Sometimes it helps to clarify your goals


When I’m writing, sometimes my goal is as simple as “Finish this day’s work so I can have finished this day’s work.” Sometimes it’s as complex as “I don’t know how to solve this problem.”

Then there are times like right now, when I have a list of odd tasks that accumulate around a writing career, and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do, except cross off everything on this list. And then I have to wonder why I’m doing any of this.

It’s not money, despite what some “fans” might say. If I wanted money I wouldn’t have become a writer. It’s certainly not awards; that’s someone else’s concern. And if I wanted writing-style fame, I’d probably do readings or conventions or whatever. So, what do I want, then?

It was this article that reminded me: How Terry Brooks Saved Epic Fantasy.

Regarding the article itself, I don’t think Brooks gets a bad rap. He wrote accessible, commercial fantasy fiction, and was lucky enough to hit the NYTimes bestseller list when other fantasy writers couldn’t. Even now, 35+ years later, his books are gateway fantasy to bring middle-graders into the genre, and as comfort reads for older fans. And if you think I have something against comfort, you haven’t seen my Goodreads page or my waist line.

However, the article itself reminded me of What I Want: I want people to be still talking about my work, decades after it was published.

That’s not to say I want people to think I “saved [genre]”. I don’t really think about genre as a unified thing that could be/needs to be saved. Fantasy is certainly doing better now than it has in a long while.

But I want to have an impact. I want people to look back at my work and believe that it mattered in some way. I want to be remembered.

Which is not nearly the same as winning awards or hitting bestseller lists. There are plenty of award-winning novels that nobody reads, and the thrift store shelves are packed with forgotten bestsellers from “#1 New York Times” authors that few remember.

I mean, awards would be nice, and money would make things easier for my wife and kid. I’m not saying those things don’t matter at all. But the number one thing is to be remembered because things are different because of what I’ve done. I’m not even sure it’s possible, but it’s what I want.