Publishing Goals, or, Pushing a Boulder up a Mountain

Veronica Rossi 9 Thursday, June 21, 2012
I’ve been an aspiring writer for about seven years longer than I’ve been a published writer. It’s easy for me to remember the highs and the lows from the Before days, when I was writing seriously and dreaming furiously.

At the start of 2009, I set clear goals for my writing. I was going to finish my manuscript. I was going to start querying. And, because I thought it was too far-reaching a goal to actually land an agent, I hoped to make “significant, measurable progress,” on the agent front. (Why yes, I did just quote myself, but to be fair, it was me from three years ago.)

Those were my big milestones. Day to day what I remember was the wanting feeling. That achey, striving feeling. Like, if I could just check this off (agent/editor/book deal), then I’ll have made it. I’ll have proven myself as a writer. All of this effort, and all of this passion will be justified. I won’t have wasted my time.

I remember night after night just staring at my bedroom ceiling in the dark and thinking about it. Any little thing would lift me up: praise from a fellow writer. A good day at the computer. Any small thing could get me down, too. That's what happens, I think, when you want something that badly. The stakes are high and you're easily thrown. It's what we learn as writers, right? Give your character a strong goal, and put setbacks and obstacles in their way? Life was doing that for me.

I also remember day after day of working on a manuscript in a perfect, protected bubble. At the time, before I found a strong writing community, I felt so alone. My family supported me, but most people didn't understand why I was so dedicated to something that had no guarantees. Something that kept me sequestered for hours on end. In those days, I wondered if anyone would ever read the words I set down. I felt like Sisyphus, pushing his boulder up the eternal mountain.

Now that I’ve crossed the published author threshold, I look back at the highs and lows from Before, and see how my journey has changed. I wish I could tell you that I feel like I’ve proven myself. I can’t. The wanting, striving feeling is still with me. While I feel very proud of what I’ve accomplished, the hunger to grow, to challenge myself, to leave a mark as a writer is still with me. I don’t know if that will ever go away--and I’m not sure I want it to. It’s the fire in the belly that makes me work hard. It's what makes me push the boulder up the mountain.

(One thing I will say about After is that my goals are, for the most part, turning inward. It’s less about what I want the marketplace and reviewers to tell me, and more about what ends up on the page. I would really love to get to the point where I’m creating my own definition of success. I would like to define what's at the top of the mountain. I think I’m getting closer. I like this goal better than the ones I had in 2009, so there is that.)

As far as the sacredness of the work from Before, the secret, protected bubble of your own ideas, that safe space… Man, I wish I’d appreciated it then. Hind sight is a funny thing. But I’ll tell you what: I’ve created it again. I have a safe space to work as a writer again, even if it’s for projects that will never see the light of day.

Whoa. Hold up. This started out as a blog about writing highs and lows, and somewhere I veered off road and began writing about the difference between pre-published and published me. (This blog also became a bit of a stream-of-consciousness blog.)(Sorry about that.)

I’m going to just cut to the chase and tell you that the highs and lows are present in both camps, Before and After. Before, the things that sucked were feeling like I could never get there, feeling isolated, and wanting wanting wanting. After, I still want to get somewhere that I’m not, I wish for that safe place I’ve had to sacrifice (see: isolated)(also see: No deadlines) and I still want want want.

The moral of the story is that there is always a boulder to roll up a mountain. The moral of the story is that writing is like life. Writing is life. You strive every day. Some days you’re up. Some days you’re down. But every second is meaningful. And what the heck else would you be doing with your time?

Writers write. It's what we do.

Now get off your bum and get to work. Your characters are waiting for you.


Love this post. You YA Muses are an amazing group. Thank you for your generous and honest posts about this crazy business (art? craft? dream?). Now, back to those characters!

Baby's fussing in the background, 3-year-old is doing not-so-Quiet Play Time, and all I want to do is write! You've inspired me...but not to write. You've inspired me to savor the moments of whatever I'm doing, because when I look back, they'll be gone.

So adios blog posts & email for the day.

Helloooo fussy baby!

Thanks, Stasia. It is a crazy business, isn't it? And Beth, give that adorable fussy baby a smooch for me!

Great post! And I can totally relate. That's the beauty having a foot in traditional and indie publishing. While my agent is taking the brunt of traditional pub rejections, I can focus on my indie series. I get the blessing of creating something beautiful with the assurance of quality publication, because I am the publisher. Because my author brand and life are on the line, I’m meticulous about emulating NY quality on a much smaller scale.

Being in revisions for so long (with traditional pub project), I didn't realize how much I missed being at the helm of my career. :) Don’t discount when you can go with projects that are just for you.

BTW – I loved the trailer for your book. It hooked me instantly.

Thank you, Carey. And it sounds like you're working the best of both worlds. Good for you. Let us know when your series (indie and traditional) are available - and best of luck with both!

This post is beautiful and yes, so, so true. I too was full of so much wanting Before that I imagined once you seal the deal (agent/book deal) then you're home free. Hahahahahahahahaha. Then this year happened. I guess what suprised me was (and shouldn't have) is that life continues to be about striving without attaining. By the time you achieve one goal, another pile of new goals has already stacked up. This is the long haul kind of deal, not just a one shot kind. And that's not a bad thing. Thanks for this post!

Thanks for coming by, Heather. And I'm so happy to hear that you agree. It's comforting to know much of what we go through is a shared experience. I feel a little less crazy, thanks to you : ) Hugs, dear. HUGS.

So true--the writing IS the life. I guess I always knew this in the poetry world, where you never expect to make a living or achieve any kind of broad recognition. But I'm sure it will be true in the fiction world also, if I ever publish my novel. Ultimately, you write to write. The mountain will always be there waiting to be conquered. Thanks for this dose of reality!

"Writing is life" is my favorite quote of the week. Thanks!

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