Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing goals

Rachelle Gardner had a great post today about publishing and writing goals. At the end of her post she asked that people list three of their publishing goals. That post went up two hours ago and there’s already 40 odd comments, and my publishing goals are, like my sparks, lengthy stories. So instead of posting there, I thought I’d keep the conversation going and post my publishing goals here. And you are warned, I’m a little wordy at times.

My goals are simple, but behind them is a huge pile of baggage, and I’ll try to explain it as concisely as possible.

1. Publish a book (preferably through a publishing house that pays me to do it)
2. Have complete strangers read my stories.
3. Inspire/ameliorate other people.

I know those goals look pretty simple, so how on earth could there really be more to it than that. I had a dream—oh, don’t worry, I’m not as awesome as MLK Jr. In my dream I had no visions of a brighter tomorrow. I didn’t see racial issues finally alleviated. No cure cancer. While these are all beautiful dreams mine was quite a bit more selfish.

I was a comic book hero.

In my dream I had wings like an angel. I was a warrior princess from another planet. I was a powerful mage, and I was the one person on the planet who could save my entire people from certain destruction—seriously, you’re allowed to laugh at this; my subconscious is a fun place on occasion. In this dream I was challenged to the breaking point. This one dream took place over months and months, I lived another life in one night of sleep. In this dream, people I’d known for my entire life (my dream life) were murdered, and I avenged them. I saved my people, the bad guys hunted me down, wounding me and nearly destroying me and everything I love. But at the very end, when all was truly lost, and I was going to perish—paving the way for evil to descend upon everything I knew and loved—I found the strength to defeat the enemy at any cost. I won.

Pretty cheesy really, but the feeling of empowerment was so overwhelming I didn’t care how cheesy it was. That dream changed my life—well, maybe put it back on track—as I hadn’t even thought about writing in years. In fact, it had been a decade since I’d thought about writing stories. The next day was a field day (not like have fun day, but hike over rocks and map day), and during lunch, instead of eating, I wrote my dream down in my field note book. It was all I could think about all day long. It was all I could think about the next day. I was drunk on the feeling of empowerment. I had done something so impossible, so incredible that I was the new freaking ruler of the world, or so it felt.

At that time in my life I was a young graduate student, and life wasn’t exactly easy. Money was tight, my personal life was troubled, and I was so worried that I’d dragged my family out into a state they all hated to pursue a degree I was certain I was failing. I was convinced I wasn’t good enough. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t smart enough, and that I was undeserving of the support I was receiving from my family to pursue the crazy dream of academia. It was a really dark place for me, and I’d been there for months. Then I had that dream and suddenly the pressure to perform felt like no big deal. After all, I’d defeated an Elder God to save my people, what was teaching a lab or writing an academic paper? How could something so archaic as grades and money matter after such an accomplishment?

I guess I should say, that no, I didn’t really think any of it was real, but my triumph, even though it was a dream, didn’t come easily. Even in my dream, I felt the pain. I struggled to stand on my own feet. I felt the fire burn me, the cold daggers pierce my flesh. It was so real to me, that even knowing it was a dream didn’t diminish the power of “I did that.”

My subconscious isn’t necessarily an easy place to get along. While I had this incredible dream where I overcame great odds and adversity, I’ve had plenty of dreams where I failed. You know those choose your own adventure books where there’s only one or two paths that actually get you a nice ending? My dreams are like that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed in my dreams. I can’t count the number of times I’ve died in my dreams, so to have one where I actually pulled it out and won was particularly uncommon. I’ve failed more in my dreams than in the real world.

As soon as I could manage, I started writing that dream into a novel. As far as I can tell, that dream saved my career as a graduate student. That dream kept me going through a masters degree. I felt like I needed to write that story. I think at first I started writing that story to hold on to some of the feeling it gave me, but even early on in the writing of it, what I really wanted was to pass that feeling on to other people. My friends were struggling in their lives, and I wanted to show them where I drew my power to just keep smiling in the face of certain doom—you know doom like your car breaking down and you don’t have any money to buy groceries.

That particular novel is unlikely to ever see the light of day, but the idea behind it is the power. If I can give just one person in the world that feeling of empowerment—that confidence—then every unpublished word I write between now and then is worth it.

So there you have it: my publishing goal is to inspire someone with the feeling that no matter their path in life, they can do great and powerful things. It sounds so cheesy like that, but it all boils down to “The power is in you.”

And there you have my publishing goals in a nut shell. Now, having said that, I wouldn’t turn down a nice solid bestseller, or a lengthy full time career as a novelist, but that’s just not why I write. I would call those perks (fun to be sure, but I have other things I need to do).


  1. I think that's an awesome goal. And, since I very recently published, there really is nothing like having someone read your work and love it. One girl wrote me that she dreamed about a character in my book. I don't know this girl personally, and it was such a crazy thought that this character I invented and loved was in someone else's dream! Wild! Your work WILL get out there, and people WILL love it!

  2. I'd agree with the publishing thing, but I haven't even been able to do much work on my manuscript lately because of my "day job." I'm almost back on track to get back to work, but we'll see how much longer I stay in revision land (a dark and terrible place).

  3. I love "the power is within you", it's not cheesy. Or maybe I'm cheesy. Either way, I like it.

    Good luck in revision land. I'm there myself.


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