Thursday, February 14, 2013

"The thing that you love."

Pardon me while I open this post by talking about Aristotle...  I promise there's a writerly point coming.  By the end, in fact, I will be explaining to you what I believe is a surefire way to keep motivated as a writer.

Aristotle lays out "four causes," which answer the "why" question for any specific thing.  These causes are...

1.  the material cause
2.  the moving cause
3.  the formal cause 
4.  the final cause

Using a work of art as an example will prove helpful--in this case, specifically, I'm talking about my favorite statue, the Bernini pictured to the right.  

daphne and apollo
See it in person.  Pictures don't cut it.
A brief explanation: 

1.  material cause:  the thing "out of which";  this is the marble out of which the sculpture is carved
2.  moving cause:  the thing "by which";  Bernini himself is the moving cause of this statue
3.  formal cause:  the thing "into which" or that by which it is defined;  in this case, the formal cause is Daphne and Apollo
4.  final cause:  the thing "that for the sake of which";  here, this would be what Daphne and Apollo and their story represent--which I will leave you to decide...

Notice (that tingle on the back of your spine is the feeling of relevance approaching!) how these could easily apply to a novel.  But first, a bit more on the final cause

The final cause, according to one of my teachers who has a knack for stating things clearly and provokingly, can be described thus:

"It's the thing that you love." 

Writing, and rewriting, and revising, and revising again is a constant exercise in beholding the final cause of your work.  If you can fix an unwavering eye on the answer to that "Why?"--if you can manage to never, ever forget the true reason why you're writing the story you're writing--then how could you give up? 

It's a constant exercise in beholding "the thing that you love." 

And if you can do that, and the thing that you love is at all worthy, and you don't stop until your readers will be able to see what you have seen this whole time...

Your writing will be too true to fail. 


  1. This is so true. The writing process is far too grueling to stick with a story you don't honestly love. And if you write about something you love, your story will be that much more genuine and there's a better chance readers will invested in it as well. Inspirational post!

    1. I think on the reader's end writing that comes from this kind of "love" does end up feeling genuine. And maybe just plain awesome. ;)

  2. Wow! That's intense...and deep...and I love it :) It's so true and just what I needed to hear. After several rewrites and revisions on one of my books, I asked myself, "Why even bother?"

    And this is the answer! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Glad it helped. :) :) It sounds like I was thinking about these things when I was in a similar place--trying to drudge up the enthusiasm for yet another revision. But then I remembered why it was worth it. :)

  3. A lot of thought here in this post! I guess Aristotle will do that to you.