7 Book Writing Motivations & ObstaclesApr 05, 2021
What’s your reason for writing a book? When someone sets out to write their first book, they typically don't finish the task because they lack the motivation to keep going when the writing process gets tough.
How many potential authors drop out before completing their first book? A study by the Jenkins Group revealed that eighty-one percent of people say they should write a book. However, according to Statista, the percentage of people who actually complete the task is less than one percent. I want you to be that one person out of eighty-one who has actually finished writing a book.
The main difference between the multitude of people who only dream about completing a book and the relatively few people who actually complete the process is commitment. That level of commitment comes with having a clear reason why. In this article, I’ll help you zero in on your “why” and show you how to use it to motivate yourself throughout the process.
7 Highly Effective Motivations of Successful Authors
Here are some of the most effective motivations I’ve seen from students in my writing classes and other fellow writers who have completed and published books.
1. Creative Outlet: Many writers write because they have a lot of ideas in their heads. Writing helps many of us get ideas out. Much in the same way musicians play music and painters paint, writing can provide an outlet for creative ideas waiting to be expressed.
2. Meet People: This may seem odd since writing is a solitary activity, but writing a book can connect you with a community of people who share your interest in writing. There are thousands of groups to choose from, and many offer support and encouragement to aspiring authors. Just go onto Facebook, Instagram, or another social media platform, and search for “writers’ group.” You’ll likely find dozens to choose from. If you prefer in-person groups, check with your local library, community center, or college to find writing classes and groups in your area.
Check out my How Can Other People Help You Finish Your Book.
3. Document Something: Some writers choose to write their first book to document specific topics. This might involve a family history, a community event, or a complicated process. For example, one of my students wrote her first book to document how her grandfather established their family’s ranch and the struggles he went through. I have a fellow member in a writers’ group who wrote a book to document the history of the town where he was raised.
4. Inspire Someone: Some writers write to inspire other people. One of my writing class students wrote her first book to inspire her daughter. She wanted to show her daughter that anything was possible, so she wrote and published a book to demonstrate that.
5. Build Credibility: One of the quickest ways to build credibility on a topic is to write a book about it. If someone wants to know if you’re qualified to perform a service, showing them a book you’ve written can give you instant credibility. This is a common approach used by consultants, professors, and public speakers. To build his credentials as a financial consultant, one of my close friends wrote a book that explained how to make businesses more financially efficient. He credits that book as a key factor in the quick success of his consulting business.
6. Share Knowledge: Are you an expert at something? Do you want to share your knowledge with others? Writing a book is a highly effective way to share knowledge. My most successful book, Amazing Interview Answers, was originally written to share knowledge with college students. When I decided to write it, I was presenting workshops to students who wanted to improve their interview skills. Writing my book allowed me to share my knowledge of job interview techniques beyond the workshop attendees to people around the world who could benefit from that knowledge.
7. Make Money: Many first-time authors dream of publishing a best-selling book that will have them swimming in thousand-dollar bills. If it worked for JK Rowling, why not you? The truth is that very few authors make more than a few thousand dollars a year writing books. There are ways to make money from books, but it requires incredible talent, substantial hard work, and a fair amount of luck. If you’re willing to write for years, perfecting your skills and publishing dozens of books, you might have a chance of earning a living. Or you could write a book to establish your credentials and leverage those credentials to earn money as a consultant, instructor, or public speaker. See #5 above for more details on this approach.
7 Obstacles that Stop Aspiring Authors
Now that you’ve thought about your “why,” what about the obstacles holding you back? We all have challenges in life, and some can shut down all your momentum while writing a book.
When you start writing, you might feel overwhelmed, thinking you can’t possibly complete an entire book. I’m going to list the top obstacles I’ve heard from my writing class students and other writers I know. I’ll also include tips for overcoming these obstacles.
