We writers have grand plans. Getting an A-list agent. Selling 250,000 copies of our first book. Scheduling our appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America.
We know we have to do a lot of work—writing the book and promoting the heck out of it—but sometimes it can feel that our end goal was merely publishing a successful book.
The book is not the end goal
Now, if you know me, you know I am not into the woo-woo stuff. I’m kind of a practical girl.
I’m not here to sell you on the program (so far, it’s been wonderful), and I’m not an affiliate or anything. But, rather, I wanted to share with you an epiphany I had during the first week.
Now I know quite a bit about goals (and their more detailed cousins, objectives). I wrote them in lesson plans when I was a teacher. I created them in proposals to funders when I was a grant writer. I developed them for clients’ marketing campaigns in the 20 years I owned Cat’s Eye Marketing.
I can do that.
But the slap on the forehead came as I dug deeper and asked myself why I really wanted to write my book. And I realized it wasn’t for the money. Or the fame (which alludes most of us anyway). Or the recognition that I was finally an author.
It was something more. I wanted to affect change in the world—or in my tiny corner of the world. I wanted to get people to open their minds and think a little differently. To feel what life is like for people who may have had different experiences than they have had.
Figure out your big goal first
Sometimes people who write memoirs are accused of being ‘navel gazers.’ They are all wrapped up in themselves. They think that their lives somehow have greater meaning than others.’
I knew that I wanted to focus a single lens on a part of my life in this memoir. But I discovered that my unspoken goal was not just to turn the camera on myself. And with that, it gave my book—and my life—greater purpose.
So, if you are writing a book, or contemplating writing one, ask yourself this one question:
What do I want the effect of my book to be?
Because that slight shift will change your thinking. You may not be out to change the world, but what do you most want to be known for at the end of your career?
So, what’s my big goal?
I realized that I am drawn to memoir because I want to help people see one person’s experience and relate it to their own life. To see that we are all alike but that we each respond to our life experiences in different ways. To help people not to feel so alone.
From that, I made my ‘big goal’ in writing my books:
To raise awareness and understanding of the important social issues of the day.
My memoir, Out Tonight, is about the effect of a religiously repressive childhood on a woman who thinks she has escaped it all. She has discarded the old values, gone on to become a political activist and a champion for people without a voice. But her core beliefs are turned upside down when her beloved daughter, all grown up, comes out as a lesbian. She is forced to confront the skeletons in her own closet and discover who she is—and who her daughter is—all over again.
So my big goal sits there, a sticky note on my computer screen.
Will it inform my book? Yes. Will it overtake my plot, conflict scenes and character arcs? No.
Because the best memoirs read like good fiction. But beneath the narrative, beyond the story’s conflicts and climax scene, way past the number of books I want to sell, I know what I am trying to accomplish.
And even if you write fiction, it is a valuable exercise and a good question to ask yourself. What are you hoping to accomplish?
Does this make sense to you?
Have you thought about your big goal?
If you feel comfortable, share it with us here in the comments