By Laura Drake
I’m not talking about getting published, or seeing your book on a shelf.
Think back to when you first entertained the notion of putting the story in your head onto paper (or in pixels.) What did you hope to accomplish back then?
I’ll bet it wasn’t to beat Stephen King’s annual income, or to see your book as a movie.
It was closer to the bone than that, wasn’t it? I’ll bet it was things like:
That’s what storytellers do. Isn’t that why you started writing to begin with? For whatever reason, you wanted to be a storyteller.
But on the road to becoming a storyteller, it’s easy to get distracted.
I live in Southern California. Yes, the country of Baywatch, 90210, Housewives of Orange County. All around me, I see people trying to live an image. When new houses went up near me (I live in an older section,) people camped out on a sidewalk overnight for the opportunity to bid astronomical amounts for them. When they moved in, they had sheets over the windows for a year, because they couldn’t afford drapes. But they had a prestigious address! People get caught up in what their neighbors are buying, and feel they have to keep up.
They’ve forgotten that the goal is to be happy – and things don’t make you happy.
I think we do the same in writing. We start with a lofty goal like those above. But we talk to other writers, hear others’ stories, and pretty soon, we’re chasing the same golden ring. But when we started, we didn’t want a gold ring – we wanted a good story that would resonate with one person.
Me? I wanted to write some sentences so shiny, new, and perfect, that people would read them and think, “Yes, I never heard it put that way before, but that’s exactly what it feels like!”
Sentences like the ones I read in books by Pat Conroy, Barbara Samuel O’Neal, Anne Rivers Siddons, Jody Picoult.
So, with the New Year, I’m not making resolutions, or goal setting. Instead, I’m trying to keep my focus on why I started on this crazy journey to begin with.
Because, ultimately, that is what will make me happy.
So? What was your goal, when you started this journey?
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Now that's a trip down memory lane. I started out writing poetry in order to get all those emotions I didn't want anymore out of my head. I started writing stories with only one goal in mind- *I* wanted to go on an adventure. Little did I know the adventure I was getting myself into from then on out. It sounds kind of selfish that I started writing to help/entertain myself but there you have it.
Ryan, that's honest, and as legitimate as any other - don't apologize for it! Look where it took you! Embrace it!
So did I. I started writing because I didn't have anything more interesting to do and I kept writing because it entertained me. On occasion I'd feel the need to share with someone what I'd wrote but for the most part I was happy just writing for me.
Glad to hear I'm not the only one! But once writing is in your blood, it stays there. I hope you've had a good writing journey so far.
Great post 🙂 This is very thought-provoking and apt for me at the moment, as I'm asking myself this type of question all the time! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Hope it takes you in a true direction for you, Clare.
My goal as a writer - to be the best I can possibly be. Write something worth reading. Make my readers laugh, smile, maybe shed a tear (in a good way).
I like your thoughts on writing, Laura. Very clear. I am a storyteller but truly I write because I love to explore the imagination and the goal is usually to learn something for myself. Maybe about fear or grief, sometimes about what makes me happy. Sometimes just to invent something outside the limitations of this world (I write supernatural stories much of the time). So, essentially creating a story is an adventure that is all mine. Then I wonder, will a reader care about this? What reader might care about this adventure? Sharing the adventure with readers creates a secondary goal. And a risk. Will readers enjoy this adventure as I have? So I continue to put my short stories and novels out there with that question smack in front of me every day. Testing, testing, one, two, three: don't we all just hate that part?
I don't, Paula - it's the challenge, isn't it? Us creating an adventure (love that term) and then hoping others will want to set their feet on the road we've laid. What an enormous, wonderful, crazy undertaking!
Good luck, laying road!
I was writing music before I started writing books. The goal then was to purge; get stuff out that didn't belong anymore. Then, it became a way to say it better; words set to music can say more than words alone.
