Sunday, November 27, 2011

Writing for the Win

WARNING: Philosophical and sociological musings follow. Enter at your own peril.

Recent events have me chewing thoughtfully on a Writer Life problem: When goals are reached, they quickly become standards. Standards become precendents. Precedents aren't exciting. So how do we keep the love alive?

Have you ever considered what you'll do once you've reached your writing goal? Like, seriously. Because I've got a feeling if we have our respective focuses in the wrong place, writing will become just another feather in our caps, rather than the crowns on a satisfying life.

To whit:

A few days ago I 'won' Nanowrimo. But the experience was fairly sad compared to last years.

2010 Aimee wins Nano: Does happy dance, texts writing besties, writes blog post, tweets ad nauseum, etc, etc, etc....

2011 Aimee wins Nano: Thinks "sweet", then does housework.

In fact, the moment was so underwhelming, I didn't even realize I was underwhelmed.

It took having coffee with a writing friend yesterday who asked how my Nano was going. I put my cup down, frowned at her and said "Oh, didn't I tell you? I won a few days ago."

No, I wasn't being facetious. I just wasn't that excited about it.

It got me thinking about other goals I've set and achieved more than once.

For example, earlier this year I set the goal to finish a manuscript I'd been working on by October 6th. And I did. And - don't get me wrong - it felt good. But that wasn't the first manuscript I'd finished. So, while it felt good, it also wasn't SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS material (unlike August 2009 when I finished a manuscript for the first time - when the entire town heard me celebrate).

This isn't snobbery. It's human nature.

The first time we reach a summit, it's a  momentous occasion. But the truth is, that's probably the hardest it's ever going to be to reach that particular goal. We gain skills, strategies and efficiency tips every time we do something. So next time it will be quicker and easier.

It also won't be quite as satisfying.

I started wondering about what would happen when (God willing) I finally nail down my first publishing contract.

I know I'm going to go ballistic that day. I don't care if it's $5,000 or $500,000 worth, the first time someone commits to purchasing my book for money I will have reached a goal I set when I was nine years old (true story). That's a very, very big deal.

And I know the second time it happens I'll be stoked. In fact, I'm sure the twentieth time it happens I'll be excited (YOU: "Getting a little ahead of yourself there, aren't you Aims?", ME: "Did I mention I've also got the songs and program for my funeral mapped out in my head?")

But this Nano win reaction has shown me something about my nature.

If I don't set a different kind of goal - one that moves with me as I achieve more - I'll get bored.

You see, a publishing contract is a great (and possibly unattainable) goal. But once that's done, where to? A second contract? Well, sure. And I guess I could aim to sell it for more, but that's a fairly endless pit of Nothing Good. I'm not doing this for the money. I'm doing it for passion.

So yesterday I started asking myself how to keep the passion alive.

And this is the answer I've come up with:

My goal, every time I write a book, should be to write it better than the one before.

See, money could come and go. Popularity could come and go. But I'll be the first one to say I've still got a long way to go to attain a writing product which is truly magical. That's okay. The only way to get there is to keep studying and learning and trying.

So, I guess, that's my point.

Writing goals are great. Tangible milestones and results are good motivators. But in the end, a good product is where the true satisfaction comes from. And the reason is, it makes me a better person. Stronger, wiser, and hopefully nicer. (NOTE: This is your certified carte-blanch to whack me over the head if I ever become a successful author and turn into a douche. Seriously. QUOTE THIS BACK TO ME).

I get a lot out of writing and one day I hope to add 'earnings' to that list. But until then, I'm seeing myself grow as a person, as a writer and as a human being through the process.

And that has to be the long-term goal. Because if I can finish a manuscript and look back to find I haven't learned about myself, my God, my world... what was the point?

Your Turn: What long-term writing goals have you set? What do you think you'll do once they're achieved?


  1. Hmm...interesting thoughts. My current goal: Get published before eighteen. I'm not sure if is "get a publishing contract" or "see book in store" though.

    My reaction to finishing NaNoWriMo was relevantly calm. Basically, I finished it, closed the laptop, and went to finishing the book I was reading.

  2. Hello. First off, congrats on "winning" Nano! I participated in Nanofor the first time this year and made it to just onver 6,000 words. I knew I wouldn't "win" but it really helped me get back into my story and start writing a drastically different 2nd draft.

    I guess the charm would wear off after meeting your 50,000 word count goal three years in a row, but I don't think there is anything snobby about that. Maybe you just need something new, something that feels more like a challenge, or a different way to spice it up and make that challenge more exciting.

    Good luck!
    Aubrie Anne

  3. Yep, I'm right there with you. Finishing a manuscript doesn't feel like a BIG accomplishment anymore; it feels almost expected.

  4. Great point. My goal with my next manuscript is to learn from the mistakes I've made with The Big Smoke. Like, come up with a plot that doesn't require 140,000 words to tell (I've got it down from 175,000 though!). And don't worry, I don't think you'll ever become a douche! :-)

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