I was chatting with some good writing pals recently about the places where we set our stories. It was so interesting to hear the motivations behind different geographical choices. Some settings are pragmatic and plot-driven, others are familiar, others are purposefully evocative. I do favor California, because it’s home (see pics of our gorgeous wine country), but it got me thinking about the motivation to write…at all.
There are these two guys, Deci and Ryan, who came up with a hypothesis about how motivation is created and maintained. It’s called Self Determination Theory or SDT. SDT posits that motivation exists on a continuum. People tend to move up the motivation scale and toward a chosen goal based on the fulfillment of three innate psychological needs:
1. The need for a sense of autonomy.
2. The need for a sense of competence.
3. The need for a sense of relatedness to others.
Conversely, SDT also states that the thwarting of any of these three needs is demotivating and will result in less motivation to continue striving for a goal.
For me, when I’m writing, Need 1 comes fairly naturally. Autonomy is a given, seeing as the whole point of writing is getting to create my very own story. The competence need…well, I’m working on that. But I enjoy studying the craft of writing and I actively seek out feedback from others. So I feel like I have a good sense of where my writing has improved over time and where I struggle.
But need 3 is the one I find easy to overlook. Writing is such an individual, internal process–I’m such an individual, internal person–that it can get sort of…lonely. But I’ve pushed myself out of my shy comfort zone to fulfill this need for relatedness and it’s made all the difference. I’ve met the most wonderful writing friends online, at the SCBWI National conference last summer and, more recently, at the Big Sur Writing Workshop. These friends are a huge help in keeping me motivated and I truly hope I am returning the favor. They’re the ones that throw out questions like “why do you set your stories in the places you do?” and are genuinely excited to hear my answers. How cool is that?
So nurture those writing friendships. And keep writing!
It’s been kind of a crazy month, but I got out to Books, Inc. in San Francisco last weekend and picked up some reads that I’m looking forward to.
The first is Kirsten Hubbard’s brand new debut LIKE MANDARIN. Gorgeous book, gorgeous prose.
The second is Paul Murray’s SKIPPY DIES, which looks so good I’m afraid to start reading it because then I’ll finish reading it and it will be over!
The third book I picked up for my eldest kid. It’s Trenton Lee Stewart’s THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY AND THE PERILOUS JOURNEY, the second in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. I’m always on the lookout for good middle grade books for my 9-year-old boy and he loved the first one.