But the reason I write today, now that my songwriting has slacked and I'm focusing on mysteries instead of non-fiction is because I can't find enough of the types of books I love to read, and just as we're told in class to ask that question, because someone else wonders but isn't asking, I know that if I'm missing these books, someone else is, too. (Though I promise they won't have 60-word rambling sentences like that one.)
More than that, though, I want to move people emotionally. Even my so-called business books were more about emotions than process. I call them "why to" books instead of "how to" books.
I'm a social introvert. Leaving my house to be around real flesh and blood people is hard for me. Writing is a way to extend my reach, to touch people with my heart who I can't touch with my hand.
Beautifully said, Joel - maybe next, you can dive into poetry!
Thought provoking post! My initial goal in becoming a writer is lost to time - I was about 3 yrs old at the time, dictating stories to my mom. I imagine it had something to do with wanting to live those adventures.
Thanks for reminding me...
I've got to think that remembering is renewal of purpose, right Kenra?
I'm so jealous that you started that young!
I'll take it one step further in the simplification process: My goal to write the story was for the story itself. In its infant stages I felt that there was something there, something big and important, even if I didn't know what it was, even if it would take fifteen years for the emotions to translate into the right words. The tale had come to me, asking me to help it be told. A metaphysical birth, if you will. There are times when it feels like I am not a creator, but simply a medium for the story to come into this world. And now other stories have seen the path the first one took towards existence, deciding to use me for their own manifestations.
I agree, Gregory - did you ever read, On Writing by Stephen King? He describes much what you do, above.
I know that when I tap in, it's amazing what comes together. I know I'm not that smart - has to be coming from somewhere!
I have read On Writing, yes, and I wholeheartedly agree 🙂
Good morning, Laura ... I think I've been telling stories since I was a kid and my mother gave me the eye ... "Did that really happen, or it that one of your stories?" I love to entertain and dazzle and I love to conjure. The influences of other writers or writing books has taught me there is a way to do that and also write a good book. That's what I love. Whether I do my mysteries or my women's ficiton ... I want to write a good book. And that "trap" is like the kids in high school thinking because they grew seven feet tall, they'll be the next MIcharl Jordan :):)
Writing down all the plots, twists and conversations in my head, and have it make sense. 🙂
I wanted to write because I loved reading great writers and relating to larger-than-life characters when I was young.
[...] By Laura Drake I’m not talking about getting published, or seeing your book on a shelf. Think back to when you first entertained the notion of putting the story in your head onto paper (or in pixel... [...]
My goal then and now is the same - to make people laugh, and sometimes cry, when they read a story I wrote about people very much like them. 🙂 I'm doing that, and I'm happy. 😀
Great post, Laura. I started writing because it was cheaper than therapy. Okay that and I wanted a creative outlet after long hours writing about technology.
I might steal that line from you, Orly. It's cheaper and more fun 🙂
Hi Laura. I write to entertain myself and others ... to make my reader laugh or move my reader in some way. We're all struggling with something. I think to lighten someone's load, even temporarily, is to give a gift--and it makes me happy to try to give that gift.
Back to the basics! Love it, Laura.
My goal was to reach readers with a story the way I've been reached by wonderful novels. I feel thrust into a different world and connect with settings and characters I would never know otherwise. I felt like I am there solving mysteries with Hercule Poirot, falling in love like Jane Eyre, experiencing heartache like Anna Karenina, running for my life like Katniss. I wanted to be on the telling end of a good story.
Thanks everyone - this has been enlightening! Isn't it interesting how varied our reasons for writing were in the beginning? The one commonality? Passion. I wish you all that for the coming year!
Reblogged this on Morrighan's Muse.
I thought that if my 74 year old aunt could do it then I should give it a try. Here I am still plugging away too. I might actually finish a book and have a decent story this year. Of course I did an online pitch session with Harlequin Intrigue on 4 Jan. I never expected to be asked for proposal, even had to ask what a proposal consisted of about fifteen minutes later because I closed the chat room and couldn't remember how to get back into it.Turns out a proposal is the same thing as a partial. First three chapters and a synopsis. So I'm busy polishing the chapters and toying with the synopsis and will send it off by the end of January. If it isn't accepted I'm okay with it. Because that means it wasn't meant to be.
