“Just Keep Writing” is a series of pep talks I’m writing for myself in hopes that it will help you as well. New Fearless Writing posts will be shared every other Wednesday, which include this series, book reviews, and writing tips.
Recently I was inspired by this video by Brandon Sanderson about lies writers tell you. In it, he explains how writers can set practical goals and how publishing is based on luck. I highly encourage you to watch it (if only to see his adorable parrot using “the force”).
This video made me deeply consider why I’m writing. I do want to get published, but what if that doesn’t happen? Would I still be willing to write?
I’m not an advocate for the Disney channel idea that you get what you work hard for, or that the only worthy prize is the gold medal. We all have to decide what success is for us. This isn’t so that we lower our standards, but so that we identify when our standards rest on a shaky foundation.
The publishing industry is a shaky foundation. Money is a shaky foundation. Audience is a shaky foundation.
Those are all good things, and I think it’s okay for Christians to want their art to be seen. We don’t have to hide it under a bushel. In fact, we shouldn’t.
A firmer foundation rests on what we can control, and this is what Sanderson talks about.
While Sanderson clearly has been successful, he had to write thirteen unpublished books (including the original version of The Way of Kings) to get there. That process was discouraging, but he eventually decided that he would keep writing even if he died without ever publishing a book. He chose to enjoy the process no matter where it took him.
If you’ve read The Stormlight Archive, you know that “journey before destination” is an important phrase to the character Kaladin. It means that you focus on the process more than the outcome.
Sanderson explains how this phrase is important to him as a writer. We can’t know the outcome of our efforts. Success in writing isn’t one of those things you can accomplish just by “setting your mind to it.” You can self-publish, but you can’t guarantee that it will sell.
So what can we do?
We focus on the journey.
Sanderson’s practical suggestion is this: Set goals that you can achieve.
Instead of setting goals around publication that are out of your control, set goals based on your own writing habits and production.
If we never publish, it’s okay. Sanderson argues that writing is worth it. Like playing basketball with friends or playing piano in your living room, you can enjoy the process without being in the major leagues or on a stage. Not only that, but, like playing sports or instruments, it’s good for you to write and to do hard things. It’s good for us to strive after difficult goals and to use our minds creatively.
For me, writing has been wonderful for my mental health. It gives me something to do with all of my imagination besides thinking of worst-case-scenarios.
So today let’s set goals that focus on the journey.
Here are some examples from my own list of goals for 2022:
- Write a minimum of four monthly posts for my blog
- Submit at least two articles to online journals or magazines
- Submit at least one short story to an online journal
- Write the first draft of my next fantasy novel
What goals do you have? What drives you to write?