Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Motivation in Writing and Life by Terri Reed

As writers, we all have different reasons for doing what we do. Today, author Terri Reed provides insight into what keeps her creating. -- Sandy

Terri: Motivation is defined as the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. The general desire or willingness of someone to do something. Motivation is a buzzword in the writing world. Our characters must be motivated to act. If the characters are going through the story acting without proper motivation, the characters become unbelievable and unsympathetic.

Dwight Swain in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer says a story is a succession of Motivation-Reaction-Action units.

Motivating stimulus comes from outside the focal character, she then reacts (internally/emotionally) and then acts (physical action or speech). This chain forms a link to create a pattern that moves the story forward.

This same pattern can be played out in our real lives. Every action we take is motivated by something that causes a reaction that then prompts us to act.

This seems like such a simple concept in theory. The temperature drops, my body feels cold, I turn up the heat.

But what motivates the creative person? Why does a painter paint? A baker bake? A writer write?

I can’t speak to the painter or the baker because I am neither. But I can talk about my motivations for writing. Each author comes to the task of writing with different motivations. It’s important to know what motivates you as a writer. To then use that motivation to keep writing.

As a child making up stories that I told only to myself was a way of coping with the chaos surrounding me. Stories were safe because they came from within me. I could control what happened in the stories I told myself. I wasn’t alone in the stories and I felt powerful, much different than I felt in the real world. I should tell you I wasn’t physically abused or neglected as a child. But there was chaos just the same. My parents fought. I was alone in my room most of the time to escape the fighting. I was picked on at school for the way I looked. I don’t tell you this for sympathy but to show the motivating factors from outside myself that I reacted to by withdrawing into isolation. The only action I felt safe with was to create stories for myself. Then I started journaling on the advice of my church group counselor who most likely saw my pain. Journaling was a huge outlet for me for many years. I poured out my angst on to the pages of many diaries.

But the stories in my head never left. Characters would swim to the surface wanting to be let out. In junior high and high school my English teachers encouraged my writing. In college I took a creative writing class and the professor’s encouragement to pursue writing dug deep into me and wouldn’t let go. But I didn’t have the self-confidence to try. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I found the courage to pursue this dream of being a writer.

At first I was motivated by the need to be creative. I needed an outlet for the ideas and characters in my head. Then I wrote to prove I could do it. I wanted to accomplish something that I didn’t feel I could do.

Now, having written many books over many years, I’ve realized my motivations are more complicated. I write to work out issues in my life. I write to help support my family. I write because if I stop I fear I’ll disappear. I write for the joy of the journey which is hard work but so rewarding when I finish a story. And I keep writing to have an impact on others--this motivation came later as I began receiving reader mail where the readers were touched, encouraged and their faith strengthened by a story.

What motivates you as a writer? 


Terri Reed’s romance and romantic suspense novels have appeared on Publisher’s Weekly top 25, Nielsen’s Bookscan top 100 and featured in USA Today, Christian Fiction Magazine and Romantic Times Magazine, finaled in RWA’s RITA contest, National Reader’s Choice Award contest, ACFW’s The Carol Award contest. Contact Terri @ or P.O. Box 19555 Portland, OR 97224