1. Too Busy: I’ve heard this excuse from many writers. When you think about what your priorities are, and writing a book is one of them, you CAN find the time! I had a very busy life when I wrote my first book. I had a full-time job, I was married, and I had a young child. To find time to write, I would wake up an hour earlier every morning, and I would write before my workday started. I also reallocated the time I previously spent watching television or scrolling through endless social media posts, and I spent that time writing my book instead. It’s amazing how much time you can free up when you’re mindful of how much time you spend on unproductive activities.
2. Self-Doubt: There are people who really want to write a book, but they just don’t believe in themselves. Are you one of those people? Well, you don’t have to listen to that inner critic anymore. Writing a book is well within your abilities, so tell those negative voices in your head that they’re not wanted so you can focus on your motivation for writing a book instead.
3. Distractions: If you feel there are too many distractions in your life, you might want to find a hiding spot where you can isolate yourself. For me, the best hiding place is a coffee shop where no one knows me. When writing a book, I’ll find a comfortable chair in a discrete corner of that coffee shop, put on headphones, and focus on my writing. What might be your writing haven: a quiet room in your home, a desk in a library, or somewhere else people can’t find you? Remember to turn off your phone and disconnect from Wi-Fi when you’re writing. Otherwise, those pesky distractions will find you.
4. Perfectionism: This is a huge issue for some people. They feel like every word, every sentence, and every paragraph has to be perfect. The easiest way to get over perfectionism is to teach yourself that the first draft of the book is only raw material. It’s not intended to be perfect. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be good. It just needs to be a collection of raw materials that can be refined into a good book through the critiquing, editing, and proofreading processes. Writing your first draft should involve whatever ideas come out of your head. You’ll have plenty of time to refine those ideas later, so don’t let perfectionism slow you down.
5. Painful Experiences: Do you want to write a memoir but are too afraid to relive painful experiences? Writing stories from your past can stir up emotional struggles. Writing can also help you get through those feelings. Reliving painful experiences by writing about them is a great way to get through the pain. While it might hurt, you can embrace writing as part of your healing process.
6. Lack of Credentials: I’ve seen dozens of social media posts from writers who claim they can’t publish a book because they don’t have the credentials to write one. The truth is there are no credentials required for writing a book. You don’t need to have a college degree, you don’t have to take a writing class, and you don’t have to come from a certain lineage of people who have written books. Anyone can write a book, and that includes you. So if someone says you don’t have credentials to be an author, do what I did and prove them wrong.
7. Not Enough Money: I’ve heard of writers saying they can’t write a book because they don’t have enough money. What? Since when do you need money to write? Honestly, you don’t need to pay a single cent to write and publish a book. Provided you have a device to record your words, whether it be a computer, a notebook, or a phone, you can write a book for free. You can also edit it, format it, and upload it to publishing sites at no cost to you. In full transparency, you might want to spend a few hundred dollars if you want to hire a book cover designer or if you can’t find anyone who’ll edit your book for free, but it is possible to publish your book with little to no money.
Overcoming obstacles and knowing what success looks like can help you get through the long process of writing a book. Imagine yourself having your own published book in your hands. What does it look like? How did you get there? How will you feel?
Now, think about the book that’s in your mind now. Do you have a specific date you want it published? How can you anticipate and overcome any obstacles that might prevent you from publishing your book by that date?
I had different motivations for each book I wrote. My most recent book was for a class I was teaching, and I needed it before the class started. I used that deadline to keep myself motivated and on track to complete the book for my students.
What does success look like to you? Is it showing your book to someone in particular? Is it to see the finished product yourself? Maybe you’re planning a family reunion and you want to hand copies out at the event.
For my first book, success was having a physical copy of the book I could share with other people. Success for you could be having that creative outlet; it could be impressing somebody; it could be anything.
Now that you’ve read some of the reasons for writing books, I want you to complete this sentence: the main reason I want to write a book is ________________. Your reason should be specific to you; it’s yours and yours alone. When you’re struggling with writer’s block or you’re having trouble getting motivated, go back to this statement and think about the reason you’re writing your book. Use your reason to get back on track, finish your book, and become a published author. Wouldn’t that be much better than binge-watching the latest TV series or seeing the next thousand posts on your social media feed?
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