#IWSG: Goals, Dreams, and Vision in the Writer’s Journey                        

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When I first started my writing career, I was a starry-eyed graduate student with little more than a head full of dreams and a heart full of stories, clutching a copy of Writing Down the Bones to my chest. I wrote for the sheer joy of it, the exhilaration, the thrill. I didn’t care about business, and I didn’t even know what platform was.

That was ten years ago. In the years that followed, I realized that I needed more than the wispy qualities of my dreams if I wanted to be in this for the long haul. I realized that writing is art, it’s storytelling, it’s magic, but there’s also a business side.

But, unfortunately, I went too far to the other side of the spectrum and got stuck on the hamster wheel of word-count goals and metrics. I became obsessed with things like “how many projects can I draft this year?” or “how many words can I write today?” And the storytelling suffered. Sure, it was finished. But it didn’t often sparkle the way I wanted it to. I’d lost my heart. I’d lost touch with the magic.

I’d tried to turn myself into a storytelling factory, and do you know where it led me, that starry-eyed dreamer who wrote for the sheer love of it? Burnout. I realized that my approach wasn’t working. It wasn’t organic enough.

In the years that followed grad school, I worked multiple jobs—at one point, three at a time, started a blog, attended writing conferences, met amazing people who have supported me on my journey, quit jobs to focus on writing, learned countless ways to improve my craft, started many projects, tried and failed, battled chronic illnesses…

Yeah, it’s been a journey. And you know what? I’m still only beginning. That’s the beauty and the frustration.

I still have goals. We need goals. That’s why challenges like NaNoWriMo and ROW80 work—because they give us tangible deadlines, finite targets that take “I want to write a novel” to “I’m writing a novel” and, finally “I wrote a novel.”

But as much as we need goals, we need vision. Vision gives goals a context. Without a vision, we’re just churning away in a sea of words. Without vision we lose our heart.

I still write for the sheer magic of it. Yes, I recognize that it’s hard work; it’s constant growth and improvement. It’s learning new skills. It’s putting ourselves and our work out there despite a fear of vulnerability. But whoa, when the magic whispers…I’m transported. That’s what they call flow, the magic of the storyteller’s life.

So, yes. Let’s dream. Let’s set goals. Let’s strive to achieve them. Let’s devise a plan and follow through.

But let’s do these things in the context of our vision. Who are we as storytellers? What is our passion? What brings us to the page? What do we want or need to say, and why are we saying it?

Love. Magic. Adventure. To tell deceptively simple stories that help rekindle people’s belief in the power of magic and love. For me, it’s that simple—and that complicated.

If I keep that vision in my peripheral as I write, I can make the steady progress that moves me along the writer’s road. I can move forward on my journey. Lose it and I’m a rat in a wheel, lost in word-count goals and deadlines.

We need those things.

Let’s just give them context.

(The Insecure Writer’s Support Group helps writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement creates a community of support. Visit their website to learn more.)

So now, tell me. What’s your writer’s vision?

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17 thoughts on “#IWSG: Goals, Dreams, and Vision in the Writer’s Journey                        

  1. Erika Beebe says:

    What a beautiful line “Love, magic, adventure …” It is both simple and complicated but you’re also right. Steady progress is the key. Happy IWSG day, Denise 🙂

    • Denise D. Young says:

      Yes. It’s a balance between self-care and goal-setting, between work and play. I was part of a wonderful discussion today on Facebook about giving our inner child some room for creative expression. Writing can feel like play sometimes, but it’s also intense work at times, and we need to “fill the well.” And giving our inner child space to play is a great way to do that. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Nick Wilford says:

    It can be a really difficult balance to achieve between practicality and chasing that elusive spark, but you’re right, without that magic we won’t have a story worth telling. A great post!

    • Denise D. Young says:

      “Chasing that Elusive Spark” sounds like a title for a book about creativity. Because sometimes that’s what it feels like. Like Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Sometimes we know what we want to say, but how do we say it? That’s where I’m at now. Refining, shaping, polishing. There’s magic in that, yes, but skill too. We’re not unlike blacksmiths at the forge. No wonder some of us call ourselves wordsmiths!

    • Denise D. Young says:

      Thanks, Madeline. I think creative vision, having a personal mission statement, living with intention and purpose, channeling our passion…these things are so important. Our time is, unfortunately, limited. I’m very goal-driven, but I can get easily sidetracked. Having a clear vision helps me stay focused on what I truly love–magic and creativity, in my case. Good luck! 🙂

    • Denise D. Young says:

      Absolutely. Craft without passion? Dreadfully dull. Passion without craft? Cringe-worthy to say the least. We need to constantly learn and grow, but also to constantly fill the well of creativity, by reading good books and savoring them, and doing whatever feeds and refreshes our souls. It’s a balance, to be sure.

  3. Lee Lowery says:

    What brings us to the page? That is the question, the answer to which, keeps us at our craft. The answer is different for each of us, but at the end of the day, still, to tell a story. Great post!

  4. J.S. Pailly says:

    For me, it’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth between “writing is art” and “writing is business.” Both are true, but it’s probably not helpful to try to think of writing both ways at the same time.

  5. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    Interesting post, Denise! I’m focused on writing a memoir, and what drives me, my vision, is I want to preserve the voices and stories of some amazing people who impacted my life at a turning point in Canadian history. It’s hard, it’s been painful; but most of all, it’s been meaningful. Believe it or not that equals magic for me! We all need magic and vision to keep us going. Wishing you magical writing!

  6. Beth Camp says:

    Thank you for writing about that link between vision and reality when it comes to setting (and carrying out) our writing goals. Sometimes I think I’ve wanted to write all my life — and finally, after retiring, I can write and dream my way into my stories. Your ability to balance the writing with professional commitments inspires me and gives other writers hope.

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