One day my mother came home with a slogan from her workplace. “Lower Your Expectations,” it read. Not really the gung-ho mentality of today but hey, it was the ’70s. Anyway, my father saw it, found it somewhat ludicrous, and came back with the flip side: “Up Your Aspirations!” He even had it printed up on a t-shirt.
This probably tells you more about my father than it does my mother.
The point of this (and I have one) is that, as writers, we must manage both our expectations and our aspirations. This came home to because my wife has recently begun to ply her hand at writing, and tonight we had a discussion about what aspirations she might have, as a writer. Sensibly (I thought) she said that, at this point, she doesn’t have aspirations of writing for a living or even for profit. Right now she just wants to play with it and to learn how to be a better writer. I know I’ve harped on this before, but I believe it’s important; writing is a lonely business, and publishing is a cutthroat business. Writing for profit ain’t for the faint.
I have many acquaintances and friends who write for profit, at various levels of success, and I have to say that, in my estimation, talent is not a prerequisite for success. To be blunt, you don’t have to be a good writer (as measured by artistic talent) to be a successful writer (as measured by income); most are, but not all…not by a long shot. Many a hack makes a living at writing.
However, as I move forward with my “The View from Here” posts, keep this in mind.
I do not want to write. Merely to write does not satisfy me. I want to write well. This is my goal.
I want every sentence to be meaningful. I want my prose to move seamlessly through your mind. I want my words to lift you and carry you on the sweep of their narrative. I want your heart to beat with mine as the story unfolds. I want your mind to thrill at just the right word in just the right phrase. I want to paint you a picture with colors you’ve never seen.
Making money with my words is a secondary goal. The prize is always the craft. If I’m proud of it, I don’t give a fig if it makes a profit.
If you feel the same way, watch for future “The View from Here” posts.