“Just Keep Writing” is a series of pep talks I’m writing for myself in hopes that it will help you as well.
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”), but I will also be covering some of the ideas from the video below.
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?
While Sanderson clearly has been successful, he had to write thirteen unpublished books (including the original version of The Way of Kings) to get there.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. The outcome may be disappointing, but the journey can still be worth it.
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:
- Write 7500 words a week, or revise 3 chapters a week
- Write the best possible version of my book
- Write a better book next time
- Learn more about craft through reading great books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos
- Finish the second draft of my by June
I keep these goals on post-it notes on the window by my desk as reminders that these are the things in my control.
What goals do you have? What drives you to write? Tell me in the comments!