Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Writer's Life and Goal Setting

Sometime in the past few days, I read the following sentiment sometimes heard from writers: "I just want to write. I don't want to do all that other stuff like querying, editing, publicity, researching markets, blahblahblah"

But, you know what, that is just part of being a creative person and having a creative career. Artists have to find an Art Gallery to show their work and do shows and stuff. Actors have to get headshots, take classes, find an agent, go on auditions. Dancers have to do about the same thing. Directors have to find scripts and meet with producers and do a whole lot of other stuff to get a movie made. I can't think of a single creative career that does not have aspects to it which are business related.

This is not a new thing. Throughout history, creative people have had to do things they didn't want to do in order to work in their creative field. Shakespeare had his theater to run. Michaelangelo preferred to sculpt, but he had a ceiling he had to paint. Leonardo preferred to invent things, but he had a portrait to do.

I've also been thinking this week about goal setting for writers. Some people use word count goals. Some people use time goals. Some people treat writing like a second job with a block of time carved out for writing and nothing else. What it really comes down to is figuring out what works for you and doing that.

But, along with that is how do you count the time that you spend doing research for a story, outlining (if you outline), brainstorming, building worlds, character development, and all the other things that a writer does before, during, or after the first draft? So, you've spent all day brainstorming plot ideas, developing characters, or making decisions about the setting and you only wrote four hundred words that day. Does that mean you didn't work? That you didn't accomplish anything? That you're just playing at being a writer? What about the time you spend querying, submitting, researching markets, etc? Shouldn't that count, too?

Is there only one way to be a serious writer? I think not. I think there are as many ways of being a serious writer as there are people on the planet who write with the intention of selling their work.


  1. Diana, great post. I totally agree with your view. Since I decided that I wanted to write a book many years ago, I have spent a lot of time trying different things and in Thomas Edison's words - to find all the ways that didn't work for me. But that was important I think to eventaully find what does work for me.

    I believe there are no rules as to how one can become a serious writer. As long as you are able to produce quality stuff that your publisher wants to sell, you are a serious writer. How one gets there is as unique as each of us.

  2. Enjoyable post, thanks. As someone who works another creative job, I have to deal with accounting, client phone calls (I hate-hate the phone), meetings ... and playing pieces I hate (Wagner's Bridal March, Danny Boy). Doing without the not-fun aspects is like not tuning your instrument. You'd better not expect to play outside of your own home.

  3. Good points, Diana--the business side of writing is no different than the business side of any other art/entertainment aspect. It requires work.

    Now there's nothing wrong with just writing, and writing only for yourself or because you enjoy it, but yes, if you're serious about making a career and getting published, you'll have to do more than just write. ;)

    And there's no "set" way to do it--you find what works for you. O:)


  4. It's interesting...writing requires being a creative person who pours her heart into her work. Marketing, researching, and selling your work requires a different skillset, so yes, I can see how some authors would puzzle over it. I've met authors who loved the act of going out and attending booksignings and talking about writing, but they were sometimes less prolific than the authors who were more reclusive. It's sometimes hard to strike that balance.