To get the answers we need, we must ask the Right Questions

If you are working toward a big and/or long-term goal that’s really challenging, how many times have you heard this:

How bad do you want it?

As a writer who reads a lot of writer blogs, I’ve seen this a lot.

And it never leaves me feeling good. You see, this question implies that there’s always something more we can do, that we’re never working hard enough, that if we want it badly enough and put in the effort, success will come. That question always made me feel guilty whenever I’d play computer games or watch TV. If I stayed later hanging out with friends or family than I needed to for the relationship, rather than working on my writing or promo, or something else related, that must mean I didn’t want writing success badly enough. If I’m caught waiting in line at the BMV, or the doctor’s office, or at the bank for five minutes and I’m not using that time on writing, I must be a slacker. I felt that, because my every free waking hour wasn’t spent writing, or on social media connecting with readers, or something else related to my writing career, that I must not deserve publishing success, because I “don’t want it bad(ly) enough.”

Well, I’ve had it. Enough already! Enough of the guilt trips! My butt is sore from all of the kicking, and my big-girl panties are ones I don’t want to be caught wearing if I’m in a car wreck (heaven forbid)!

I can set goals and keep them, but last week has taught me that for me, “How bad do you want it?” is not the right question. Of course I want to sell books and to keep writing, because I enjoy it. And yes, I’m willing to work for it. But you know what they say about all work and no play, and to focus on work all the time has sapped my creativity. I truly think that’s why I’ve been stuck on plotting my next book.

Taking a week off has been wonderful. What’s even better is I don’t think the new book is dead. For my writing workshop, I surprised myself when one of my assignments turned out to feature the main character from that story, and I liked it (so did my instructor). That tells me that this story still wants to be written and it still wants to be written next. It just went down a wrong path, probably due to being pushed too hard. My other workshop assignment wound up being in the Saturn Society world, and introduced a fun, new character. The best thing about doing these exercises? Neither took long, and I had fun writing them. So maybe the question we should be asking isn’t “How bad do you want it?” but “Are we having fun?”

Which brings me around to my goals. Obviously, my quarterly and yearly goals will need to change, but I’m not sure what those will be just yet. I’m also going to go lighter on the others. I started a new migraine medication last week, which is helping, but makes me tired as I’m still getting used to it. Even with that, last week wasn’t bad: I made both of my goals in that I kept up with my writing workshop, and I got all of the fabric cut for my daughter’s prom dress (THAT was no small undertaking!).

The giveaway has ended. Thanks for your interest!

For this week, I’d like to:

  1. Continue keeping up with writing workshop
  2. Some kind of physical activity 3x – even if just for five minutes!
  3. Begin sewing dress through Step 8 of instructions
  4. List ten things that could happen in the new book – they don’t have to be good ideas, just something!

Taking time off from blogging helped, too. I’m not sure if I’ll get back into that this week – chances are, this is it, although I still plan to visit and comment on others’ blogs, because I enjoy that. And be assured, I appreciate every comment I get here! Either way, thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you needed to take time off from writing or other goal-oriented activities? Do you feel guilty, like you must not “want it” badly enough if you don’t pursue your goals every non-day-job waking moment? What’s your right question? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.


14 Responses to \

  1. I never thought of the comment “How badly do you want it?” as a call to work to the exclusion of everything else or as a means to make me feel guilty. If I did I’d never make any headway and drown in guilt. I tend to be a project hopper who is easily distracted. For me it has always been more of a tool to determine the level of committment that will be required to acheive whatever the goal might be. To what lengths am I willing to go? The question applies to everything in life, not just our writing. But I do agree that whatever goal you’re reaching for is a whole lot easier to obtain when it’s still fun doing it. Maybe that’s why I project jump. It keeps me interested in everything I want to do. Good luck with the new story.

  2. I’m glad you said it. I always think it’s a question not of working harder, but working smarter. And that includes taking reasonable down-time. I see some multi-published, uber-successful authors whom I don’t envy at all because they have no life. I definitely want to write, but I also want to spend time with my family, foster my faith, hang out with friends, and even vegetate now and then.

    As far as my own novel (which has been giving me a headache) goes, I think it helped for me to step away and write a couple of short stories before I got back to editing. I enjoyed writing story, with absolutely no expectation that anything will happen with those shorts. They might, they might not. But the novel still tugs at me, and I’m now ready to tackle it with new fervor.

    Best wishes, Jennette!

  3. I never took “How bad do you want it?” to mean what you interpreted it to mean. I take it to mean not to give up. If one rejection causes you to toss in the towel, then maybe you don’t want it bad enough. I think it just stands for persistence. Are you willing to keep on keeping on, even in the face of rejection?

    I think you are! Glad you found some positive motivation, though. Even if it comes in the form of a break. We all need a recharge at times!

  4. Loved, loved, loved this, Jennette. You and I are so on the same page. Last night I woke up with insomnia (you know “The Change”) and thought, if I wanted it badly enough, I’d use this time to get up and start writing. But I was exhausted. Then I thought, just give it a rest, literally.

