What’s Your Incentive?

Hi Folks,

I’ve long needed a specific incentive to do anything, to strive toward any goal, to achieve any level of success.

I love telling stories. But that doesn’t provide me with the appropriate incentive to spend hours in the chair writing.

I’d also love to make a good living with sales of my fiction, but because I’m a realist, that doesn’t provide even the slightest impetus. The fact is, these things take time, and frankly, I’m an old guy. I have better things to do—like write—than check sales figures several times a day.

I also love it when people say nice things about my writing.

Of my very first novel, my very first reviewer said it was “a great story” and “one of the most tightly plotted novels” he’d ever read.

Woohoo! Score! Especially given that I wrote that novel in 20 days, just writing off into the dark. No plotting, no planning. The “plot” was a Bradbury Plot, the one the characters left as they ran through the story.

But what others think or say about my writing doesn’t provide incentive either, or even validation really, because it’s all up to them and their own tastes. It’s outside my control.

Different people need different incentives to write. I get that.

And the same people are affected by different incentives at different times of their life.

I can’t honestly say what my primary incentive might have been had I stumbled across Heinlein’s Rules and the Writing Off Into the Dark technique when I was 20. I like to think it would have remained the same.

That primary incentive is mortality.

For me, it’s all a big, wonderful game. How many stories can I tell before I check out of this particularly odd little hotel? Specifically, how many novel-length stories?

Since I effectively started writing fiction in 2014, for me to spend the “40 years in the business” that professional fiction writer and extremely good instructor Dean Wesley Smith often touts, I’d have to live, actively, until I’m 102.

Yeah, okay. Ain’t gonna happen. Family history, health issues over which I have zero control, yada yada yada plus my own impatience to see what’s next precludes any chance of that.

I just want to turn out as many good stories as I can.

And my secondary incentive? There’s nothing better for me than to be the First Person who gets to be entertained by the stories my characters tell.

That provides a sense of wonder. And although that sense of wonder doesn’t drive me to the keyboard (mortality does that), it does make me look forward to what will happen when I put my fingers on the keyboard.

Which I’m going to do right now.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


4 thoughts on “What’s Your Incentive?”

  1. Harvey — My incentives aren’t so noble. Lately I’ve faced a bump on the retina of my right eye, need for new glasses, toothache, wobbly fake foot that needs adjusting, letters from FEMA about my flood insurance with premiums that could go up 20% a year from now on, the IRS wants paperwork I’ve already sent them, and it’s too bloomin’ hot to think straight.

    Guess there’s nothing else to do but write.


  2. My incentive? Survival. Even when life insists on leaving turds rather than mints beneath my pillow, I simply must continue writing. So I write about that until the good thoughts come back.
    “First Person entertained” is a brilliant description! Now I feel as if I owe my characters an apology for disregarding their importance 😉
    Thanks for the inspiration, Harvey.

    • I’ve apologized to my previous characters several times. After all, it’s THEIR story. How haughty of me to assume I knew it better than they just because I’m the one with my fingers on the keyboard. I’m nothing but the physical mechanism by which they tell their stories.

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