Navigating Purpose, Persistence, and Publication

Shortly after my first book was published, I found myself center stage at a local library, participating in a dynamic Q&A session with an eclectic group of authors. They had all gathered from various genres, and we were all faced with the same perennial question: “What advice would you give to the budding authors in our audience?”

The room fell silent as I slipped my reply in the form of a question, “What’s your motivation?”

This unexpected counter-question seemed to reverberate through the room, stirring the minds of the audience. Encouraged by their thoughtful faces, I delved deeper. “What’s the force that pulls you out of bed in the morning, compelling you to brew a strong pot of coffee and write until the world outside turns dark? What drives you to pen your thoughts after surviving a grueling ten-hour shift at work, or pen pages of notes during your lunch break? What is it that truly ignites your passion to write?”

I continued, underlining the importance of understanding the potent force that fuels your writing, as it serves as your compass in setting your literary goals.

And goals are like a meticulously planned road trip with a plentiful stock of Cheetos and M&M’s. A Thelma and Louise without the iconic “keep going” scene at the end.

Destination/Objective: Every road trip has a destination, and each goal represents an endpoint that you aim to reach.

Do you want to be a published author or write for the pure pleasure of it? Do you want fame? Money? Remember. All of these are legitimate goals.

Route/Plan: Are you seeking traditional publication or plan to go the self-publishing route? The route for a road trip outlines the path to your destination, and the plan for achieving your goal defines the steps you need to take.

Milestones/Progress Indicators: On a road trip, passing certain landmarks or towns shows that you’re making progress towards your destination. In goal setting, smaller achievements or milestones indicate that you’re moving closer to your overall objective.

Do you have a premise? Have you completed the first draft? Revised that draft? Completed a manuscript? Written a query letter? Submitted to an agent or a publisher? Received an offer? Built an author platform? Attended some sort of professional development?

Pit Stop/Reviews and Adjustments: Occasionally, the path you’ve meticulously charted out may not be the one you need to maintain to reach your desired destination.

When driving through unfamiliar territory, a break is often needed. Taking a rest to refuel and reconsider your route can go a long way in ensuring success. Doing regular check-ins to assess progress, refresh, and refocus can help tailor the plan to ensure the goal is reached.

For example:

Feedback and revisions: After sharing a draft with beta readers, writing groups, or an editor, you’ll likely receive feedback that necessitates revisions. This process of reviewing and adjusting your manuscript based on feedback is a crucial pit stop.

Rejections: They will happen. It’s a part of growing and you will live through the ordeal. I promise. Just take a breath, read over the feedback (more than once), analyze what needs to be done to the manuscript, and adjust.

Writing Progress: Are you hitting your overall writing goals? If not, what can you do to make that happen?

Most importantly, take a break, enjoy the scenery, and be proud of how far you’ve traveled.

Travel Companions/Support System: “Grab your headscarf, polish your sunglasses, off we go!” Translation. Find your Thelma or Louise.

They supported each other through thick and thin during their road trip, much like an ideal support system would for an author. This could be in the form of emotional support when you’re crying your eyes out and eating buckets of chocolate ice cream because your email is loaded with rejections, give you constructive feedback, or share joy in your successes.

A good support system can propel an author forward, fueling their drive to write and offering inspiration when it’s most needed. The companionship and unity offered by a strong support system can empower authors to overcome the hurdles they encounter in the writing process.

Thelma and Louise had a relationship based on trust and honesty. They weren’t afraid to tell each other the truth, however harsh it might be. An effective support system similarly offers honest feedback and critique that an author can trust, aiding in their growth and improvement.

Unexpected Detours/Challenges: Like rejections, your road trip will have detours. Hopefully, not the critical Harlan unexpected detour that drastically altered Thelma and Louise’s course from a casual vacation to a desperate flight from the law, ultimately leading to their drive into the Grand Canyon.

