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Why do you want to be an author?
Get clear about your 'why' to boost your motivation when things get tough.
Do you struggle to get down to actually writing your book? Perhaps, sometimes, you feel like giving up and doing something else. Writing is just too hard. You want to be an author – but there’s so much work involved to get there – with no guarantee of success at the end. Is it really worth it?
We all struggle with motivation sometimes. Motivation to get started, to keep going, to push on through that tricky chapter, to unpick a plot problem or to plough through all that research.
The struggle is real. The struggle to get out of bed and bash out 500 words before work. To stay in and write while your friends are out socialising. To use that precious hour after the kids go to bed to work on your book, when you just want to watch TV. There’s always something you’d rather be doing. And if your friends and family are unsupportive, it’s even harder.
Yet I believe you’re already motivated to write a book – because you’re reading this newsletter. But perhaps you don’t think you are – because you don’t feel it. Well, you’re probably not going to feel it. And that’s OK. Motivation isn’t something you have to feel – it’s something that you do. That’s a concept we’ll return to in future posts. For now, as a starting point, let’s look at something that can help give your motivation a boost: and that’s simply to remind yourself why you want to be an author.
Focus on your ‘why’
Being clear about your motivation can also fuel your motivation. So ask yourself why you write – and keep checking in with yourself about that. Is it for external validation or to earn an income? To inform, educate or entertain? To learn about a topic yourself?
If you take some time to think about why you want to write your book, it will help keep you focused on your goal, and keep you motivated when you hit bumps in the road along the way (as, inevitably, you will). There are no right or wrong answers here. If you’re honest about your motivation, it will help you stay on track and develop the right strategy.
You don’t have to share this with anyone – yet. But if and when you get an agent, be honest with them about what you want to achieve too, as this will help them advise you better.
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10 reasons to become an author
Don’t know where to begin? Here are 10 possible reasons for becoming an author, ranging from the material to the esoteric, which I hope will inspire you when you’re feeling a bit ‘meh’ about your writing journey.
To be rich and/or famous. Very few authors get huge advances for their debut novel. Most books are, by definition, not bestsellers – and there’s no shame in being a ‘midlist’ author. But some authors make a lot of money. You could be one of them (but don’t count on it). If you achieve any degree of success, you can, however, expect some level of fame – even if it’s just among your fan base of loyal readers. You may also have the opportunity to take part in book events, literary festivals and media appearances.
To earn a living. A more achievable goal than being rich and famous. You would think. But most professional writers can’t give up the day job. However, if earning a sustainable living is your goal, factor this into your strategy early on. You may want to aim for an agent who is good at landing big deals and advances. You may want to be more market-focused about your writing. Or you may want to self-publish, for the higher royalties you’ll earn.
To build a career. Writing can help with your career in more ways than making ‘author’ your job description. If you’re an academic, writing can further your career and attract research funding. If you run a business, writing a business book can raise your profile and attract clients. But if you want to be a full-time author and write for a living, that’s a worthy goal too. Plan ahead for your next books, consider writing a series – and be patient.
For validation. Having your book traditionally published is a way of proving to yourself and others that your writing is of a certain level of quality. That it’s good enough to be published, with the logo of a Big Publisher on the spine. Self-publishing can also be a way to validate your work – if you sell a lot of copies and/or get a lot of positive reviews. But be wary about chasing validation, and your reasons for doing so. It can be a symptom of impostor syndrome.
To spend more time writing. If you love writing and want to spend more of your time doing it, getting published will make it more likely that you’ll have that time. You might get an advance from a publisher that you can use to ‘buy’ some of your time to write. You might sell enough self-published ebooks to go part-time in your job. Though it might take you many years and many books to accomplish your goal of writing full time.
Because you have something to say. Do you have a story burning away inside you? Perhaps something that has occupied your thoughts for years? Something you can’t not write? Humans have had the urge to share stories for millennia, to pass on knowledge, culture, history – or simply to entertain. Modern humans are no different. By writing a book, you’re joining a long tradition of storytelling, and doing something uniquely human by sharing it with other people, to affect and change them.
To help other people. This doesn’t just apply to self-help books, how-to guides, business books and textbooks. Memoir and fiction can also be great sources of help to readers. If you – or your protagonist – have overcome difficulties, reading about how they did so can be helpful and comforting to readers in a similar situation.
To learn something. You might be motivated by a fascination in your subject. If you write non-fiction books, you’ll need to do a lot of research. You may be teaching your readers about a topic – but you’ll also be learning about it yourself. If you write fiction, you’ll need to research your settings, historical period, and all sorts of details to bring your story and characters to life. If you write a memoir, you’ll learn about yourself. And, if nothing else, you’ll learn how to write. Writing is one of those things we learn to do by doing it.
To stay sane. A number of authors I know say they write because it helps them stay sane. Part of that is having a regular routine of doing something that’s just for you. Losing yourself in an activity – and a world – that you enjoy. Writing can also be cathartic. Writing about difficult events – whether as memoir or fiction – can help you process and come to terms with them.
For a shot at immortality. The creation of any art is a chance to have your work live on after you, and for you to be remembered by future generations. As Carl Sagan said: “Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors.” Life is fleeting, but stories last forever.
“Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Do any of these chime with you? Your reasons will be unique and personal to you - and may not even be in this list. Why do YOU want to be an author? Let us know in the comments, if you wish. Or just write your reasons down somewhere – perhaps on a sticky note near your laptop – to remind yourself when things get tough. Your ‘why’ will keep you going.