Yesterday I talked about how dreams can change. How sometimes we have to let dreams go, because we’ve changed. We’re someone else than we were and that dream doesn’t fit us anymore.
Today I want to continue the dream discussion and ask: what’s your dream as a writer? Has it changed through time?
As you know if you drop by here regularly, I’m not one to promote tons of rules. I’m not one to say there’s a right or wrong way to go about writing.
All I say is: You have to write for you. I’m big on that.
“Writing for you” can mean all kinds of things. Whatever it means for each of us, though, it’s tied deeply into our dreams for our writing.
I write because writing helps me figure out the tough stuff in life. I believe that my fiction is part of God’s plan for me, and a big part of the reason I would love to be able to support myself writing is to think that maybe my stories will help some other people deal with the tough stuff too.
The more sales, the more people reading. The more people reading, the greater the chances that maybe my story has been meaningful for someone.
There are so many dreams we can have in regards to our novels and stories. And they’re not mutually exclusive:
- We dream of feeling accepted for our art, of the validation that we aren’t wasting our time and energy creating it.
- We dream of landing that publishing contract with one of the big 5, of receiving that first advance and that first royalty check.
- We dream of touching others with our work and inspiring other writers.
- We dream of financial security, or even of making it BIG. The next J.K. Rowling. Spots on late night tv. All that jazz!
My dreams for my books have definitely been in flux through the years. When I started writing, I had a plan. The plan most writers start with (or at least, the plan we started with before the rise of e-readers and e-publishing).
STEP ONE: write an awesome novel.
STEP TWO: land an agent and a publishing contract.
Interspersed with that were fantasies of being interviewed by Oprah and making a movie.
A MOVIE, y’all. With my characters. What could be cooler than that for any writer????
I never would have dreamed back in college that I would take the self-publishing route. But you know what? My dream shifted a bit.
I wanted my work to be available to readers. The chance to maybe touch a reader–to make a difference in the life of a reader who connected with some character or other, some aspect of my story–took precedence over “find agent NOW.”
So I self-published. And I’ve learned tons and loved the adventure of publishing my own work.
THE FINANCIAL QUESTION
Would I love to be able to squeak by thanks to my writing, 100% of my income coming from sales? Would I love to be making $40,000 or $50,000 a year in royalties?
Of course! That would allow me to spend 8 hours a day writing. I would love that. My writing fulfills me. I feel it’s a calling more than an interest or a hobby.
For me, the dream of supporting myself writing isn’t about being rich. It’s the same dream everyone has: supporting herself with a career that she finds meaningful.
Now, I don’t have any illusions about how tough it is to “make it.” Maybe I’m cynical…. Maybe I’m not “believing in myself” enough…. But I don’t expect that’s ever going to happen. I don’t think any writer who is honest ever expects that.
And hey, as Chesterton notes in “Orthodoxy,” the people who really “believe in themselves” are in mental institutions. A healthy dose of humility goes a long way.
That begs the question:
HOW BELIEVABLE SHOULD OUR DREAMS BE???
Do dreams have to be attainable? Do dreams have to be earthbound?
Just don’t confuse dreams with goals.
Goals are ever-changing. They are steps on a ladder. In my opinion, a goal is meant to get you to one level so that you can then set your sights on the next.
Goals are more short-term.
- Get this draft written.
- Find beta readers.
- Blog twice weekly all this year and aim for 200 daily hits on average by December.
Goals aren’t inspirational. They are meant to be grounded, to keep us on track and moving.
Dreams are MEANT to be wild. They are meant to be large, too large even to be grasped. They are meant to feed the spirit. They are long-term and emotional.
That’s WHY it’s so challenging when our dreams shift a bit. That’s WHY we doubt ourselves so much when we let go of or “downgrade” a dream, like I did when I let go of my dream to become a professor.
I was letting go of the emotional picture of what being a professor would mean for me.
Now, I think that a lot of writers who have self-published have let go of that dream of the Big 5 (formerly 6). Others consider self-publishing a step to landing that big contract.
Some of us never sought an agent. Others sought for years and had no luck. Still others are actively looking.
Either way: it’s fine. The world changes. Our options and possibilities change. We, as people, change and mature.
So, what are your dreams for your writing? Do you feel like you’ve been jaded? Have your dreams changed as you’ve changed and your life situation changed?
How do you feel about “reaching for the stars?” Do you think that motivates people or just sets them up for disappointment?
Please do share your thoughts! And if you enjoyed this post, I invite you follow my blog by email so you don’t miss future posts. You can sign up at the top right of the page.