How Badly Do You Want What You Want?

I wasn’t planning to blog today, but then I saw this article on Facebook. Since nearly 100,000 others were talking about it, according to fb, chances are good that you saw it too.

If you don’t want to read it right now (though I’d recommend doing so at some point) the premise is this: Life is full of struggle and pain. It can’t be avoided. Yet many of us say we want to be happy in our jobs, relationships, houses, etc. The problem is achieving the kinds of jobs, relationships, etc. we want requires struggle and pain, because that’s life. From the article:

Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

The question is this: Do you want what you want badly enough to struggle for it?

Edison1The author discusses struggles related to going to the gym and pursuing a singing career. I want to discuss the topic from the angle of an aspiring writer.

I italicized aspiring because I think it’s become an overused and possibly meaningless word. I aspire to clean the kitchen, but unless I go in there and do it, nothing has changed. I sound good because I’ve expressed my hope to clean the kitchen, but really I’m still sitting on the couch, writing this post, and letting the kitchen stay gross.

So why do I use the word at all? It’s still common language among developing writers (a more appropriate word, IMO), and it identifies the target audience of the article and this post. Which is everyone, because we’re all developing.

I’ve talked about this next point before, I’m sure, but it’s powerful and extremely relevant here. I haven’t been able to find the original source (this is my memory of it, so it’s not even intact). If you happen to know/find it, please let me know in the comments.

Many people hope to write a book. Most won’t.

Of those who do, many hope they’ll let others read it. Most won’t.

Of those who do, many hope they’ll accept feedback. Most won’t.

Of those who do, many hope they’ll revise to make the book better. Most won’t.

Of those who do, many hope they’ll become published. Most won’t.

Of those who do, many hope their book will become a best seller. Most won’t.

Get the idea? Yes, it feels like a million people are writing a book, and maybe that’s true, but how many will make it as writers?

writing dreamAnd of those who don’t, at what point did they stop? The author of the article says if you give up on a dream, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a quitter. It just means you didn’t want it badly enough to endure all the struggle it required.

Writing, publishing, and marketing a book is hard. Haaaaaaaaard. It doesn’t matter if you’re traditional or self-published. I work both sides of the fence and they’re both hard in their own ways (though marketing especially counts for both). These are the questions aspiring writers need to ask themselves:

Are you willing to spend hours, days, weeks, or months writing something you’ll end up throwing away?

Are you willing to fall in love with what you’ve created, only to have a critique partner or beta reader point out its many problems?

Are you willing to make changes to fix the problems they point out?

Are you willing to keep learning to improve your practice?

Are you willing to cut that part your editor wants you to cut but you love?

Are you willing to accept the fact that not everyone will love your work?

Are you willing to endure bad reviews?

Are you willing to spend hours talking about yourself and your book on blogs, social media, and in person to help it sell?

Are you willing to keep doing that even when it’s not selling?

This list is just a start. I’m sure my fellow writers can add to these questions.

We all have difficult moments when we want to quit. I call them “quit days,” and they usually occur during or immediately after some unfortunate writing thing happened. Maybe my editor wanted more changes or I’m feeling beat up by a CP. Maybe my book got a bad review. The point is they are quit days, not “quit forevers.” I want to be a successful writer badly enough to endure those hard moments and keep going.

But what if your quit day turns into a quit forever? Does that mean you gave up on a dream?

I obviously can’t speak to your dreams, but if you find yourself in a place where you just can’t do it anymore and that doesn’t go away, if the thought of writing another paragraph or speaking with a critique partner is met with an unending sense of dread, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate. As the author of the article says:

…maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

Wanting something is fun, isn’t it? Seeing your name on a cover, making the NYT or USA Today best-seller list, seeing your work made into a movie, whatever. If what you want is something difficult, after years of working towards it, there’s no better feeling than finally getting it. And if you got that far, it’s fair to say it was something you really wanted. Which takes us to our final question:

Are you willing to endure the struggle it takes to get there?

