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 it’s taking you forever to write your book, you may be writing it for the wrong reasons.


If your book dream has not come to fruition, perhaps you’re also suffering from Outdated Motivation Syndrome (OMS).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


  1. You want to build and grow a business
  2. You want to help people
  3. You want to prove to yourself you can do a hard thing
  4. You want to get a traumatic story onto the page—so it’s not living in your body anymore
  5. You’ve got something to say that’s busting you at the seams
  6. You enjoy crafting gripping stories (esp. important for you fiction writers!)
  7. You enjoy hearing yourself talk, whether orally or on the page (*raises hand*)
  8. You want to set a great example for people you love
  9. You love writing; it feels like self-care
  10. 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 matchmakers? 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!)

Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.