You’ve probably heard this question before. I know I have.
But can you answer it?
Do you know what motivates you? Why you’re working toward what you are? What inspires you to keep moving forward, even when it’s difficult?
What’s your why?
I heard this question again this week, while watching a video on writing and marketing. The video was presented by Derek Doepker (I highly recommend his materials to anyone looking to self-publish smarter1), and in it, he emphasized the importance of clarifying your why.
As an author, it’s very important to know why you write, and, if applicable, why you publish. Is it to entertain? To teach? To inspire? Who? Is it to fight stereotypes, or represent people groups you don’t often see in fiction? To inspire others with stories of unlikely heroes and encouraging themes? Primarily to bring in more income?
There’s a myriad of reasons authors are motivated to keep writing, and each person has their own. Knowing yours enables you to keep fighting, keep working, and keep striving, even when the tough times come. And they will.
As I was thinking about this, I was reminded how important this is for everyone. Not just authors. Anyone who’s ever tried to start a new exercise regime, stick to a new way of eating, or learn a new skill can likely testify.
Adrenaline and the initial motivation to get in shape, or lose weight, or better yourself in a variety of other ways, only lasts so long. Sooner or later (typically sooner), it’s going to get hard. You’re going to lose motivation. Lose focus. You’re going to wonder why you’re even doing this in the first place.
And that’s when you need to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
It sure helps to have an answer.
Without a clear reason why, you’re probably going to quit. After all, if you don’t see a point to the hard work and difficulty, why even bother trying? I know the feeling.
A small example of this I noticed in my life recently was during the Collaboration of Quill’s Write-a-Thon.2 Unfortunately, no matter how much I add to my schedule, the days never seem any longer. This meant that to get my writing done each day, I was using the time I would typically be sleeping.
At first I was so excited that I had no trouble staying awake. But as we continued each day, I began to feel the lack of sleep, to the point where my comfortable bed seemed a lot more appealing than sitting and staring at a screen. My initial enthusiasm waned far quicker than I would have liked.
Thankfully, I was able to remind myself of why I was taking part in the Write-a-Thon to begin with. To raise money for people in need. For people who didn’t have a comfortable bed, or a computer to use. For people up at all hours struggling to survive while I allowed myself to complain about sleeping less for a few days.
It really put things in perspective. I found myself with the drive to continue writing, and I’m so thankful I did. It was such a blessing to participate, and together my teammates ended up writing 47,600 words and raising $3,604 dollars. A far, far more valuable use of my time than sleeping, and I’m glad I had a concrete reminder.
Over and over again, I’ve found having a clear why helpful.
Several months ago, I wrote down my writing goals. My focus. My why. The verse on my ‘About the Author’ page sums it up pretty well.
‘Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.’ ~Psalm 102:18
I write to entertain. To inspire. To craft compelling characters, page-turning plots, and wonderful worlds that readers will enjoy and remember.
But more than that, I write to point readers back to the marvelous God I praise.
I write to record His faithfulness, love, and forgiveness. I write to connect with readers’ hearts and to remind or reveal to them how much we need Him. I write with the prayerful desire to leave readers changed, and at least a little closer to knowing their Savior.
That’s what keeps me going when my rough drafts are – well, when rough is an understatement. When I’m halfway through a novel and realize my plot is hardly even coherent. When my protagonist is supposed to be sweet, but irritates even me.
In every difficulty, and every moment when I would much rather do anything but write, I often stop and remember my why. And that’s enough to remind me, to re-inspire me, and to refocus my heart and mind.
My why for life as a whole is very similar. I strive for my actions, my words, and my attitude to point others back to God just as I long for my writing to. Though I often fail at it, glorifying Him is my primary focus in life. It’s why I’m alive.
The difficulties that appear in everyday life are usually much harder than any writing struggle, and as such, they demand an especially clear why.
So what’s yours?
Do you know why you’re on this earth? Why you’re where you are, doing what you are, and interacting with the people you are? Why you’re striving for what you are?
Why do you get out of bed every morning, even when you’d rather keep sleeping? Why do you continue to care for others, even when you’d much rather focus on yourself? Why do you keep fighting, no matter how hard the troubles in life fight back?
Knowing the answer to these questions can change everything.
So, at the risk of sounding redundant, I’ll ask again.
What’s your why?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, God’s special possession,
that you may declare the praises of him who called you
out of darkness into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:9 NIV)