Motivation and the Writer


It’s hard for some people to get motivated to do anything: lose weight, perform a task at work, write a book. And when these people don’t do something we expect them to do, we often tell them to “just do it” and they’ll be happier after all.

However, motivation is a lot more complicated than it looks on the outside, especially if we’re the ones who are motivated and can’t understand the lack of motivation in other people. To combat a perceived lack, we have to understand what it is that’s demotivating them in the first place.

motivation_signThere are oodles of theories out there on what motivates a person, and yes, I used the word “oodles.” Victor Vroom proposed my favorite back in the 60s: expectancy theory. And because this is my forum today, let’s look a little closer at what Vroom was saying. What the heck are we expecting?

There are three elements in Vroom’s theory: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. Since these are more complicated than just words, I’ll only focus on the basics here and break them out in later posts.

First, there’s expectancy: does your effort result in performance. In other words, do you have the ability or self-confidence to perform a task? Let’s pretend you want to write a novel. If you don’t quite have the requisite skill, you may not expect to perform. If you’re lacking in self-confidence, you might be unwilling to try.

Second, a person has to have instrumentality, or the belief that they will receive a reward if the performance expectation is met. So what is the reward? Is it sales, a sense of self-worth, fame? If a person lacks trust in the process (e.g., they’ve written novels before but they never sold), instrumentality might be holding them back from trying again. This is usually where most authors fall flat: the process doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

Finally, if a person does have the ability and their efforts have led to outcomes according to the process, do they have valance? In simple terms, is the outcome satisfying? What if you wrote books and they sold? What if fame was something you didn’t want but you received it anyway? If you don’t see value in the outcome, you’re not going to be motivated.

I’m going to dive into these three parts in future posts. I’ve been doing a lot of research into motivation these past few weeks, not only because I teach the stuff, but also because I might have found myself a little less motivated to write like I used to.

So what’s holding you back? Is there an expectancy, instrumentality, or is it valence? For most writers of today in the Indie world, I would bet money on instrumentality. But I won’t bet it all until I’ve laid out my case.


5 comments on “Motivation and the Writer

  1. Pingback: Motivation and the Writer, Part 2: Expectancy | Guild Of Dreams

  2. Pingback: Motivation and the Writer, Part 3: Instrumentality | Guild Of Dreams

  3. Pingback: Motivation and the Writer, Part 4: Instrumentality Redux | Guild Of Dreams

  4. Pingback: Motivation and the Writer, Part 5: Bouncing Back | Guild Of Dreams

  5. Pingback: Motivation and the Writer, Part 6: Valence | Guild Of Dreams

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