Everyone’s writing goals are different, but I think it’s safe to assume we all want to be productive and happy. Easier said than done. Last year, I asked Twitter two big questions: “What motivates your writing–what helps you be and stay productive?” and “What encourages your writing–when do you feel good about your writing and yourself as a writer?” Twitter is pretty smart, cumulatively, and I got some terrific answers. Funnily enough, those answers boiled down into three major “types”.
Now, a quiz. Pick the phrase you are most likely to say.
“I got so much writing done today! Thank goodness for
A) that deadline at the end of the week–it gave me the push I needed!”
B) that new idea I got–I couldn’t wait to see it on paper!”
C) that writing conference–it really got me fired up!”
“I had a great writing day!
A) I made a huge dent in my work in progress!”
B) I wrote the best scene–I’m still laughing!”
C) I got some great feedback!”
“Guys, I suck at writing.
A) I haven’t written anything new for a month, and missed an open submissions window.”
B) All my words are dead on the page and my characters are boring me.”
C) None of my beta readers are getting back to me, and I got a mean review.”
Tally your scores! Most people who talked to be about their motivation and encouragement fell into one of three broad mindsets, which I’m calling the Striving, the Story, and the Social profile.
All or Mostly A’s: Striving
These writers reported being motivated by: “hunger”, “deadlines”, “filling in the blanks.” Their encouragements were things like: “having written”, “hitting a goal”, “getting paid.” Sample responses:
feeling of accomp when I finish a scene/thing – just that it’s done — I finished a thing, and there it is, and even if it’s bad I could let it loose in the world
Knowing I have written is the reward for writing.
to be honest i get encouragement even from writing what turns out later to be crap. i always feel like it’s great @ the time…
Encouraged by sales, money and being TOC with great authors.
All or Mostly B’s: Story
These writers said they were motivated by things like “exciting ideas”, “a concept I can’t ignore”, “great new characters.” They were encouraged by “expressing a scene just the way I envision.” Sample responses:
Fun when it’s going well
Finding my work to be something I’d want to read
My positivity is all thanks to characters.
Enjoying what I’ve written and being able to picture the scenes (either written or upcoming) in my head
All or Mostly C’s: Social
These writers said they were motivated by “community”, “accountability”, “sharing the story”. They reported being encouraged by “feedback”, “getting it out to readers”. Sample responses:
getting good feedback that helps me grow as a writer
knowing others will read them helps too
Encouragement you get from other people, friends and colleges. You can’t do that either unless you have work to be commented on
I love it when people say they like something I’ve written. So, having a story get published and kinda disappear without a trace is a bummer.
All three profiles are capable of producing great stories. Almost everyone cares about all three things, but one tends to dominate. Identifying your motivation-encouragement profile is all about getting things done and feeling good about yourself.
So you know your motivation-encouragement profile: what now? Well, it can help you identify the source of a block, and what you can do about it. Striving writers can set a low goal, and trust their momentum to carry them from there. Story writers might skip ahead to a scene that’s really grabbing them. Social writers can find a reader who’ll enthusiastically push them for the next part of the story.
If you’re a mix of profiles and you’re having trouble, think about what’s lacking right now. Something to work toward? A great idea? A reader? Work through the possibilities, and you might land on something that gets you going.
For me, the biggest benefit of discovering these profiles was learning how to better encourage other writers! Someone complaining about a lack of feedback won’t be comforted by being reminded how much they wrote today. If we can learn to motivate and encourage each other in the ways that work for them, we all get closer to being productive, happy writers. Mission accomplished.
Have you thought about what motivates and encourages your writing? What’s your motivation-encouragement profile?