellers that she’s not special. Anyone willing to put in the time and effort can achieve her level of success, i.e. her income. She’s probably right. If you want to achieve a good income from writing just use how many hours she puts in, the type of books she writes, as a template and go for your life. You might just do it.

This all got me thinking about motivation. Where does it come from? What makes a writer, write?

Maya states frankly in the Q&A that she’s motivated by money. In that endeavour she’s succeeded ten times over. All kudos to her. But me? I’ve never been motivated by cash. The most I’ve ever dreamt of having is enough to give up my day job to write full time, because I love to write and want to do it as often as I can. Maya calls herself a ‘one draft writer’, who tweaks as she goes but doesn’t indulge in manuscript overhauls. She writes it: she sells it. That’s it. But a big part of what I love about writing is the quest for perfection, which can only be achieved, at least for me, through much navel gazing and copious manuscript rewrites.

Oh I know, there’s no such thing as perfect. All perfectionists know this, yet they persist in the pursuit of it for reasons even they don't understand. I write because I'm looking for something I can't identify until I’ve found it. That perfect word, the best possible sentence structure, the scene that shows every emotion without me having to tell anything. I want to know my characters inside out and by extension comprehend a little more about human psychology. I can’t achieve this depth of understanding on the first draft, which for me leaves the book feeling unfinished. I couldn’t submit anything that felt unfinished, I don’t think it’s in me (Geez even this blog got 2 drafts :)).

I know, this all sounds very lofty for someone who’s ‘just a romance writer’, one who pens dirty books at that. I’m not trying to sound self important, merely trying to understand and explain myself, much in the way I try to understand and explain my characters. I write because I love it, and I love it precisely because it is difficult (which incidently is also the reason I hate it at least three times a week. Oh yeah I’m messed up). If anyone could do it what would be so darned special about it? I write romance in particular not because it sells, but because it provides the best opportunity to delve into the full gamut of human emotions from euphoria to despair, and still lets you give your characters a happy ending. I write the ‘dirty’ books because so much of human emotion rises to the surface before, during or after sex, which makes it very fertile ground for the likes of me.

None of this is to say I wouldn’t like to make more money from my writing, I would. But I’m not jealous of Maya’s earning figures. Like I said, all I’ve ever wanted is enough to make writing my full-time job. That’s the dream, but it’s a catch 22. The time to write is hard to find when you do have a day job and a family underfoot, and giving up that regular income is not an option until you make enough from writing to replace it. 600k per year is not something I envisage ever making, not at my writing speed. Even a tenth of that would be nice, but it’s still a long way off.

In the meantime I’m going to keep plugging away at my love/hate relationship with writing while trying to produce more books than I have been. My kids are getting older and don’t need the kind of constant attention they once did. The motivation that crumbled away for me a couple of years ago is back. I want to write again. I'm not forcing out every painful word like I'm passing a gall stone. Time and energy are still at a premium but I’m working on that. I’m confident for the first time in a while that I will have more books coming out in future.

Books that will be as perfect as I can make them, even if it takes five drafts.

So what's your motivation? Whatever it is, I wish you an abundance of it this week.



  1. Great article Sami. Makes me feel like I'm dragging the chain, which of late, yes I have. lol. But hopefully next year may be better. Money isn't a movtivation for me either, it's success in having a novel published, an ahievement for me and to give readers the enjoyment they seek. I love knowing a reader will be taken away from their everyday hum drum and relax for a while. This is motivation enough. Besides all this I really enjoy writing, meeting other writers and readers. :)

  2. I've been dragging the chain myself Suz :). Not to worry, everything will right itself. Good luck with your latest writing endeavours.