As Galen (I think) asked in Babylon 5, “What do you want?”
I’ve always had trouble answering that question because my mind bubbles over with possibilities. I joke that I’m like the mule that starves to death between two bales of hay.
But in order to set goals, you must know what you want, or what you want most, anyway. Remember the old aphorism: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
Do you want to make a lot of money with your writing?
Do you just want to hold a book of yours in your hands?
Do you want the ego boost that comes from having “made the cut” in New York?
Do you prefer knowing that you did it all (writing, formatting, design, promotion) yourself?
Keep in mind that none of these options exclude any of the others over the course of a long career. I’m currently still submitting to both NY and small presses while studying self-publishing.
How do you define success? What are you willing to give up to get it?
I’ve been advised to dream big, since a big dream is more motivating than a small one. By inclination I’m a realist — a realist with an imagination. A pure realist would look at the statistical chances of making much money writing and get a job at Walmart. (That only matters if you measure success by how much money you make — but that’s the American way.)
But like anyone who strives in a competitive arena, whether it’s acting, writing, or professional sports) I believe I can be one of the few. Yes, I like writing for itself. It’s challenging in a way few things are. But I want recognition, too.
And so I keep at it. Am I delusional? Maybe. But then so is everyone else with a dream of succeeding in a difficult field — until they do. And until then, we still have the dream.
What does the road to success look like? My road won’t necessarily have the same scenery as yours, but that’s okay. Whether it’s wide or narrow, has trees along the side or cactus, is traveled by bus or bicycle, it doesn’t matter as long as you have some idea of where you’re going. (A career GPS would be helpful, though.)
And don’t worry if you find the road is under construction and you have to take a detour. It just makes the trip more interesting.