• S.E. Burr

On Staying Motivated for Writing and Marketing Books

This week, Hank Green from Vlogbrothers talked about motivation and he listed five ways that he stays motivated to do the projects that he does. (Here's the link.) Two of his methods he called unhealthy and three he called healthy. I thought that for this week's blog I would talk about those things and how they apply to me and how they apply to writing, marketing, and publishing as an indie author.


  1. I have convinced myself that If I'm not using all the tools at my disposal to do good, I'm less of a good person.

As a writer, if I am not working my heart out to learn and grow in my craft, and I am not putting in the time and effort needed to get out the words and to tell stories and share them with other people, does my feeling of self-worth suffer?


I don't only define how worthwhile or how good of a person I am on how wholeheartedly I am pursuing this quest that I have given to myself, but it is a very big factor.

Is that healthy? I think it can be. I don't think that for the most part it is in our nature as human beings to be happy without being engaged in activities in which we feel we are growing and improving. It doesn't have to be a creative endeavor. It can be exercise; it can be a video game, but in some area in our lives we need to feel like we're rising to meet challenges. As long as I remember that I am only competing with myself and that I am only trying to one-up the person that I used to be, no one else, then I think it can be very healthy.

2. I intentionally put myself in situations where people I care about and respect rely on me to do things.

I've been collaborating with others on projects more often lately. For instance, last year I made a picture book with an illustrator, Shad Wilde. We did a Kickstarter campaign together. It was successfully funded and we got the finished product and other perks out to our backers in time for Christmas. Then, this month I threw a book party for my new book, 1% Clean: A Funny Story about Fractions and Percents, as well as for The Everything Puzzle since we had never had a launch party for it.

During the Kickstarter campaign, we reached our funding goal very quickly, but every time I would refresh the page and see that we hadn't gotten any more pledges, a surge of panic would run through my body. And then, when Shad had completed the illustrations and it was my job to format the book, I experienced the same sense of panic again. I was so worried that somehow this project would fail. I wasn't just concerned with how failure would make me feel; I didn't want to let Shad down.

Is that healthy? I don't know. It's definitely stressful, but it's also incredibly motivating. I worked my butt off to make sure that we got enough pledges and that I did a good job with the formatting. Likewise, when I threw the party this month, I faced setbacks while organizing it and wanted to hold the whole thing off. But because I had invited Shad to participate, and he was excited about it, I felt I had to go through with it. I was so glad I did. Lots of kids came, I did a reading of 1% Clean. Shad did a reading of The Everything Puzzle. The kids played games and made crafts, We had refreshments and signed books. It was a lot of fun, we made a small profit, and I felt good about myself, because I had accomplished something that I had never done before and wasn't sure I could do successfully.


1. I don't get caught up in doing things perfectly.

Am I a perfectionist? As an indie author, do I have to be? Yes and no. A book is never going to be as good as you wanted it to be. You may think that it is, but then you'll reread it a few years down the line, and find things you could've done better.

I've both published things before I should have, and left things on my hard drive for much longer than I should have because I was afraid of sharing them with the world. I think as an author, particularly as an indie author, a little perfectionism goes a long way. There are no gatekeepers in this industry. If you want to publish a book and put it up for sale online, nothing is stopping you from doing that. But if you want anyone to read it, you need to care and to try your hardest to make sure that what you're putting online is a quality product. To do that, it isn't enough to read through what you've written and edit it yourself. It isn't enough to give it one read through. It isn't enough to give it 20 read throughs. You need other eyes on it. And it can be hard to find those eyes, and it can be hard to find good eyes, but the first step is being brave enough to solicit honest feedback and to humbly consider the worth of that feedback without taking offense at the people who are trying to help you.

2. I love giving other people responsibility.

My goodness, I do, too.

If only they were willing to accept it. I'd get other people to do all my marketing for me. I'd leave all the

editing to them, too. I'm all for that. Too bad no one wants to do all that hard work for me.

That's not entirely true. I'm working with a professional editor that I hired named Nina Gooden, who has an editing company called Green Tea and Pink Ink, on my book, One Singular Second. I think she's very good. She's far more solid on grammar than I am, although I don't think I'm atrocious by any means, and more importantly, she has a very strong grasp of story and is great at pointing out to me inconsistencies in mine. I think that involving her in this project will make this book far better than I ever could have on my own.

3. I follow and cultivate my own curiosity.

I love learning new things. It is one of the great joys of life to know something you didn't know before and to consider something you hadn't considered before. Much of the time I spend learning things, is spent trying to learn more about writing and about the marketing, but I also spend regular time every week acquiring knowledge with no practical purpose. I watch a TED talk most days and every week I listen to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast. Those things are just interesting, and being interesting is enough to make them wonderful. But additionally, new knowledge and new experiences is fuel for writing. You never know when something you've learned will pop up in a story you write.

That's it. Those are Hank's motivating factors. Would you agree with his assessment about how healthy or unhealthy each is? What keeps you motivated? Reply in the comments or talk to me on FaceBook (facebook.com/serinburr)

P.S.--I wrote most of this post with Drag Version 13 Home dictation software. I've been told two things about dication. First, that it'll speed up my writing once I get good at using it. (As I work to train "my dragon" and myself, it is currently slowing me down.) Second, it'll make my writing more natural and conversational. Did you notice a difference in the way I wrote this post, before I brought this up?

P.P.S.--The reason I haven't blogged in a couple weeks is that I was working on a guest video I made for a Youtube channel called Author Trek. I was hoping he'd post it quickly and I could share it here as a video blog. Alas, it's gonna take a couple weeks, but I'll let you know when it's up. A big thank you to Jason Dimmick for inviting me.

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