But unexpected hitches will happen on your road to success: writer’s block (a future post), rejection letters, fluctuating market trends, difficult time management issues, complicated technicalities of writing, harsh feedback and criticism, financial obstacles, or personal problems. At first glance, these challenges may seem overwhelming. However, much as a savvy traveler can find other paths to reach the destination, so too can determined authors manage these detours. These hindrances should be seen as opportunities for growth and resilience that add fulfillments and successes to their journey. With perseverance and adaptability, they will eventually reach their goal of becoming successful authors.

Writing is a unique pursuit, some would say, a pipe dream that only leads to grief and sorrow. When I’m pulling my hair out because a plot isn’t working or knee-deep into my second go at deep revisions, I’d probably agree. But for me, writing isn’t an option. Writing is an essential part of my life. Without it, I become sedate, depressed, and grumpy.

It’s an art that often blends the personal with the professional, the creative with the commercial, and the introspective with the communicative. The motivations behind this undertaking can be as diverse as the writers themselves, ranging from the pursuit of publication, the desire for monetary gain or fame, to simply reveling in the joy of the craft. Each motive, distinct yet intertwined, carries its own significance and implications.

Pursuing publication is a widespread aspiration, representing a tangible form of acknowledgment for our creative endeavors. It signifies that the countless hours we devoted to the metaphorical writer’s den, crafting narratives as life ebbed away around us, were not in vain. Upon emerging months later, we may be a faint echo of our previous selves, but the book in our hands stands as a testament that the sacrifice was worthwhile.

I know. Oh, the drama.

Publication gives us the opportunity to share our voice with a larger audience, to influence, inspire, and engage readers beyond our close circle of readers, whether they be  fans or friends and family.

The pursuit of publication can be a driving force, pushing you to hone your craft, refine your work, and strive for excellence. Getting your first book published is a major achievement, like a milestone that symbolizes your arrival in the literary realm.

Earning money for your writing efforts is not only feasible but also fair. Writing is work—often meticulous, time-consuming work—and it’s entirely reasonable to expect and desire compensation for it.

The pursuit of monetary gain from writing is not only legitimate but also practical. Writing for money can provide a livelihood, support a lifestyle, or simply serve as a secondary income stream. Monetizing your writing can give you enough money to live off of or simply act as an additional revenue source. On top of that, it’s a way to receive professional recognition for the skill of writing and its worthiness for receiving equitable payment. Knowing it’s a lucrative ambition may inspire writers to better their abilities, investigate lucrative topics, and construct a lasting career.

Writing for fame, though often stigmatized, is a valid motivation. Fame in writing—having your name recognized and your work widely read—can be a powerful validation of your talent and hard work. It brings influence, the ability to reach and impact many readers, and the opportunity to leave a legacy through your words. It can also open doors to new opportunities, such as speaking engagements, collaborations, and expanded networks.

Then, there’s writing for the sheer joy of it. This is the purest form of artistic expression, where the act of creating is its own reward. Writing for enjoyment allows you to explore your thoughts, emotions, and imaginations, to lose yourself in the world of words and stories. It’s a form of self-exploration and reflection, a way to understand yourself and the world around you better. The pleasure of writing can be a stress reliever, a mental stimulator, and a source of deep personal satisfaction.

These motivations are not mutually exclusive. They often coexist, intersect, and influence each other. A writer can write for the joy of the craft and still seek publication, monetary gain, and recognition. The key is to understand and acknowledge your motivations, for they shape your writing journey.

By understanding your goals for writing, you can craft your strategy accordingly. If you intend to publish your work, it’s worth investing in learning about the publishing world and writing effective query letters. For monetary gain, familiarize yourself with current market trends and become well-versed in popular writing forms. But if you seek fame, build a strong author platform and make sure to engage with readers. Of course, if writing is purely for enjoyment, emphasize pleasure over potential gains.

The importance of understanding why you’re writing cannot be overemphasized. It sets the direction of your writing journey and shapes your approach to the craft. Whether it’s for publication, money, fame, or enjoyment—each motivation holds its own value. Embrace your reasons, for they are the guiding stars in your literary voyage, leading you towards your unique destination in the vast universe of writing.

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