Writing without a goal

People told me that once I published a book, I’d have to be careful not to let “the industry” distract me from my love of writing for the sake of writing. I didn’t think this would be a problem for me, but it has been.

Before publishing a book, I wrote the stories I wanted to write, without thinking about what my agent or editor or “the market” wanted. I just wrote. And, because I’d been rejected so many times, I didn’t really concern myself with the outcome. I hoped I’d get published one day, but I didn’t obsess about it.

Now that my debut is out there, I’m thinking, “OK, now what? What’s next?” My book deal was for the one manuscript. During the year-and-a-half-long phase of waiting for PEOPLE WHO KNEW ME to be published, I wrote other books, but my editor isn’t interested in those, which is disappointing, but not that shocking. Lots of writers say it’s even harder to get your second book published than your first. There are a couple different reasons for this. One, your first book didn’t do well enough, so your publisher isn’t motivated to give you a second deal. Or, two, your book did well, so your publisher wants you to write something that’s very similar to it (which isn’t always easy).

I started to desperately brainstorm ideas, bombarding my husband with them on a nightly basis. I had completely forgotten what I WANTED to write. I was just concerned with what other people wanted to read. This started to make writing seem not fun at all.

I’m back to my roots, writing what I want to write, with no outcome in mind. In fact, the project I’m working on now (the memoir-ish thing I mentioned a few posts back) makes no real sense from a career perspective (since I’m a fiction writer). Even though it may not be the most strategically sound project to dedicate myself to, I feel the need to write it, so I am. Maybe it will get published some day, or maybe writing it will open me up to write my next novel (which may get published or may lead to another novel). It doesn’t matter. I just need to write what I want (or need, rather) to write. Plain and simple.

write for yourself

I’ve also decided that I’m setting aside Sundays for writing. I’ve been lacking in time (and brain energy) lately because my job has been very stressful. I’m tired of jotting down ideas on Post-its and watching the Post-its collect in a pile. I need to set aside structured time for writing. I’m not usually that formal or disciplined about my writing, but I need to be now. I wrote for six hours yesterday and it was glorious. Sorry, in advance, to people who want to hang out with me on Sundays.

P.S. Happy Labor Day, everyone! I saw “The Light Between Oceans” today with my mom. It followed the book closely, but I still like the book more. It remains one of my all-time favorites. If you saw the movie, what did you think?

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