John Briggs Books

And yours, too!

What’s Your Motivation to Write?

Psychologists say there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsically motivated people do it for the satisfaction; extrinsically motivated people do it for the reward. Both approaches work, but the best writers are intrinsic self-starters.


Approximately 10% of writers make their living at it. The other 90% may make a few bucks – some may even find it to be a very good part-time job – but they have to write for the love of it. Even super rich writers – you know, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson, et al – got into it first and foremost for love of the written word. King kept writing when no one was publishing him and Rowling pecked away day after day in a coffee shop while her kids were at school. Their eventual success was beyond their wildest dreams, but still they kept writing

In other words, they were intrinsically motivated. And now that they’re rich, they keep writing. They write for the reason we’re supposed to – they have no other choice. They have stories to tell.

Staying Motivated to Write

Being motivated for all the right reasons doesn’t mean you don’t need a push now and then. Here are some tips to keep you going.

  1. List one good reason why you write. Whatever it is, know why you write. One good reason is all it takes to remind you that this is worth your time.
  2. Remember what your story is about. It’s tough to write if you get lost in the story or forget what you’re trying to say. Write a one- or two-line elevator pitch and look at it before you sit down to write.
  3. Meet someone else’s deadline. Tell friends you’ll have a story for them to read. Put pressure on yourself not to disappoint them. Or better yet, join a writers group that will put pressure on you to contribute. If the other writers are handing something in, you better do it, too.
  4. Don’t stop to edit. You’d be surprised at how stopping to rewrite your work all the time keeps you from writing more. If you’re not happy with what you’ve written, that’s fine – make a note and move on. Go back and fix it when you’ve finished your first draft. Trust me, rewriting is easier than writing – and knowing that you can finish a book will motivate you to write some more!
  5. Think about your readers. Every story needs an audience, otherwise you could keep it to yourself and be happy. Think about all those people who are going to read your book because they enjoy your work. Whether you write a best-seller or a book just for family, remember your readers – some of them will love you for it.

Being intrinsically motivated to write doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever think about the money. That first book sale will probably make you want to write even more. But writing can’t just be a choice – it has to be a passion. It has to be one of those things where you can’t see yourself doing anything else. Otherwise, it’s just a job – and if you’re like 90% of writers, you already have one of those. Make writing your passion, and you’ll find you have a hundred stories to tell. Your problem won’t be wasting time when you should be writing, it will be finding the time to write everything you have to say.

P.S.  I also find it helps to write about something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a Cold War spy thriller, Victorian romance, or vampires vs. zombies. If you love it, you’ll want to write it, and your readers will feel your enthusiasm. I love history and humor, and those themes comes through in a lot of my work. It’s why I write biographies, funny books, and sometimes funny biographies. Enjoy your work. I do!


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This entry was posted on March 15, 2015 by in Writing and tagged .


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