    So your words today are so timely and appreciated. And thanks for making me laugh… “my big-girl panties are ones I don’t want to be caught wearing if I’m in a car wreck” 🙂

  5. Catherine, I guess on the blogs where I see this question being asked, it’s always in the context of the author reminding us that we do actually have time to write if we only make the time (which I totally agree with, btw). Yes, there will always be whiners and slackers, but we need can’t work all the time. Dividing up the time between different pursuits is a good idea – maybe giving more to sewing and even picking my guitar up again could be just what I need!

    Julie, exactly! Some of these articles make me feel like I’m a slacker for taking down time – which for me is usually playing computer games. +1 on stepping away from the novel – I think that’s what this workshop is doing for me, too. Thanks!

    Stacy, that’s a good way to look at it. I guess I didn’t see it that way in the blogs I’m remembering. Some people are so inspired to write, it’s like they use every spare waking moment to get words down. I’m awed, by them, but I can’t do it. But I can be persistent – thanks for the vote of confidence! 😀

    LOL Debra – I don’t know how many time’s I’ve done that very thing! (I’ve struggled with insomnia for years.) Glad I’m not alone! 🙂

  6. This is why JA Konrath always adds luck. Because there is an element of luck. Myself, I’m so sick of hearing that if you’re talented, you’ll make money eventually. Or if you have enough stories. I know so many talented writers who have plenty of work to read, who seem to never get the attention they deserve. It’s why I read a lot of indies and why I always review them. I’m also always lecturing my family to review them too. 🙂

  7. I cringe at that question too. I thought it was because I don’t like being told what to do! LOL But yeah, posed that way it actually makes me feel stuck, instead of moving me forward. I look for inspiration, anything that makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing–the thing I want to be doing. Because that encourages me, keeps me keeping on. Hope you have a great week, Jennette!

  8. So true, Jennette! While I was working my a** off to get Shadow of Stone finished as quickly as the publisher wanted, I really started hating writing. (And then they didn’t even buy it, those unmentionables!) But that’s what I had to do at some point too — stop, think to myself, “Why did I want to write this in the first place? What would make it fun again?” and then take that and apply it.

    I had a long, guilty phase, but right now I’m pretty good with most things about my writing life. I’d like to be able to write faster, but I’m not guilt-tripping myself about it anymore. I’m trying new techniques to see if they’ll take, but I think I’m to the point where I won’t beat myself up if they don’t. 🙂

  9. I agree with you Jennette. In rowing (the sport, not ROWing, the writing challenge!) our coaches used to yell this at us a lot, and it really just didn’t help as much as they seemed to think it did.
    I was just thinking today about play vs work in writing as I have a section on it in my book The Five Day Writer’s Retreat. I think a ‘writer’ who definitely understands this is Richard Castle from the TV series ‘Castle’. If you watch the first few seasons, he’s just like a big kid, thinking up great plot ideas and describing scenes in terms of his book. I want to try and recapture that for my writing.

  10. “Is this worth it?”

    Last year, I stupidly had a goal to read 100 books, which I achieved, but damned if I could tell you what half of them were now. So now I just read.

    This year, I’m supposedly blogging less. Well, that worked out, didn’t it? Tonight, after homework and writing and exercise, I’m doing a post about Soundgarden for tomorrow.

    So now I have to ask myself if it’s worth it?

    Is it worth taking a lower grade in college, considering that this is a degree I should have had 25 years ago?

    Is it worth spending less time enhancing my development skills?

    Is it worth not finishing the novel I put aside two years ago that could probably be a career-maker?

    Is it worth my health?

    I’ve found that those are the things I want the most, and when I reevaluate them in that light, things improve. For instance, I’m slimmer and less medicated now. That’s a biggie.

  11. Jim, “Is it worth it?” is a FANTASTIC question to ask, especially with all those tasks competing for your time. Especially when it comes to your health – because without that, it’s darn hard to enjoy much else. Although sometimes it’s worth it do spend a bit of time doing something we enjoy, and you clearly enjoy blogging, so do keep that up – just don’t sacrifice novel-writing time for it!

  12. Kate, I love Konrath’s blog (and the books of his I’ve read) and if I’ve learned one thing, the longer I’ve been in this writing business, the more I believe LUCK is a bigger part of it. And THANK YOU for reviewing indie books – AND for recognizing that plenty of good stuff goes unread for who knows what reason! You rock!

    Coleen, yes! It made me feel like a slacker, like I was never doing enough. Glad it’s not just me. We all find inspiration in our own way!

    Ruth, that kind of pressure would certainly take the pleasure out of writing! I don’t know how some writers do it, book after book. Maybe if that’s what you have to do to pay the bills. I like your suggestion to stop and ask yourself what would it take to make it fun, whenever you catch yourself feeling stressed!

    Buffy, I think you really hit on something there. I’ve heard athletic friends say this too – some find this sort of negative reinforcement motivating (prove ’em wrong), but others don’t. Just goes to show that one size never fits all! I like the kind of “magic” you’re describing Castle finding!

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