Finding Your Why

“Why do you do what you do?”

The question comes from your seatmate during a classic airplane conversation.

The two of you are on a first-class flight heading home from Dubai. Fate and your personal travel agent have thrown you together, and now you are making chit chat over strong coffee, colloquially known as Turkish coffee.

The coffee tastes unusually good, and the caffeine/cardamom combo cuts through the morning fog of your mind. Last night’s dinner-and-drinks with your client quickly turned into one-too-many overlooking the sparkling city from a mile-high skyscraper.

“I mean,” your seat mate continues, “you are incredibly successful, so what drives you to keep writing books and giving keynote speeches?”

You politely smile and inhale prior to responding but realize that you don’t have a solid answer to address the question.

In this situation, an author’s mind may go blank. Sometimes even the simplest of questions can confound us in the most profound of ways.

What is your Why?

Knowing what your “why” for writing a book can be one of the most common struggles for authors.

All of the best ideas in the world may float down your stream, but if you’re unable to pin them to a single reason, the best ideas may all float past you.

Defining a Why

Before you can confidently articulate your own why, we must define what the “why” is… at its very core. Your why is the driving, motivating reason for creating your book in the first place.

Perhaps you have had a deeply moving experience in your life that you know in your heart must be shared with the world. Or maybe you have realized your passion for teaching others. Or perhaps you are a steward of a company and provide your brilliance to customers.

It’s also entirely possible that you aim to make a positive difference in the world through a persuasive argument. The why will be entirely unique to you and your circumstance as an author.

Some Common Motivations

To help get your creative juices flowing, perhaps it would be helpful to have something to compare against. These are several of the highest level motivations that people have for writing their first non-fiction book. Which of these explains your motivation to become an author?

To Explain

Books written to explain are meant to illuminate a topic for a reader. Often, they will describe somebody or something in detail to paint an accurate picture.

To Entertain

People often are motivated to purchase books as a form of escape. Books written to entertain acknowledge this reason and engineer a compelling non-fiction narrative that livens the reader’s day.

To Inform

Informative books are designed to give information in an organized format for future reference.

To Persuade

Persuasive books put the author in an authority position, where they attempt to change the viewpoint or opinion of people about something.

The Seven Steps to Find Your Why

The above common motivations are but a handful of examples as to what an author’s reason for writing may be.

Still not sure what your why is? Follow our seven steps to define your why.

Take your time with this, as this is likely the most important step that you will take in your journey as an author.

Step 1 – What is the theme of your book?

The theme of your book should be clearly defined. This comes down to the subject matter, tone, lessons that you want the audience to take away, and much more.

This will involve your creative aptitude.

Step 2 – How does this topic fit into the larger picture of the human equation?

Does this book stand to offer something that affects humanity in some way? Consider what positive change, micro or macro, your book might bring to the world.

Step 3 – What urgent need are readers looking to solve by reading your work?

It is quite likely that readers of your book have a specific need that they are hoping to address. Can you think of what it might be?

Step 4 – What great benefit do they hope to gain from you?

If not a specific need, how might a reader grow from reading your work?

Positive change due to your work is likely; but defining what it is ahead of time can be the core difference in establishing your why.

Step 5 – What makes you uniquely qualified to bring it to them?

Why are you the right voice for the message that needs to be spoken? Before expecting your audience to understand that, make sure that you know the answer yourself.

Step 6 – What sacrifice are they prepared to make to feel this relief?

The audience should be willing to take some actionable step after reading your work.

Whether it be a confirmation of understanding, an investment (time or money) toward a cause, or even just a positive thought moving forward into their life. Make sure you are clear on what the audience must do to participate.

Step 7 – How soon can they expect the relief you are proposing?

Orienting your book around the ripple effect it will have on your audience is a keystone of defining your why. Knowing the timeline for seeing those results will help you lock in your why and be successful in writing your book.

Solidifying Your Why

Now that you’ve documented the 7-steps to finding your Why, you will now be able to provide a concise answer to the question “Why did you write this book?”

Why is it important to have this concise overview of your why? When you launch your book, you’ll be asked this question dozens of times by the media, customers, friends/family and co-workers….even your seatmate on a long flight. Establishing this information clearly upfront becomes powerful, from the writing phase all the way through to television interviews.

So now when asked why you write books and give speeches, the answers to these 7 questions provides a definitive purpose to your work.

Whether a stranger on a flight home from Dubai asks you that question or you ask it to yourself, solidifying your why is a core perquisite to being successful in writing your non-fiction book.


Bryan Heathman is the CEO of Made for Success Publishing and the author of #1 Best Seller: Book Marketing Reinvented, a book for authors with a best-selling book launch formula. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox. Made for Success has a track record of successful books sold worldwide from legendary authors to up-and-comers, including Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Todd Stottlemyre, Janelle Bruland and Scott Hogle.