Much like the American Dream, the Writing Dream can be a bit tricky.
It begins somewhere before, during, or just after the first story, be it a short story, a blog, or a book. You realize it isn’t so hard after all (that first one seems like a mountain, the future like hills. It’s a misperception because they are all mountains but go with it for now). And you begin to dream.
A long time ago, I would have guessed that dream is to have J.K. Rowling’s sales, yet after talking with hundreds of writers, the dream goes all over the place. Some want to use writing to travel, others to burn their high school English teacher (figuratively, not literally).
However, like the American Dream, what you think is the goal may just be a weigh station, or even a lodestone that gets you moving so you can get to where you’re supposed to go.
After a while, once you perfect the craft of writing, things will pop up. Opportunity or distraction? Hard to know. William Goldman was happy being a novelist. He wrote half a doze books and then one got turned into a movie. Marathon Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier, became his fork in the road. He just wanted to write novels, but the studios wanted him to write screenplays. So he did, and became one of the best at it. In fact, he worked on most Hollywood movies in the last 40 years doing rewriting, polishing, or mentoring of screenwriters before his death.
He said he wrote screenplays for money and novels to keep his sanity. Yet he wrote no more novels (too bad, because I love his novels). Was this a slap to his personal Writer’s Dream?
Not at all.
The better you get at writing, the more opportunities arise. Sometimes you have to say the second hardest word, “no.” Sometimes the number 1 hardest word, “yes.”
How do you tell the difference between what should be yes and what should be no?
Ask yourself a couple questions:
- Will this further my goal?
- Will this give me a new, brighter goal?
- Will this detract from my goal?
- Is this a worthy philanthropic task? Because sometimes you need to do right without reward. It’s just a truism of life.
It also helps to be honest about how focused you are on your
goal. If you say no to something, like writing Sunday School curriculum, for
example, because you need to focus on your book, but instead eat bon-bons and
watch TV, it’s time to honest with yourself. If you do, in fact, work on your
book, happily say “no.”
Say “yes” when you can see the next step beyond the request. Is it moving you where you want to go? Are you gaining skill or finding a new application for your writing? Sometimes a detour is helpful. And sometimes the other parts of your life need attention. Turning down PTA meetings to write misses how important your kids are.
Ultimately, keep building the skill to be desired. And don’t be surprised if a new path springs up. Determine what’s important to you. For Goldman, it was money. For you it may be something different.
Your Writer’s Dream can be edited, just like a story.