Trials of the intrinsically motivated writer…

I mentioned a bit ago that I’m an intrinsically motivated writer (which, in all honesty, I think writers must be to continue to do this thing day after day, week after week, month after month, and so on). If you’re unfamiliar with motivation, intrinsic motivation is that which comes from inside you. You do it because you like to do it, not because there is some kind of reward at the end (extrinsic motivation).

Getting published is certainly a wonderful reward, but for a writer like me, it happens so darn infrequently that the reward is too far removed from the work I’m putting in.

However, I come back to the desk and the document time after time to improve the story, write more, and do the hard work. Because of my life circumstances right now, though, all this happens far more slowly than I’d like. Sometimes days or even weeks will pass before I really have a chance to sit down and work on things. It’s just how it is with kids and a house to manage and dogs to take care of and all that. I would love to spend an hour every day working on blogging or writing books or things that will move this writing career forward, but some days I just don’t get that hour when my brain is ready for working.

I often don’t write on the days the big kids are home (so that’s four days a week out) and the baby isn’t always cooperative with being calm on the days it’s just us during my most productive hours (morning time). I mean, sure after lunch, he sleeps, but dang. I’m basically asleep at that time, too. Very difficult to sit down and write when you’re falling asleep at the keyboard (and having to delete sleepy typing every few minutesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss).

So, in order to help myself a little bit, I put together a team of readers. People who volunteered to read the things I wrote in their various stages of completion and idea formation. I had hoped this would motivate me to sit down and write more often knowing that people were waiting to read.


It hasn’t worked out like that for me, actually.

Because I’m intrinsically motivated.

Which means that, while yes the feedback is nice and absolutely necessary, knowing that they are out there hasn’t actually motivated me to write faster. I guess I feel a bit guiltier about not writing more, but that hasn’t translated to more output.

That darn intrinsic motivation!

There are other things that need to be done in my life, like spending time with the baby forming a good attachment and keeping the house at a base level of tidiness and spending time with the rest of my family when they’re here and getting a somewhat adequate amount of sleep, which often involves napping.

In some ways, it would be nice to be more extrinsically motivated so that this motivator I’ve set up would work better. That I’d be so driven for the feedback, I’d write more. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful their feedback has been. They’ve shown me weaknesses, helped me make some decisions, and encouraged me along the way. I hope it’s a rewarding endeavor for my readers (based on their feedback, I think it is) and I’m certain there are two who wished I WOULD write faster. They are really invested in this storyline and it must be painful to wait days or even weeks between chapters and installments.

It’s hard to set up a reward system to write more when writing itself IS the reward. Or at least writing when one isn’t falling asleep at the keyboard. I have such a narrow window right now of adequate brain power, but my desire to produce far exceeds the time I have. I have two full handfuls of books I’d like to be writing or editing and I know that the time will come when I can really focus and work on things.

I suppose it could be handy to write a list of all the things I have in progress and just work from the list (knowing that getting some children’s stories nailed down would take far less time than a novel). I certainly do like my lists.

Of course, none of that really resolves the time issue (even now, I’m working on a timer, waiting for the baby to be DONE laying on the floor. Currently he’s happy enough, but that will come to a screeching halt). So I suppose I just need to look back and take my own advice regarding discipline and be more disciplined about taking the small moments I have to write and doing what I can in them if it’s worth the time.

Or perhaps I need to just practice patience, knowing that things won’t always be like this. It will get easier as everyone gets older. I will sleep through the night again some day. The baby will sleep more reliably so I can work some day. All my brain power and function will eventually return. And the writing will always be there.

Do you find yourself to be more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? How does that help you to achieve your own goals?