By Ellen Buikema
The road to writing is rocky.
What motivates people to not only write their stories but to send those book-babies out into the world?
Many people have a book in them to write. Thoughts roll through and around the mind, nudging to get written. Sometimes the words find their way to paper or screen. Other times the desire to write a manuscript is just a fleeting whim that goes nowhere.
After a discussion on bicycles—of all things—the answer hit me like flying road debris. The desire to tell a story laced heavily with stubbornness provided the perfect vehicle.
When I was in the early grades, about eight years old, I asked for a bicycle—a plain old or new two-wheeler. I didn’t care what it looked like or whether or not it had a bell or basket. I wanted the freedom to get out and about.
The request received a weird answer. “Sorry, Elle. If I buy you a bike and God forbid you get hurt, I’d never forgive myself.”
Apparently, if someone else bought the bike then it didn’t matter. A few months later a much older cousin donated his two-wheeler to me.
I beheld the behemoth with a mixture of joy and fear. The heavy, twenty-eight-inch rust-brown and tan Schwinn was way too big for my tiny self. I had to learn to ride standing up because when I sat on the seat, even when it was at the lowest possible setting, my feet dangled far above the pedals.
After many scraped knees and elbows, I finally learned to balance on my super-sized bike and rode happily up and down our street. Then came the horrible news. If I wanted to ride, I had to keep it in the basement and push it up the steps to use it. I begged to keep it outside. “No. We’re too close to Harlem Avenue. Someone will steal it and you’ll have nothing to ride.”
Our basement was a creature all unto itself. It was dark, dreary, and the setting for many of my childhood nightmares. But I really, really wanted to ride this bicycle.
Stubbornness kicked in. Since the adults weren’t being helpful, I would help myself. I never weighed the bike but I’m fairly certain that I outweighed the Schwinn by fifteen or so pounds. In order to lift the bike up the first few stairs I had to use momentum. With much pushing and slipping backward, I finally figured out the most successful way to extricate my bicycle from the clutches of the basement of horrors.
The freedom provided from many hours of riding that bike justified every scrape and sniffle.
This is how I feel about writing. Getting that story out of my mind and into the hearts of others is worth every emotional scrape - and sometimes very real tears. A good glaze of pure stubbornness helps.
Some writers love the writing process, enjoying the work involved in perfecting their poetry or prose. For them, it may be the writing journey that matters more than the end.
Beating the competition, gathering prizes, standing out from the crowd, and high sales ratings can be highly motivating.
Impact On Others
Great satisfaction may be gained from inspiring others through writing. It’s a way to leave your mark on the world.
What can hold us back from writing?
If it isn’t perfect, I can’t let it go.
Write. Revise. Write. Revise. A cycle that won’t end because the writing isn’t good enough. This has happened to me with writing as well as painting. I wrecked a lovely head of hair (done in oils) because I kept playing with it. Thankfully, oils are very forgiving.
Being Overly critical
If my world-building isn’t as good as J.R.R. Tolkien, why bother?
Setting sky-high goals is self-defeating. Great world-building doesn’t happen in a few days, or a few years. Mr. Tolkien worked on The Hobbit for at least six years, and thought about it a good deal before setting pen to paper.
I have to get this book out there as soon as possible.
A fantastic book cover will get you part of the way there but it’s what’s inside the covers that counts. Editing your own work is important and so is other eyes on your work. Multiple revisions are normal and to be expected. Fine editing makes the difference between good and great.
Here are 52 quotes to help you stay motivated and keep writing.
Why do you write? What motivates you? Is there something that occurred in your life that you see as a turning point in your writing journey?
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Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents, Parenting: A Work in Progress, and The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon, a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are: The Hobo Code (YA historical fiction) and Crystal Memories (YA fantasy).