Friday, January 8, 2010

Knowing Your Why

We only have so much time, and it's easy to fill it up, whether that's with productive activities, or activities that may waste time. With all of 2010 stretching ahead of me and my nice list of what I'd like to see happen, I've had to ask myself why I plan on spending time on certain things, like exercising and writing.

Someone who is exercising to lose weight is going to approach it differently than someone who is trying to improve in an athletic event. And each person will feel satisfaction and like they've achieved their goals at different times and with different results. But if you go into it without a clear idea of the why, then not only will you not necessarily be maximizing your time, but you might also be setting yourself up to feel like you've failed.

If you know why you're doing something--especially if it's hard and you don't see immediate results--then it's easier to stay motivated and focused, to push through those times when you're tempted to just toss the goal out the window and go watch TV. I'm trying to teach this concept to my children. For example, I've been making my two boys go to karate for several years. Sometimes it's a struggle and my kids beg to quit, but I won't let them. I know the why. They're in karate because they need to learn self-discipline, how to stick with a goal over a long period of time even when it feels monotonous (because everything you do that's worth it feels monotonous at times), and how to work on something that doesn't come easy or with instant gratification. And when they whine to me, I list the whys for them. Someday they'll thank me. (I hope.)

So, dear blog readers who also happen to be writers, why are you writing? What do you hope to get out of it? What's in it for you?

Face it, writing is hard and monotonous and discouraging at times. There is never instant gratification because the process itself takes a long time. But there's some reason writers stick with it. Something that keeps them at it through all the terrible plot wrecks and characters that are so much better in your mind than on the page and dialogue that makes you cringe even as you write it. Something that keeps you from tossing the rough drafts on the fire.

What's my Why?

I write fiction because I love losing myself in the magic of a good book and breaking the chains of reality where I can't fly or meet a sexy pirate or have magic or travel to Paris or solve murder mysteries. I want to give that experience to others. I want readers to lose track of time and feel different after reading my books. I'm not out to preach or save the world but every good book changes you, even if it makes you less stressed than before you started reading it or you keep thinking about the characters or you're sad to reach the end. I want my stories to be ones that cause my children's eyes to light up. I want them to laugh out loud when they read my books and rush to tell their friends all about it.

Yes, I have some monetary goals, too. But I'm not in this for fame, fortune, or to become the next Stephenie Meyer. I'm in it for that light in someone's eyes.

Take time to really know your Why. And if you know it already, I'd love for you to share. Putting it down on paper (or computer screen) will help solidify it in your own mind.


ElanaJ said...

Excellent post, Jaime!! I'm not sure I can articulate my why very well...

I started writing so I wouldn't collapse in on myself. And then it became sort of an addiction, if you will. An outlet for the darkness inside. You know?

Now that I'm whole? I think I write because it always brings back those good feelings. Like I can do something hard.

L.T. Elliot said...

I've always known my why.

It makes me happy.

That might sound selfish to some but for me, happiness is a bit of a foreign object in my life. Sure, I've had a lot of it but it's foreign in the way that it doesn't sit well in my equilibrium--not because I don't want it. Writing is the sleeve around that ill fit. It makes all the pieces whole.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Wonderful post! Knowing the why keeps you focused on what is really important. I love your "why". The twinkle in your readers eyes. Thanks! Now are you asking why sausage and a life preserver go together as a gift? lol. I just had to add that. :0)

Rhonda said...

Interesting post and it's definitely giving me some pause for thought. Maybe I need to really think through my "why". Hmmm....