Oh C.K., that's awesome! You're on your way! So very happy - your first request! May it be the only one you have to submit!
Great post, Laura, and I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I don't know why I wrote in Junior High (they still called it that back then), Right after I was married I took a class on creativity that required we right a story, so it was an assignment. However, when I started 5 /12 years ago, I was mad. Not particularly commendable, but that was it. A school board that I had served 8 years on was making (IMHO) some very bad decisions, and when I shared my perspective, they ignored my suggestions. A client of my husband said,when we were discussing the situation, you should write about that. So I did. 145K words later, I stopped. LOL Actually, all of my books have started from a sense of things being wrong and my wanting to fix them. I don't think I realized that until right this minute. They all have something about injustice and efforts to right that. Well, my goodness, but we do learn something new every day, if we're lucky.
I've always wanted to write someone's favorite book. Here's hoping!!
Great post! My goal was to share all the characters and stories I'd been daydreaming about and to make readers feel for, and fall in love with, my characters like I did when I read all those great books that influenced my own writing.
Great post. I started my first book because I wanted to be as rich as James Patterson, as successful as Stephen King and become Dean Koontz' new best friend. None of that has happened yet so I'll have to settle for 45 years as a journalist standing on the cusp of history, four non-fiction books traditionally published (didn't break the nut on any of them) and three enovels, the latest coming out today. BUT, I still believe and still strive forward and get a thrill any time someone says they've enjoyed the adventure in my thrillers.
Great post by you!
Great answer, Bob! Life is what happens while we make other plans, right? 🙂
I write to relieve my soul, lift my spirits, and because it is a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy. Putting pen to paper is a means of decompressing my thoughts.
Great post, sometimes I find that writing for me is so turned inward, trying for just the right phrase, the right rhythm, getting the mechanics to work, that i have to remind my self that I'm a storyteller. And I try to envision the sitting around a campfire part of writing.
Well said, Laura. I'm right there with you, wanting sentences to resonate with readers, delighted at each scene I finish that approximates the emotions I imagined. Happy writing!
Excellent reminder of why we're in this crazy business... my goal is to tell a story and have a reader be transported into the lives of my characters and journey with them and laugh and cry and worry for them as if they are family or best friends.
I love setting goals each January. But this year, I'm defining what my priorities are first. I don't want to get caught up in goals that don't make me happy in the end. So I'm starting by the end (defining my priorities) and setting goals like road signs to get me where I'll be happiest.
OK, my goal is more of an obsession. I want to a part of what fiction will be 15, 30, 50 years from. Taking advantage of all available technologies... creating works that can compress or expand to suit a reader's available time... to create topical fiction, shorts and novella length, that can be published within days, if not hours, of a major event (natural, political, societal, etc)...
Oh, yeah... I'd really like to make a few bucks while I'm at it.
After six years of 14-18 hour days I'm getting close to an infrastructure that will allow me to publish and expanded experience ebook (either in fiction or non-fiction) on the 13th of every month.
[...] What Is Your Goal As a Writer? by Laura Drake [...]
Reblogged this on Ella Quinn ~ Author and commented:
Why do you write?
Thanks for the post. I agree with the obsession part.
I was seven when I first put words on paper. I didn't just start writing. It has dominated my life, the way I think, and who I am ever since. I write for the same reasons I eat...because I will starve without it.
Just half Mr. King's salary will be fine, by the way. I am not greedy.
Yeah, you and me both, Tim!
Very well put -- you should be a writer! 😉
I began writing as a child, I'm not even sure how old I was. I'd sit in bed writing while my sister in the bed on the other side of the room slept. I began writing because my head is spinning with stories that beg to get out, but a detour into non-fiction writing paid the bills. Now I'm working at breaking into the world of fiction and loving it. Writing is simply part of who I am and as essential to me as breathing.