What Motivates a Wildlife Writer

Recently my colleagues at Arizona Wildlife Views magazine and I were asked what motivates us when it comes to work.

I haven’t asked myself that question in a while, so it made me stop and think. What gets me into this computer chair five days a week? Well, there’s force of habit, of course. There’s the opportunity to connect with readers on a topic of mutual interest. There’s the chance one of my stories might win an award. And there’s the paycheck, for which I am grateful (though the desire to make money can’t keep anyone working at a state job).

I am definitely motivated by curiosity about wildlife and natural resources management. If I’m hearing about something called a “safe harbor agreement,” I can indulge my curiosity and ask someone who uses them every day to save native fish from extinction. If I want to know where to watch wildlife, I can just ask around. We have amazing naturalists on the staff at Arizona Game and Fish. My job lets me indulge my lifelong curiosity about nature, and that’s part of what motivates me to keep doing it.

The answer that sprang to mind first, though, was not curiosity. It was the opportunity to do something I love, which is writing, and occasionally, to try something new. Just last week, I started working on a new story. Arizona was only the second state in the nation to hire a full-time herpetologist. His job was to find out how the state’s reptiles and amphibians were doing, and work for their conservation. This person did ground-breaking work. He has retired from Game and Fish, but he’s still around, so I decided to interview him.

Partly, I’m curious what it was like to start a brand-new program. But also, I have never done a story based on interviewing one person. I am excited to try it. Taking my writing in this direction will be new for me. I don’t know how this process will go, but I’m eager to explore the territory.

Who knows? Maybe it won’t work. Maybe I can’t pull it off. But even the fact that I’m nervous feels good. It’s a signpost showing I’m going in the right direction … taking my writing someplace new.

Last night we went to a great concert. Sam Bush is a singer and a mandolin and fiddle player—a musician at the top of his game, after decades of dedication. In the bio notes in the program, Bush says, “I love to play, and the older I get, the more I love it. And I love new things.” That’s how I feel. I love to write, and I love to try new things. Having a job that lets me do both is great motivation.

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