A story, an article, an essay or poem all begin with motivation. All move forward because of it.
The concept of motivation is defined as follows:
- verb to motivate: to give (someone) a reason for doing something: to be a reason for (something).
- The noun motivation: the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something: the act or process of motivating someone: the condition of being eager to act or work: the condition of being motivated: a force or influence that causes someone to do something.
- Motive: NOUN: something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive’ the goal or object of a person’s actions:(in art, literature, and music) a motif. ADJECTIVE; causing, or tending to cause, motion; pertaining to motion.
- The noun motion: the act or process of moving or of changing place or position; movement.
- By reference, the noun emotion can be defined as any mental state which provokes a reaction or response in the body or behavior of an individual.
A single act creates adjacent questions. Example: Someone lied. What was the motive for the lie? Or, what motivated the person to lie? What was his/her motivation for lying? Did someone else influence the decision to lie?
You see what I mean. A single concept, always leading back to itself. You may ask what this has to do with writing. A lot, actually.
Writers are often asked “Why do you write? What motivates you to write every day? What’s your motivation for working in only one genre or many genres? In the end, what the writer is being asked the same question.
Writers deal in motive with every sentence they put on paper. For some, personal motives drive the writer to impart information for instructional purposes or to relate recent events. Academics and journalists are both highly motivated people. Each also has outside influences that put pressure on their internal motives.
Yet, for all that, what they write also imparts a milder form of motive; the importance of the material involved. The work may be critical for understanding a process or a theory. At the same time, the immediacy of a journalist’s report can have many influences and influencing properties. Political commentary, for instance, both tells of influences within politics, while attempting to swing the reader toward a particular opinion simultaneously.
When you look at poets, fiction writers and creative non-fiction writers, motivation spreads its wings and flies. Not only do the writers have their own motivations—for writing, for telling a specific story, or using a specific subject—but they also must deal with fluctuating motivations within the body of the work they’re doing. For fiction writers, in particular, this requires personal motivations and those of each of the story’s characters.
And if you believe that memoirists have it easier, think again. They have personal motives for writing a specific memoir piece at that moment and the motivations they experienced at the time of the actual event about which they’re writing. Also, they’re required to acknowledge (either internally or on the page) all of the motivations that lead up to and away from the event.
Movement is never just forward or backward. Lateral movement takes a slice of time and effort, as well. Writers are often on the lateral plain with one project, while taking steps forward on others. During revision and editing, movement is both forward and backward.
When you think about the mechanics of motivations and motives, the world starts spinning. We do this juggling act on a subconscious level most of the time. It comes naturally. Consider daydreaming. That pastime is a deliberate invention of motivations and responses. Fiction is no different. Allowing ourselves to sink into a memory—pleasant or not—is the same, except more emotionally charged.
My motives? Some days, instruction stands at the head of the class. Other days, pure invention sends shivers of delight down my arms to create gooseflesh thrills. Right now, I’m moving in four directions: forward with NaNoWriMo, backward with revision, laterally with research, and up because of the high I’m getting from the creative process I’m in at the moment.
So, tell me. Do you know your motivations for writing, for reading, for spinning tales at the local pub? Are you moving forward or backward, or have you chosen to remain lateral for a while? Drop a note in the comment section and tell me.
If any are interested, you can read two of my recent articles on The Working Writers Club website.