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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Big Fat Carrot: What's your motivation?

Posted on September 26, 2011 at 12:30 AM

No matter what you do or what you’re doing, there is generally some motivational item that keeps you going and helps you to see it through to the end. That motivation can be the high-level life stuff like, "Get a paycheck, pay my mortgage, keep my house." Or it can be smaller stuff like, "this stupid little bit of $.07 worth of Chinese plastic will make my daughter smile, therefore I'll spend $5.95 on it." Or it can be more base-level, "I like feeling good, scotch makes me feel good, I’ll have some more scotch." Or maybe it’s more selfless do-for-others stuff like, "I'm going to buy these $800 worth of tires so that the likelihood of my family vehicle careening off the road and bursting into flames is reduced."

Whatever. You likely know what motivates you for doing the different things that you do. And chances are, when the motivation runs out or the goal no longer exceeds the effort, you'll quit doing it and then move on to something else. Ever hear about people quitting over having low job satisfaction? When it is no longer about the money and the drudgery of the chore outweighs the old benefit of whatever. Or when the spousal satisfaction no longer exceeds the spousal annoyance level? I fear that I must be constantly treading on that thin-thin line with Dana...

I had a talk with my business partner a month or so ago about cutting back on my hours at work. He immediately panicked -- "Are you quitting?!" I assured him that I don't want to QUIT the business, I just want to have a little more time AWAY from the business. I don't want to feel like its continued success and longevity rises and sets on me being there 40+ hours a week ad infinitum, ad astra, forever, and ever, with zero, my hero, how wonderful you are. And we started talking about things like motivation and what drives us to do what we do. And for years, my motivation for the long weeks and long days and late nights on the jobs was the money. I didn't have much of it, I was newly married, buying a house, getting established, and I wanted more of it. Then it was the growing the business. Now that those things are pretty accomplished after 14 years, my motivation is to work less and spend more time with the family. Simple, simple.

My motivation for writing has also changed over the years. My first "paid" story was published in the April 12, 1996 issue of a relatively small magazine called Golf World. (I believe it resulted in a $500 check. At the time I struggled between, "Do I cash it or do I frame it?" I went with cashing and sadly, I didn't even photocopy it. Wish I would have. Love to have it in a frame or something for posterity. "Look here, Lauryn. This is daddy's first writing paycheck. One day maybe you'll have one too!" Not the biggest regret of my life, but a regret nonetheless.)  

And I have to tell you, that for the first 20 or so stories, it was really all about seeing my name in print. Just hearing, “OK, we like your story and want to run it,” was reward enough. Sure, the checks were great -- and I definitely cashed them -- but there is just something incredibly powerful about that magazine arriving in the mail or going to a bookstore and pulling something off the racks and then seeing your name emblazoned in black, bold+italic Helvetica (or Times New Roman or Arial or whatever type font they actually happen to be using) type. "By: John Sciacca" Powerful stuff. I had every one of my first stories framed. I figured surely this awesome ride wouldn’t last, and I wanted to frame it and immortalize it to remember how great it was. (Now they sit in a big stack collecting dust behind an armoire in our bedroom.)

But after you've seen your name enough times, the bloom on that rose starts to wear and to smell a little less sweet. Don't get me wrong, it's still very cool to be sure, and on those times – usually on-line – when something I wrote is credited to someone else, you can be SURE that I am quick to correct them; they’re my words and I want the credit for them! But after a while it just isn't as big a deal any more. And you can’t buy stuff with a byline. (Though I still keep EVERY print issue that runs one of my stories. So, I guess I haven't *totally* given up on that little high.)

And after the motivation of seeing my name wore off, then it kind of became about the money. Because there is only so much time in the day, and when I started becoming slightly popular in the AV writing world and when I started filling my time with writing, I decided that I wanted to be *compensated* for that time. And when there were multiple months when I had 3 or 4 stories in an issue, that was A LOT of time. And that meant money. Payola. The long green. And when print journalism was big and flourishing in the early '00s, the writing brought in a significant second income; a second income that exceeded my first income not too many years before. I could sit at my computer, write-write-write, file the story and then a few weeks later get a nice little payey-paycheck. It was brilliant.

But, let's be honest; nowadays, writing for magazines or the Web isn't *giant* money. It isn't Stephen King, John Grisham or J K Rowling money. It isn't buy a second house or quit your day job money. But now matter how much it is, after a while the money -- unless you are broke and living in a van down by the river -- just isn't as important a motivator either. Even if you are a King, Grisham or Rowling; I’m going to bet that not a single one of them would say they are doing it for the money. It's nice, sure, but ultimately, it stops being the motivator.

And when the money stopped being the key driver for me the next high was chasing the recognition. Going to a tradeshow and having someone recognize you or come up to you and say, “I read that piece that you wrote and I totally agreed with you!” Or, having someone stop by my store and say, “Are you John? I read your columns every month. I just wanted to stop by and say that I really enjoy your writing. Keep it up!” Or seeing someone out in the wild actually *reading* something you wrote? Swoon! Or going to an event and introducing yourself and having people respond, “Oh, I know who you are.” And without having that I-just-bit-into-a-lemon sour expression on their face. Being “recognized” in an industry that has a lot of recognizable figures is a pretty ego-swelling thing.

And the blog has certainly elevated this; exposing me to a whole new world of readers – as has my @SciaccaTweets Twitter presence – and allowed for gratification on a much more real-time, two-way interactive level. Now I can virtually “watch” people from around the world whom I’ve never met click into the blog and “see” them reading stuff that I write. Or "pitch" a story and then instantly see people click over in response to read. And when they feel inspired enough to come back or leave a comment or to pay-it-forward Twitter or Facebook style, that’s huge.

And while I *still* love the recognition and imagine that I always will – look, it’s a terrific ego-boost and a special kind of endorphin rush and anyone with a beating heart and ounce of honesty in their prideful soul would admit to feeling the exact same way – it is actually no longer the greatest thing about writing.

Now, one of the things that most motivates me is the doors that writing opens; the unique and often exclusive, otherwise unobtainable experiences that are available behind those doors. My next blog is going to talk about the best experiences that this whole writing thing has opened up so far. I think you’ll dig it. At least I hope you will. Stay tuned. And...thanks! By making it this far, you've helped feed the rush!

Categories: September 2011, On Writing

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