I have a confession to make: When I first dreamed of being an author, I wasn’t dreaming about changing my readers’ lives.
I also wasn’t dreaming about what a great example I would be setting for my nieces, or how publishing my own book would make me that much more effective in helping others publish theirs.
Nope, back in my early 20s I didn’t have such an altruistic vision.
Back then, I wanted just one thing, and it was not the right thing. Not by a country mile.
What did I want? Watch my face turn an unpleasant shade of crimson as I make this admission: I wanted applause.
You know, fame.
I wanted to be somebody.
I wanted people to look at me and think, “Oooo! Kelly’s a successful author! She must be very special!”
Now, any of my fellow personal growth nerds out there will immediately recognize what I actually wanted.
I didn’t actually want to write a book. I actually wanted to feel better about myself.
I wanted to feel like I was worthy. Like I deserved love and praise. And I thought I had to “do something spectacular” in order for these needs to be met.
Now, far be it for me to tell you what is and is not the “right” motivation for you. It may be that applause would be compelling enough for you.
But for me, it wasn’t good enough.
How do I know? Because as a motivation, it did not result in me actually getting my book into the world.
It took 20 years (and a boatload of experience) for me to develop the kind of motivation that produced momentum.
By which I mean to say, supported the adventure of writing an entire book.
If your book dream has not come to fruition, perhaps you’re also suffering from Outdated Motivation Syndrome (OMS).
OMS is the unconscious belief that writing a book will get you some combination of love, safety and belonging—the things you needed most when you were young.
It’s not that these desires absolutely will not come to fruition in the process of writing a book.
It’s just that they’re often a pleasant byproduct. They rarely succeed at providing the primary motivation you’re looking for.
Not sure if your motivations are in the right column? Check out these symptoms of OMS:
- You’ve been meaning to write a book for years, but you never seem to prioritize it
- You imagine that writing and publishing a successful book will solve (some or all of the) problems in your life
- It feels like an absolute MUST that the book garner public praise for you; otherwise, it’s not worth doing
- You fantasize about people who’ve hurt you in the past reading the book and realizing how wrong they were about you
Every feeling and desire is valid. They all give us LOTS of good information about ourselves and our lives.
But not every feeling or desire is an effective motivation for writing a book.
On the other hand, here are ten great motivations for writing a book. And by “great,” I mean motivations I’ve seen work for author after author, year after year.
Ten Effective Motivations for Writing a Book
- You want to build and grow a business
- You want to help people
- You want to prove to yourself you can do a hard thing
- You want to get a traumatic story onto the page—so it’s not living in your body anymore
- You’ve got something to say that’s busting you at the seams
- You enjoy crafting gripping stories (esp. important for you fiction writers!)
- You enjoy hearing yourself talk, whether orally or on the page (*raises hand*)
- You want to set a great example for people you love
- You love writing; it feels like self-care
- Life is asking for this book!
As you can see, some of the above are highly practical; others are whimsical, mysterious or just plain fun. A combination of both is a good thing!
Even if you’re writing your book with the practical motivation of growing your business, you’re going to have a hard time finishing if you don’t find something that speaks to your soul in the process.
For me, it was the fact that I found writing my book highly enjoyable in addition to useful for my business.
Personally, I leaned on #1, #2, #7, and #9 most heavily while writing The Book You Were Born to Write.
You’ll notice, “Applause” and “Fame” and “Specialness” did not make the above list. And truth be told, I didn’t really think about any of these things when I was working on my book the past couple of years. Which is a good thing, since they got me nowhere for a very long time.
Shows what 20 years and the right kinda motivation can do!
What’s your primary motivation for writing? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
And if you’d like a 1:1 pep talk, why not schedule a call with one of our Publishing Consultants? It’s completely free, no obligation. (PS: All three of them have successfully written their own books, so they know what it takes from personal—and professional—experience!)
8 thoughts on “The Worst Reason to Write a Book”
Thank you! Your blog has been so helpful and given me so much useful information on publishing and industry dos and dont’s. I used your outline templates because I needed some serious organization; super helpful. Then I did a word count and realized I only had half a book. Then I did some journalling and came to the conclusion I was not enjoying writing this book, even though I was doing it for the right reasons. Then I threw it away! Freedom! Freedom from “writing this book” for almost ten years. Every time I would sit down to write, I wanted to work on one of my paintings instead. It was feeling like a chore. Doing the outline helped me discover the things about myself I needed to learn. I feel so free having let it go. Now the real book I was meant to write will surface when it is time. Love love love your blog and videos!
Wow Rio I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy hearing someone is NOT writing a book! YEAHH!!!! Here’s to following our hearts and guts, and only doing what feels like a 9 or higher on an enjoyment scale of 1-10. (And yes, I completely agree that the right book will bubble up at exactly the right time!) Well done! Love+Books, Kelly
I love your blog posts, videos and content! You’re truly amazing and inspiring!
I’ve recently self-published a book, and I felt for me #2 #4 #9 and #10 were on the top of my list as motivators.
It’s funny because I was reading your article, I noticed that some of the “OMS signs” showed up for me while promoting the book, not so much while writing it. It was that subconscious feeling of wanting to be approved, to be loved, and to receive an amazing review. Thanks to my spiritual practice I’m able to bring this feeling to awareness and and give it love 😉
Thank you again and much love,
Thank you for your comment. Congratulations on self-publishing your book! The OMS signs during promotion of your book make total sense, and I think many authors would agree with you on that. Bringing a peaceful awareness to those feelings is such a great approach. Promoting your book is essential, but often not an easy or (for some) enjoyable thing. Just keep in mind that one of your main motivations is to help as many people as possible. This helps shift the focus and reinforce the importance of that promotion.
Thanks for the email,
To attempt to answer your question it would have to be
To be honest, I have all these experiences that scream to be let out. I wanted to write a book that would help others to realize that real change is possible. I’m a recovering addict, 5 time prison offender, (no sex crimes or violence) I was high ranking member of a notorious prison gang, who as a result of a spiritual awakening, chose love over hate and am now clean and sober and living a life based on love and forgiveness instead of hate and blame!! My entire life is filled with countless surreal experiences that would cause you to call me a liar. Lol. If you know people that could be helped by a book like that plz feel free to email me back. I have all the stories just not the know how.
Thanks for your time
Michael, Thank you for sharing a bit about your story. I think you would absolutely have an audience for the wisdom you have to share. Please feel free to check out the rest of the blog, as well as our YouTube channel for lots of free resources that will help you along your writing journey. https://www.youtube.com/knliterary. We encourage you to keep writing, and please let us know how it continues to go for you!
Thank you for this article which answered the nagging question I’ve always had ever since I was inspired to write. Speaking up and self expression don’t seem be admirable traits for women from where and how I grew up. It also took me forever to be rid of the wrong reasons you mentioned. Now, it’s all ten of the motivations you highlighted. No. 5 somehow made me smile inside. You’ve provided such affirmation. Thank you again!
Susan, Thank you for your kind words. We are so glad you found the blog helpful. Finding the “right reason” to write can often get things moving more quickly. Let us know how your writing journey continues. Best of luck!