What is it Going to Take to Motivate You?

Robert Terson

Many years ago, when I first began studying how to write fiction, I read John Braine’s Writing a Novel. Brain was British; his most famous novels are Room at the Top and The Crying Game. It was from Braine that I first heard about another British novelist, Anthony Burgess (his real name was John Burgess Wilson), whose best-known work is A Clockwork Orange. When I researched Burgess I was blown away by his fascinating personal story—what caused him to become a novelist. It gave me a whole new perspective re motivation. It just might do the same for you, which is why I’m going to relate it to you.

When he was 40 years old, Burgess was diagnosed with a brain tumor; he was told he had about a year to live. Sobering news, wouldn’t you say!? He was penniless, was going to die, and was going to leave his wife, Lynne, a widow—a totally broke widow. This left him so distraught that he decided to make an attempt to write novels, in order to produce royalties for Lynne. For a number of years he’d thought he had it in him to be a novelist, but was unable to pull the trigger on the concept. Now, motivated by financial desperation for the woman he loved, he sat down and began writing. He did this despite the tremendous odds against him even getting his work published posthumously. Still, since he couldn’t think of any other way of earning money to leave behind for Lynne, writing it would be.

One of Burgess’s more memorable quotes: “We all need money, but there are degrees of desperation.”

No kidding.

To say Burgess wrote prolifically during his year to live might be one of the great understatements of all time. He produced five-and-a-half novels; more output than many better-known writers—Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger, to name just two—have produced over the span of an entire lifetime. Quite an achievement.

The great irony of this story, I’m happy to say, is that Anthony Burgess did not die as expected. His tumor went into remission and eventually disappeared completely. He wound up living a long life and wrote over 70 books and composed more than 65 musical compositions.

The great question is, though, would he have written anything at all, if he hadn’t been handed that terrible prognosis of death? Would he have been motivated to become the great writer he turned out to be? Fascinating question, isn’t it?

What about you? Is there greatness inside of you that’s never going to come out because you’re never going to be motivated the way Anthony Burgess was? Perhaps it would behoove you to ask yourself what you’d do if you were put into the same circumstances Burgess was. If you were told you had only one year to live, to make your mark upon this world, what would you do?

And if you would do it under those circumstances, why won’t you do it now? What is it that’s preventing you from charging ahead and doing it now?

You know what Nike would say—“Just do it!


On December 21st, I published a guest post from my friend Dave Brock entitled “Making A Difference In 2013: Help 1000’s Get Access To Clean Water!” I hope you’ll take a moment to reread it: http://www.sellingfearlessly.com/2012/12/21/making-a-difference-in-2013-help-1000′s-get-access-to-clean-water-by-david-brock/ I know you’re inundated by charity requests this time of year, but I hope you’ll pay attention to this one, even if it’s only for a few dollars, because it’s a great cause and it means a lot to a terrific guy–Dave Brock. Here’s a post Dave put up recently on his site; I hope you’ll take a moment to read it, too: http://partnersinexcellenceblog.com/thinking-of-others-water-changes-everything/ Again, even if it’s only a few dollars–it’ll mean a lot!