A few weeks ago I asked the question, on facebook and in a forum, about what individual writing aspirations people had. I have a few myself. An adaptation comes high, particularly of Inish Carraig (I have other plans for Abendau…). I’d like to attend a Worldcon and be on a panel – and have people in sight to bribe and corrupt on that one. I’d like to earn a little bit more – enough to keep my working hours down enough to write.

And for Abendau. It’s still the same. A Space Rock Opera by Muse, and then I’ll retire and never need to write again. Someone tell Matt Belamy.

Anyhow, mine are not the point here; the trends are. And here’s what I extrapolated from various comments and remarks:

Firstly, responses depended on where people are in the writing process. Getting the book finished was a common one for those writers on their first book and facing the realisation of how hard it actually is to write a novel. (Especially the first.) For people at that stage, having others read their work was a big motivation (and this is what this blog is really about: intrinsic motivation and how an understanding of our aspirations can be used to drive our motivation to keep going).

For the more established writers, that readership ambition changed a little. Establishing a dedicated readership became important – and with that, sales figures, not just for money (I’ll get to that, later), but for recognition, too:

“A million sales. Because that’s an achievement so readily understood by non-writers that I know will make my son proud” – Tim C Taylor, author of the Human Legion series (and well on his way to that million, deservedly so)

That, in turn, did lead to ambitions around money. These weren’t lofty ambitions (I think we’re all too realistic to get carried away) but quite moving ones. Giving up work was a common one. The ability to write full time another.

“To make enough money from writing to support myself and my family” (Rachael B Kelly, author of Edge of Heaven) summed up  the ambitions fairly well, although PP Corcoran’s (The Saiph series) “Retire at 55” was a nice one. Toby Frost (the fabulously funny Space Captain Smith books) perhaps put it most succinctly “Just being able to write for a living without worrying about bills would be terrific”.

So, if oodles of money was not the aspiration (and, to put my boring management hat on, it rarely is. Money is not the motivator it’s made out to be), what is?

Awards? For some, yes, but they divided opinion. For each person wanting a specific award (normally something specific to their genre) there were dissenters. “A hugo so I could turn it down,” said Nick Larter – and that’s not hard to understand if anyone has followed the debacle that has been sff awards over the last few years. But most people felt it was either unlikely to win an award, or didn’t operate in the circles were they thought they would win one, or saw it as a nice add-on rather than a motivation in its own right.

The adaptation? That definitely struck a cord. Not just film or TV, but Netflix and a sitcom was mentioned. The best came from Kate Smeltzer, who fancied  a revival of Jackanory ‘to read my tales’. Great ambition. I doubt they’d want my stories… (give the kids nightmares for a year.)

Fanfiction was another adaptation that was mentioned, particularly by the science fiction/fantasy writers, with divided responses:

“Nothing would excite me more than to discover fans had launched a forum dedicated to my book/world. Strange and specific, I know, but *shrug* that’s my dream” – Zmunkz, sffchronicles

Others were more wary, concerned about the portrayal and how it would match up with their own imaginings. However, cosplay was a universal parameter for all the sff guys. 🙂 (I’d love some cosplay. And fan art. That would be amazing).

One that did come through, strongly, was the motivation the writing itself gave. Continuing to have ideas, to be able to work with them and move forwards. That was all high. And from that, recognition, whether that be for the work, by a reviewer or by a particular publisher. Strangely, no one mentioned the big publishers in that, and the mix for doing well trad or self published was pretty even.

The most memorable ambitions were the most personal. Wikipedia was mentioned, but “bizarrely difficulty to get into” (Stephen Palmer, author of Beautiful Intelligence amongst many other stories). “Write the sequel to Shogun” (Jeff Richards). “Write and believe in my writing” (Matt Sloan).

With that, however, came the warnings:

“When I acheive one goal I always find another one waiting for me at the summit” – Rachael B Kelly  a sentiment summed up by Orla McAlinden (The Accidental Wife) well:

“A story PRINTED ON PAPER in a highly regarded Irish literary journal. People say you’re a f**king multi-prize winner and you won short story of the year, stop being a dick, and I reply… I have never ever succeeded in being published in an Irish journal.”

And therein lies the danger.

I used to dream of being published, and now I am.

I dreamt of a hundred sales, and then a thousand, and now I have those, and I dream of five figures.

I wanted reviews, and I got them in spades. I wanted to be able to say I’m a writer, and I am, but I’d like to write more.

There is always another mountain and another. The trick is to know when to climb it and when not to, and which ones are worth climbing – for yourself, not anyone else. And to remember to look back from time and time and remind yourself what you’ve already acheived, and why you’re awesome. That first line is an acheivement, the first completed story, the first anything. Enjoy it!


Jo (big thanks to everyone who commented!)