What Motivates Your Writing
When each of us sit at the keyboard or pore over a manuscript, we have a certain motivation. It might be to simply get it done for a deadline. It might be the material itself and its potential impact. Or it might be simply a job to make money. For me, it’s always been about the impact—much more than the money. Compensation is good and necessary but not my primary reason for moving my fingers on the keyboard.
I’m thinking about motivation today in light of some news I received this morning. It will resound today around the world—the passing of Dr. Kenneth N. Taylor. While the director of Moody Press, Ken and Margaret Taylor had small children at home. At one point they had five preschoolers and three in diapers. Ultimately the Taylors had ten children. As they read to their children, Ken lamented the fact there was no book that covered the entire Bible for children. When their children brought home Sunday School papers, Taylor handwrote stories to match the pictures. Encouraged with the responses, he submitted that material and ultimately Moody Press published The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, an all-time bestselling children’s book.
While few people remember it now, at that time, the King James Version of the Bible was the only Bible. Today we have numerous modern day versions. Ken Taylor wondered if he could paraphrase the entire Bible for adults as he had for children. Each day he commuted on the train from his home in Wheaton to the Moody Press offices in downtown Chicago and he used this travel time to modernize the Scriptures. It took him seven years to paraphrase the New Testament Epistles. He was unable to find any publisher interested in printing this material so Ken took a $2,000 loan and privately printed the book. It didn’t take off in terms of sales until Billy Graham recommended Living Letters from the pulpit. The success of this first book led to the founding of Tyndale House Publishers and the completion of a much loved book, The Living Bible.
His motivation wasn’t money—which eventually came—but to capture the Bible in a readable way for everyone. It was my privilege to interview Dr. Taylor several times for magazine articles. I was writing a round-up article on children’s Bibles and I caught up with him on the floor of the Christian Booksellers Convention. This huge trade show had rows of publishers selling books to retailers. I pressed him saying, “Dr. Taylor, don’t you feel the competition? Look at all of the different products which have come out just this year in this area.”
The gentle man shook his head and smiled, “Oh, Terry, if it’s the Bible and people are reading it to their children. That’s all that matters.” May each of us find such a pure and simple motivation for our writing.