Thursday, 24 July 2008

Why Write?

If you want to write well then you have to write for the love of it, and not for anything that you hope it might bring you. Because it’s love of the craft that’s going to keep you going for all the long years that it can take to become a halfway-decent writer.

Teresa M Amabile is currently the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. In 1985 she studied how writers are motivated* and concluded that while intrinsic motivation (writing for enjoyment) increased the quality of work produced, extrinsic motivation (hoping for financial success or fame) led to decreased quality. Which is just as well, when you consider that less than 5% of writers make a living at the job, while even fewer ever achieve any sort of glory, fame or notoriety from the work.

*Amabile, T. M. “Motivation and Creativity: Effects of Motivational Orientation on Creative Writers.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48, no. 2 (February 1985): 393-399.

10 comments:

Luc2 said...

Couldn't agree more. I write what I like, because if I don't enjoy writing it, why would someone else enjoy reading it?

In the stories I critique, I sometimes see these little details, in description or mannerisms of certain characters. And in that attention to detail I see the love and effort the writers poured into the piece, and sometimes that really takes the writing to a different level, at least for me.

liz fenwick said...

I suppose it makes me feel better!

luc2 - it's good to know that the effort and love can at least lift the level of the writing for you :-)

Luc2 said...

Ehm, Liz, it still has to be done well. When someone describes a character at the start of a chapter in detail, for three paragraphs without any discernible action, conflict or plot development, I'll start skimming, no matter how lovingly the hairs peeking from the characters nostrils are described.

liz fenwick said...

i'm with you on that one :-)

Sally Zigmond said...

I get twitchy if I can't write for any reason - a bit like a junkie needing a fix.

How Publishing Really Works said...

I write fiction because I love it, and non-fiction when the fiction doesn't come--I love writing that too, but my relationships with the two are very different.

At the moment, I'm on a non-fiction streak: I don't know why. On non-fiction days I write a lot more than on fiction days: but what ever sort of day it is I try to write a few hundred words at least. To paraphrase Natalie Goldberg, I just keep my pen moving and hope something good comes out of it.

Jane

Marian said...

It makes sense to write for the love of it rather for any financial benefit, unless the writer is certain of being paid for the work. That guarantee only applies if the writer is related to a publisher or has been in the news recently.

If you write for the sheer love of it, though, you'll have pleasure in your work even if it's never published.

Debs said...

At the moment fiction writing doesn't pay me, so I write non-fiction to pay the bills and fiction because it's an escapism from the daily grind of life.

DOT said...

Hmm… difficult to encapsulate why I write. To show off is definitely part of my motivation. There's honest for you!

But I am a driven creative individual. Always have been for reasons I don't fully understand. If I am not scribbling, I am doodling or cooking - I find that creative too.

Writing, as Jane says, takes on many guises. Academic writing is as different from copywriting as that is from longer commissioned pieces - and even they vary depending on the topic - to writing for oneself.

The last, in my opinion, is the most difficult. With the others it is possible to retain some sense of objectivity over your material, which is not always the case when writing for oneself.

Oneself, an audience of one, is too easy to indulge and too accepting of personal idiosyncrasies that may escape or irritate a wider readership.

litlove said...

I couldn't agree more. I've published several academic books and in each case the process takes years and the pleasure in seeing the book out comes and goes in 24 hours. You have to love the craft itself more than anything else, because it's the only real thing that lasts.