Why, Not When

drill sergeant

What do you want?

To write a novel!

When do you want it?


March, struggling writer, march!

When it comes to goals, I think the question we should be asking is not necessarily “when” we want to achieve the thing. Of course we want it immediately. Better yet, we want it yesterday, with little or no effort, please. In my case, I want to have come out of the womb with a best-selling novel clutched in my pudgy little fist.

No, the real question is, “why do we want it?”

“When” is easy – let’s face it, we’re all just about the instant gratification. But why? Aye, there’s the rub.  Why do we want that iPad? Why do we want a new house? Why do we want those muffins? What do we think they’ll give us? What are we actually looking for?

I really like Bob Mayer’s book “Write It Forward” not because of the advice he gives (although a lot of that is excellent), but because he takes the aspiring writer through a series of exercises to help identify overarching goals.  That’s fine, but then he takes things one step further and asks WHY you want to achieve those goals.

Personally, I found both of questions challenging to answer.  But the hardest thing for me to identify was “why”.

Welllll, because I want to, that’s why.

That’s not good enough soldier!

Speaking for myself (which I will since I don’t know what you’re saying) one of my overarching goals is, as fate would have it: “I want to tell lots and lots of stories and have people read them without me browbeating them to do it.”

But why?  Am I seeking money?  Power?  Notoriety?  A fine physique and a date with Hugh Jackman?  WHY?

After considerable thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to tell lots and lots of stories  because I love to tell stories. And it makes me feel full when I can write every day – like a piece of my own particular and weirdly-shaped puzzle has snapped into place.

Yeah, not exactly an earth-shattering reasons, I know.  But at the base of it, they’re why I push myself to write when it would be much easier to vegetate in front of the computer watching the Kitten Cam.  So I guess they’re reasons enough.

And of course, the real reason to ask why you want to achieve something is so you can decide how you want to move forward.  If I want to make lots and lots of money as a writer, then my path is different than if I say I want to tell lots and lots of stories.  Money might come from stories.  Stories might come from the pursuit of money.  But the paths are not quite the same.

WHY.  I think it’s the question we need to answer.  Well, if we really want to achieve the goal.




  1. Hugh Jackman any day…..Seriously, just do what you love to do.

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