Once upon a different life of mine, while I was a student in Principles of Learning (Pscy 475) way (WAAAAAY) back in my days as an undergrad at Kansas State University, the professor discussed motivation with this simple anecdote:
A young girl, proficient at cello, loved to play her instrument. She practiced all the time. Her parents, seeing this as an opportunity for reward, praised their daughter and started paying her for practice time.
She lost her love and stopped playing.
No, this isn't yet another blog post in a sea of blog posts on the InterwebTM about the evils of money. Money is not evil. This is simply a discussion about motivation.
As I've started writing again, I've had to ask myself, "why?" Writing takes energy and time and sometimes sucks emotional well-being*. Writing is not easy and the "rewards" are never guaranteed.
Look, nothing I do in life comes with a guarantee. If I do X, I'm not always going to have Y. Life simply doesn't work that smoothly, simply, or, unfortunately, with such logic. I do know this: back in 2011, especially in the fall as I anticipated the birth of Elliot, I felt compelled to "get paid" for my writing.
Yes, I believe and always will believe writers should be paid for quality work--but I've also learned the pay, even professional rates, is never, never commiserate with the amount of time/effort expended on a project. And some non-paying markets exist where the readership carries more weight than any amount of money I could gain for some made up nonsense (i.e., fiction). Pay never correlates 100% with quality--but there is a correlation.
I'm talking about cashing in, making a pile of money because I "had to". Writing for pay has never been my sole motivation. I don't seek professional publication venues first and then down through semi-pro and token paying markets because I need the money or even want the money--what I want is to be able to tell stories which can be and should be published in those venues because they are good stories. It's a difference in motivation, however subtle, which guides me.
I lost sight of storytelling in 2011. I lost sight of storytelling and chased dollars. Things were not good at home. In early 2012, Aimee committed suicide. Chasing the wrong motivation brought stress and a sour taste which just didn't hold up as I rebuilt my life. Now, on the other side, I'm so happy and never want to lose sight of the important stuff again.
Kim and I often talk about things "serving us". Why expend energy if something doesn't serve you? It's a slightly different spin old "do what you love or at least get paid for it" adage. And making sure something serves us is my prime mover these days. I don't need the stress of trying to make writing pay the bills. I do need the rich intellectual stimulation and personal satisfaction which comes with a story well-told. This serves me, and in serving me, it serves Kim and strengthens our relationship.
This is the motivation, folks. This is why I write: to tell stories, grow my heart and mind, and do it for the love.
*Because, despite my claim that they don't in my previous post, rejections do bother me. They bother me enough to write better stories and work harder next time.Thank you, Doug Murano, for helping me remember the value of rejection.