26 thoughts on “How Badly Do You Want What You Want?

  1. Pingback: Writers Can Help Themselves Get Lucky – A Writer's Path

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  4. I’ve actually been struggling lately with the idea that I need to take a break from the process, which oddly enough is met by a horrified “NO” from everyone I talk to about it. It’s nice to have someone say, taking a break is not quitting. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for taking this topic head on! Writing is work and work is not always glamorous. Publishing is work too and not always glamorous. Marketing is hard work and not always glamorous. Unfortunately, the joy of creation sometimes makes us overlook these issues. But I believe if you truly want to be a writer, you’ll work through all of this stuff. I’m not as far as I want to be as a writer, but I’ve accomplished a lot in the last ten years. Happy 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post Allison. Love it! It is true that anything worth having is worth working for. If you don’t want to work for it, chances are you’re don’t really want it, just like the thought of it. It is great to label those down days as quit days. Feel it, express it, get over it and get on with it. It’s a slog. But it’s, hopefully, worth it in the end. As Dan says, I’d love to play golf, well not golf, but there are other things I’d love to do, but I don’t have time. I’m too busy in my writing time! Maybe one day …

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bravo, Allison! This is the most straightforward blog post I’ve read in some time. I appreciate your honest approach in addressing an issue that more than not struggle with.

    I’d take my hat off to you – if I wore a hat. I would like to see everyone that puts pen to paper, or strikes the keys on their computers read this post. As for me, I intend to print your post and keep it close by to read every time I begin to question my intent.

    I am going to RT for now because I am traveling with my smartphone, but I would very much like to take some time to expound on what you have written and reblog your post within the next couple days, when I have access to my computer.

    Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Success in authorworld requires you to give more when you think you have nothing left, which is a different limit for all of us. You do it all and you do it all and you do it all – and the question still rings out:

    That stuff, whatever it is, is what’s holding you back.

    Each day ask yourself if you did enough to pursue that dream you say you want. Because there are really only three options: Dreamer, Quitter, or Achiever.

    And achievers were dreamers first.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Amazing post! I totally agree. Although I do hope to be published someday, and sometimes I do lose myself in the “fantasy” of being a published author, I realize that publication is not the sole reason one should be a writer. And if I ever want to be published, I have to actually do the work. 😉 That’s why I try to write every day (or at least, as often as I can) and learn from any feedback I receive.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. That’s a great summing up of the struggles it takes to be a writer. I have a friend who wants to be a writer, who tells me he wants to write, he’d love to write, he’s going to write–and doesn’t write. I want to bonk him on the nose every time he talks about and say, “Just go write!” But as you say, perhaps writing is more his fantasy than actually enduring the everyday toil of writing.

    For me, I have some days I look at my computer and realize I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to go play video games, I’m going to hang out with my family, I’m going to do anything but the business of writing. I try to remember on those days that it’s good to take a break; it’s not being lazy, and it’s not quitting.

    I think you’re absolutely right; giving up on something doesn’t mean quitting, it means saying, “No more.” It’s alright to look back on what you’ve accomplished and say, “I’m glad of what I did, but I’m done.” I hope I never reach that point in my writing, but perhaps some day I will. On that day, I hope I can be proud of what I’ve done.

    Nice post, thanks for the thoughts.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I did reach that point in my teaching career. I was just done. I left proud of what I accomplished and considered it a finished chapter in my life. No regrets.

      You’re absolutely right about breaks being important. Sometimes we need that down time to work out whatever’s tripping us up or just to breathe and enjoy what we do. I’d even say it’s important to intentionally include those breathers as a way to keep perspective.

      Great thoughts! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

    • “I have a friend who wants to be a writer, who tells me he wants to write, he’d love to write, he’s going to write–and doesn’t write.”

      Don’t we all.

      I have a friend who says that. He plays a lot of golf. I always tell him I’d love to play golf. He doesn’t understand the connection, but I know his choice.

      Liked by 3 people

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