What Motivates You To Write?

It’s probably a little cliché to write about what makes me want to be a writer. If you ever happen upon any websites that promote writing and offer advice on becoming a writer, you’ll probably not struggle to find a page of quotations about why such-and-such a writer writes, as well as a long list of links or articles about why people write, and all of them essentially say the same thing. They write because writing is just something they have to do. I would share the same sentiments.

Not everyone is a writer, but everyone can write, and some people can write better than others, which is a no-brainer. Becoming a successful writer definitely doesn’t need as much effort as becoming a quality writer, an acclaim which requires the 10,000 hour (or more) treatment. To spend 10,000 hours focusing on anything requires a lot of determination, although I won’t deny that some people just end up having to do it. But when you are making this effort on a craft you love, then I think the effort counts for something different.

The Beatles may have played for 10,000 hours, or at least close to it, when they were in Hamburg.

If you look at the professional world today, there are so many graduates out of work, but there are a lot of jobs out there for people who already have two or three years experience. This is because companies don’t want to take the risk and make the effort to train people when there are already people out there who can do the same job. It’s a lot easier to hire a person who is already on their way towards fulfilling their 10,000 hours, so risk is reduced because job candidates already have proven their worth.

While I’m well on my way towards this requirement in my regular full-time bread winner, writing is something quite different. I don’t make money from writing (yet – touch wood), so my motivations are a little more obscure. If I made a living from writing then maybe I wouldn’t be writing this, or I’d be saying it a different way, but I don’t. I’m another one of the thousands or even millions of amateur writers out there who dreams of one day being plucked from obscurity to be awarded the Nobel Prize, or something similar.

Being a writer isn’t a glamorous lifestyle. It doesn’t pay particularly well and it requires long hours of revising and fussing a piece of work into the closest thing to perfection as possible. It is anti-social, frustrating, heart-breaking, and the rewards are hard to point to, but it seems that so many people want to be writers despite any thoughts on what is required to get there, and I’m not even talking about novelists or poets yet.

As much as I would like to write a novel or two, not to mention collections of poetry, I find myself most comfortable writing in non-fiction and journalistic articles. I am not sure why this is the case, but perhaps they can be constructed with more certainty and I find it less challenging to rearrange and edit with more success.

I read a lot of magazines and creative non-fiction, and this blog here is where I put in a lot of practice (but please remember that it is probably my biggest distraction also – I’ve no editor to battle with, except Herself of course). I read a wide variety of material, and the vast majority of my successes in getting writing into print have been in this genre. But when it doesn’t pay, where is the motivation?

I’ll tell you where I try to find it. One of my biggest motivations for writing is knowing where and what writing brings to me. Some of my closest friends are friends are probably only friends of mine because we met as writers at an open mic night in Seoul. If it wasn’t for these same people I would not have started writing. Since then, writing has introduced me to many different people, through blogging and through my other articles for the press here in Korea. Today, writing is presenting me with more and more opportunities. If I need further inspiration, I can look to others with more experience. My tutor in the part-time journalism course I am taking spoke about some of the famous and important people that he has interviewed during his career. If you ever read any of the interviews that are featured in music or film magazines for example, remember that writers carried out these interviews and spoke with those people you chose to read. There is so much to be learned from every person you meet, but to be given the opportunity to sit down and talk with a person with influence and to ask them questions which they answer for you, and then you transfer them to words on paper (or a screen) which people read, that’s a real privilege that even world leaders don’t get the chance to do.

More than this though, writing can bring you or I to places we may never have gone if we were not writers, and when there writing offers a stronger way to connect with that place. There are so many different ways I can explain this, but I’ll keep it simple, as it was this original thought that got me thinking about this post in the first place.

Mount Everest: it’s unlikely that you will find me here, but it makes for a good metaphor (pic via mashable.com)

This morning I opened up the instagram photograph app on my iphone and started scrolling through the photos that were uploaded over the previous night. Among the usual collections of food, architecture, graffiti, mountains and faces, was a picture of a man huddled over a small LED head lamp in a tent. The picture came from the National Geographic and was of one of their staff writers, Mark Jenkins, who was on assignment with the magazine as its team climbed Mount Everest. I later learned that the same guy was one of the climbers to reach the summit. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I’m never going to climb Mount Everest – I struggle with stairs. Despite my own reservations about the activity, this was where this man’s writing had taken him, literally to the top of the world.

After this morning’s inspiration (a word I am wary of using when discussing what I do, and I think every writer should be also), I took a wander with Herself into deepest, darkest Yeongtong where we went to a coffee shop which I knew had National Geographics for customers to read. After flicking through a few issues, I couldn’t help but be further convinced that here was the ultimate motivation to write more. Even if you are not interested in writing about or photographing West African tribal dress or climbing K2 without oxygen, here was clear indication that there is so much more to be seen in the world, and more importantly, there is more to be written about.

Maybe I always knew this, as I read plenty of magazines that do excellent features of worldwide events, but I think just seeing Mark Jenkins sitting in a tent working brought the reality home. That could, or maybe should, be me. Not in a tent, but somewhere out on the street or in front of new people and places challenging the way I bring the world to people to be read.

The more often I take myself outside to meet new people and see new places, the more there is to write about. The longer hours I spend buried in my computer monitor leaves me with less time to go outside and find the motivation and content to write about. There is always a story to be told, and as a writer busily working on completing my 10,000 hours, the world is where I should be focusing where I make the effort with my fingers and keyboard’s keys.

5 thoughts on “What Motivates You To Write?

  1. Pingback: Developing your writing skills: self-improvement for writers. « YWWSCRIBE

  2. Pingback: I must write now. | Writer Writing.

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    • I reckon that’s a minimum. Of course, as much matters about how you do what it is you’re doing for 10,000 hours.

      I remember when I was in sixth class and a Meath footballer came in to have a chat with us. Half the lads in the class nearly fell over trying to jump up and touch him, but I didn’t have a clue who he was, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, he stood up there and gave us a little talk, and one of the things he said was to forget the whole idea of practice makes perfect, because what if you’re practising poorly or doing something wrong. No, reiterated, practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

      I have forgotten a lot of things but for some reason I’ve been paying attention to these words a lot these days, even though I forgot them for most of secondary school (ego) and college (alcohol).


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