The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seven-Level Motivation

Now that I've created more of a theoretical model for multi-level goal setting and motivation, let's apply this specifically to the area of greatest external success in my own life: writing.

As a kid, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not have a writing career. No role models, my own mother tore up my stories, I was mocked on all levels (although I did have a couple of friends who supported me and enjoyed hearing my stories. Thank God!) does this multi-level approach work?

1) Survival. I so so lonely, so desperately disconnected from my own life in so many ways. I felt abandoned by my society, lied about and slandered. I felt that if I couldn't find a way to have my voice heard in the world, could not succeed...I would die. Literally die. Be killed. I'm not kidding at all here. Whether it was valid or not, that was my feeling. More importantly, I felt that I would rather FAIL at being a writer than SUCCEED at anything else. That's some serious motivation there.

2) Sex. In school, I saw that the pretty girls I was attracted to were attracted to the successful guys. Athletes, guys with jobs, guys in leadership positions. Power. And right then I had a choice to make: I could either resent them, or just shrug and think it a natural, normal, healthy process. A lioness, I reasoned, wants a lion. So what I had to do was become a lion. At something. And then find a community of ladies who admired that particular type of power. If I could do that, nature would take its course. I am shocked that I had such clarity at such a young age...because it worked EXACTLY like that. The "hive" I chose to join? The science fiction fan community. There, my writing skills were appreciated. Thoroughly. Yum.

3) Power. I wanted to protect myself from the world. Nothing works like money in the arena in which money works. Try paying your water bill with back-rubs alone. Good luck. But also wanted to implement social change. To reach out and help others. There isn't a day of my life I don't get emails and letters from people who tell me I've changed their lives, helped them, saved them. Whether to care for myself and family, or have a positive influence on the world...Writing is my path.

4) Love. Emotion. Whether attracting a mate, or simply doing something I love, love absolutely love love love writing. Never happier than when enmeshed in a good story, and it's workin'. Love it.

5) Communication. Well, this is obvious. Speaking my truth, speaking to others, singing my song.

6) Intellect. Writing gives me an excuse to learn anything I want, and turn it into something useful and productive. To compare different reality maps. To associate with some of the smartest people on the planet. I am so blessed.

7) Spirit. Ultimately, spirit involves the question of what survives after the death of your body. Your soul? Your family? Your contributions to the world? Questions such as "What was the shape of my face before I was born?" is one way this quality is approached. What is beyond ego? The "flow" state which dissolves the subject-object relationship is a doorway to a deeper understanding. By committing to telling the truth, serving mankind, learning the best thoughts of those who came before me, attempting to create stepping stones for writers and readers who come after me...I am a link in a chain stretching back to prehistory and off to the distant future.

If the two most central questions on the spiritual path are "who am I?" and "what is true?" and every character in my writing is a version of me...and every situation is an exploration of reality...then my daily pages are just another form of meditation, and another step along the path.

So long as I keep my emphasis on my journey between birth and death, and take my work more seriously than my seems to me I'm on the right path.


Seven levels. Seven totally different types of motivation. Discipline is overrated. Give me pure, existential hunger every time.



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