1. Fame: Fame is a big reason why some people want to write a novel. Not me. I think fame sounds unpleasant. However, I wouldn’t mind being just successful enough to have a chance at meeting some authors who are famous. J.K. Rowling is not going to invite me to tea right now, but if I were to write a book that she liked, then who knows? As far as goals go, “Meeting J.K. Rowling and Other Favorite Authors” is both silly and unrealistic. A girl can dream, though, right?
2. Fortune: Fortune is another common goal for writers, but not for me. I know several published authors. If they’re rolling in the bucks, they hide it well. So I’d have to be a fool to believe that merely publishing a book would make me rich. However, I wouldn’t mind a little extra money. How about enough for the “Vacation of a Lifetime” or for putting a “Fret Not, Dear Lady” buffer of cash in the bank? That doesn’t sound too unrealistic. If we’re allowing unrealistic goals, though, let me say that I’m not averse to wealth. I would, in fact, like to be rich.
3. Glory: Writing a novel is a major challenge, and I would love to be able to say I’d done it. This is a realistic goal, since I’m the only one who has to be satisfied, and all I’m asking for is the finished work. “You’ll hate yourself if you don’t write it,” I keep reminding myself. I’ve always believed that I could write a novel. If I died without writing one, I’d feel like an ass for not having proven myself. This is my strongest motivation, so it ought to be #1. But I’m too lazy to reorganize this list, and “glory” usually gets listed after “fame” and “fortune” anyway.
4. I’ll Show You!: I’m sure we’re not supposed to admit to this, but sometimes other people make us feel bad, and one way to get revenge against them is to out-succeed them. If you write a novel, you can say to them (and to any demons that may be flittering about in your head), “I am much too successful to be concerned with the likes of you!”
5. Living the Writerly Life: There is a collective fantasy we all have of the “writerly life.” It varies slightly from person to person, but it goes roughly like this: The writer is brilliant, witty, and much sought-after for social occasions. They’re eccentric, perhaps even crazy, but that’s to be expected from a genius (i.e., their behavior, from bizarre to bad, is forgivable because they’re artistes). They have their own special hideaway (an atelier, perhaps) where they work like maniacs when inspiration strikes. You had better not interrupt when the Muse is in the house! Other people take care of the writer so that they can focus on their craft. The writer is consequently free to do anything they like as long as they turn in a manuscript from time to time, or until the money runs out. I am totally into this idea, but I want the happiest, most comfortable version of the writerly life (i.e., less alcoholism, more hygge).
6. The Stories: I’ve got stories in my head, and they are stories I want to read, but no one else can write them. Writing them for myself is not a perfect solution. I can never enjoy my own work the same way I enjoy the work of others. But maybe, somewhere out there in the world, some other reader is waiting for the same story. Wouldn’t that be cool?
7. Constructive Outlet: I am crazy. I worry incessantly about everything, and nothing. I believe that my overactive imagination is part of the problem. I’m always thinking “What if? What IF? WHAT IF?” A novelist’s job is to think about what-ifs, so I was practically born to be a novelist. Craziness + Writing = Great Novel. Everybody knows that.
8. Communication: All my life I have struggled to communicate with people. I’m shy, and I express myself poorly in conversation. I would like to see how well the novel works as a form of communication. A novel is, in some respects, just another way to share your ideologies and experiences. If it sounds a little egotistical (because it presupposes that other people will care what I think), that’s OK. Only an egotist would write a novel. Everybody knows that, too.
9. Leaving Something to Posterity: Of course I like the idea of writing a novel that people want to read for generations to come, but I think it’s unlikely to happen. That makes it a poor motivator. But, if I could write something that my children would want to keep, that would be great, and it is a much more realistic goal.
10. Understanding Life: This is the hardest list item to put into words, but I’ll try. Life is strange and complicated. I don’t always understand it, and I often feel confused. When I’m writing, I remember things that I’d forgotten and I learn things that I didn’t know I knew. So writing helps me understand life better. My novel will be a collection of things that I’ve learned, stitched together with stories from my life, and it will be an anchor for me when I’m feeling adrift.