Do You Have Writing Goals?

There is no better proof of being a writer than writing, and writing, and writing some more. I’ve met a lot of people in my years who have indicated that they wanted to write a book, or they have ideas for a book, or they have written one book, or they have started a hundred books. All of those are good in and of themselves, but for me, being a writer means producing varied works over a long period of time. It’s a daily task whether or not any digital pages have been written. It’s an all-encompassing passion which you cannot escape, literally, ever single day of your life. Writers do not become writers on a whim or because they finally finished their manuscript from high school. Writing requires discipline but writers don’t need to be disciplined to write because it’s a natural out-flow of who they are.

It took me many years to call myself a writer. I’m an author because I’ve published five novels. I’m a playwright because I write plays and have them produced. All of that has made me a writer. I don’t dare attach other adjectives to that moniker. I don’t consider myself a good writer or a great writer or an average writer or a poor writer. I’m simply a writer. Adjectives get attached to writers by critics and readers. I can’t control which adjective a reader attaches to my name, I can only control what I type on my blank screen. That’s it.

So it’s best not to think in terms of whether something is good or bad or just plain silly. In my view, a writer should think in terms of goals, long-term and short-term, and work towards accomplishing those goals. If you do that and put everything you have into your creativity, you’re a success, regardless of the adjectives plopped in front of your name.

When I just started out pursuing writing as something more than a passing whim, I recall telling myself that I wanted to write a novel a year for seven years and then see where I am at that point.  Well, I’m happy to announce that today, during my afternoon writing session, I completed my seventh novel. Seven novels in seven years. This on top of a regular job, family, and a myriad of other writing projects I’ve taken up over the years. I’ve done what I’ve set out to do and that, in fact, feels good. But achieving this goal is not the end by any means. I can’t wait until I hit double digits in novels written. Where will it end? Could I hit 20 novels written by the end of the next 10 years?

Who knows?

You don’t have to meet every goal, but they help you determine if you are actually serious about this writing gig or not.

I am. I have goals which I’m never going to stop shooting for.

What are yours?

Writing is not a hobby

Writing for me is not a hobby.

A hobby is something in which one dabbles.

I don’t dabble in writing. I drown in it. (even if I don’t want to)

I sometimes get the perception that people think it’s cute that I have this little “hobby” of mine. I write, I publish, I keep producing a variety of works. It keeps me busy on weekends and during long breaks and vacations. It occupies my time. Isn’t that what a hobby does? People know it’s what I do, and how I am. Isn’t that nice?

One having a hobby gives off the connotation of an amateur – one who is finding his way and learning the ropes of any given field. In this way I am, in some respects, a hobbyist, but my hobby isn’t writing. It’s being an author.

Is there a difference? Yes, a big one!

Being an author is my hobby in the sense that “I have no idea how to best market my books!” This is the area in which I am continually “learning the ropes,” and even though I’ve been doing this for a couple years now, I often consider myself to be just a novice at handling those post-writing, tedious tasks that all authors (especially indie authors) must complete: book covers, synopsis writing, self-publishing, self-promoting, social media, etc…

But the writing? No, I’m not a hobbyist. It’s what I do, always, even when I’m not technically writing anything, I’m still a writer. It’s inescapable. Writing has moved beyond a passion or a weekend fling because I have nothing else to do. And while I’m growing as a writer, experimenting with new genres and continually learning in my craft, writing embodies the creativity that I have always wanted to unleash. One reason I know it’s not a hobby is that I am painfully unsatisfied with my works. Sometimes I hate to read what I have written. I hate to find mistakes. I hate to acknowledge a poorly written sentence, a messy phrase, or a flat character. As a hobbyist, I always say “good enough.” Not as a writer.

While I may not currently make my living from my writing, my writing has become an integral part of who I am. It’s the creative outlet which helps me express myself. It’s my driving passion that makes me look and re-look at our world, while trying to figure out how things really work.

I put words in front and behind other words. Sometimes with success. Sometimes with failure. But all the time with a pensive mind that seeks to communicate human behavior. And possibly a little piece of myself.

I’m a writer.

A Writer’s Life: Feeling Comfortable Like Well Worn Jeans

When does a writer finally have the mind of a writer?

Or perhaps I should ask it differently: When does a writer become comfortable in his/her own skin?

Honestly, my mindset has made a remarkable transition these last few years. I’m confident in who I am and what I can accomplish. I believe that confidence comes by being comfortable with who you are and who you are not.

The writer I was a few years ago was riddled with doubt. Now don’t get me wrong, doubt is a common occurrence for every writer (as much as I can tell), so I’m not pretending I’m super-writer or something like that. But experience breeds a certain level of acceptance of who one is. And that is where I am at as a writer. It’s not a bad place to be.

The writer I was three years ago did not see an avenue for sustained success. The writer I am today no longer scoffs at that idea. The writer I was three years ago cautiously put his work out for others to see. The writer I am today is less driven by what others think and has a better grasp on what I want to communicate. The writer I was three years ago was still trying to figure out how I wrote. The writer I am today feels like I have a voice. Some have said it is unique. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but I do know it is mine, and I am who I am.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m happy to be where I am. It’s been fun to get feedback and put my works into the hands of the public. But really, I’m just getting started. I have so many stories I want to tell. I have so many voices in my head that want to be realized. Being a writer feels natural, like a well-worn pair of jeans.

Time to move forward.

I’m sorry literary agents, but I care more about what readers think.

I saw an ad for writers. It said something like this: “For $89, you can get a critique of the first 500 words of your novel by Miss So and So Smarty-Pants Literary Agent. She’ll help you avoid the 20 mistakes you must avoid at all cost if you ever want to get published.”

I’m sorry. You are not getting my $89.

I’m sorry, but I really don’t care what you think. I care about what readers think.

I’m sorry. I don’t really have anything against literary agents. If you are one, good for you. I’m sure you are a nice person, it just never seems that way when our paths have crossed.

This is how literary agents sound to me, even when trying to be nice:

  • Why did you send me this piece of crap?
  • Yes, I asked for queries, but why did you send me this?
  • This email you sent is taking up a lot of my precious time.
  • Why would I want to find a good book by a new author?
  • I don’t care about anything except selling books.
  • I’m too busy and important to talk to writers.

Again, maybe it’s just me. I’m sure there are a lot of great literary agents out there, they just haven’t found me yet.

But I have found a lot of great readers out there who have said some very nice things about my writing. I am very humbled and grateful. I first write for myself. Second, I write for you, readers.

Sorry, literary agent, you didn’t make my list.

Come to think of it, I was always a writer – Part I

It wasn’t that long ago that I made a decision – I’m going to call myself a writer. That may seem like a stupid pronouncement, but it came out of years and years of thinking I’m not a good enough writer to write anything that anyone would want to read. I lacked confidence. And because of that, I didn’t write. That great novel I started 13 years ago lasted two pages and was finally trashed. But within the last 6+ years, I’ve felt a renewed call to write, and I’ve written so much more than I ever thought would have been possible. So now, as I sit with three completed novels behind me, more than a half-dozen plays of various genres, I looked back on my life and realized that I had it all wrong all this time. I always had the heart of a writer. It was just manifested in different ways. So I thought I would share how my writing evolved over the years, not that this is anything ground-breaking or even very interesting, but sometimes the perceptions we have of ourselves are not completely accurate. Sometimes it times time and perspective to really understand how we have developed and grown as a person. I hope the message is clear: if you love to do something – do it! Regardless of praise or criticism, regardless of days when you feel invincible or desperate. Just live the dream and enjoy. And if others happen to enjoy what you do as well, then all the better.

Come to think of it, I was always a writer – Part I – 1975-1989.

My first play: I must have been ten or eleven and I wrote a play about the Biblical story of Esther. I remember showing it to my mom and being so proud that I added in two sentries for comic relief to lighten up the thick drama.

Lyric Writer: In my high school years, I wrote many different song lyrics, creating all kinds of tunes and even made-up bands and artists in my head. I still remember some of those old tunes. I especially loved to write songs when I was mowing grass. If the song was good, I’d sing it over and over enough in my head so that I’d actually remember it.

College Poet: My college years were my poetry years. I probably wrote hundreds of poems or fragments – most of them I still have in a red binder. My poetry was all over the place. I wrote an epic poem modeled after Alexander Pope for one of my literature classes. I got a B simply because my professor said it was too ‘dense’ and difficult to wade through. He was right. I wrote love poetry to my girlfriend, and one of the poems ended up being in our wedding invitations.

Little did I know that my writing would take a great turn once I headed overseas – because I never expected to go overseas. But I’m sure glad I did.

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