Goals & Desires — The “Why” of Being Published

Photo by Ben Gallagher

I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was four years old.

Despite the twists and turns my life has taken, that dream has never changed, and certainly never died. I’ve never questioned the desire. But a couple of weeks ago, I read something that posed a question I’d rarely, if ever consciously considered.


Not “What do I want?” but “Why do I want it?”

That question made me stop. And think.

Two weeks on, I’m still thinking.

On the 9th of January, the always inspiring Vaughn Roycroft wrote a  heartfelt blog post examining his motives for pursuing publication for his fantasy trilogy. His journey of self-discovery touched me deeply, and encouraged me to question my own thoughts, feelings, fears, and motivations.

Vaughn is a writer I admire deeply. I got to know him first through the Writer Unboxed Facebook Group, and then through his blog. He has the ability to express his thoughts and emotions in such a way that it’s almost impossible to avoid being drawn into his story, what ever that story may be. (And this is just one of the many reasons I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I can buy and read his novels.)

Over the last two weeks, I’ve thought about his post a lot. It’s rarely been far from my mind. And that’s why I want to share both Vaughn’s beautiful words of wisdom, and my own response to it. Please click through to Vaughn’s blog and read Goals & Desires — Not What But Why. I’m certain it will touch you as much as it touched me.

My comment in response to the question of why I’m seeking publication is as follows:

“I reveled in the glory, the friendship and the honor I found in the pages of historical fantasies. I felt renewed by the sacrifices for love, and experienced cathartic sorrow and release in the losses. In a real world that seemed unmistakably darker, I found light in fiction. I was healed, in no small way, by reading.”

This section of your wonderful post moved me to tears. I know what you mean. I’ve been there, more times than I care to count. When life is too dark and too heavy, fiction brings the light of hope and wonder into my heart and lets me see the darkness for what it truly is — a shadow that will pass in its own good time.

I read to feel. To feel warmth and love and pain and despair and passion and humour. To immerse myself in worlds where integrity and honour define success. To experience good triumphing over the darkest of evils. And I cherish those feelings, those experiences, and hold them close to my heart as armour against the emotional slings and arrows of the world.

I write to share my heart’s story. My pain and triumph, my love and fear, my uncertainty and my faith that the bad guys can never truly win as long as a single person is willing to stand against them. I write because in doing so, my heart is strengthened and my resolve renewed. And I share what I write in the hope that I can do for others what so many authors have done for me and set their minds and hearts free.

Have you stopped to think about WHY you’re pursuing your dream?


Filed under Writing

28 responses to “Goals & Desires — The “Why” of Being Published

  1. Hi there, these are all good reasons for writing and sharing your work but that, to my mind, does not necessarily mean being a published author, especially not in the traditional sense. That was a little hair-splitting but if you’re a writer it’s important to analyse words and I am an amateur writer, at least.

    But my main point is to agree that fiction can bring light and put darkness where I’d prefer it: in a corner.

    It is a rather sad fact that I find it very difficult to read fiction. But when I have I sometimes experience the sort of intensity of joy Dostoyevsky described as a result of epilepsy: he said he would give a decade of his life to have it again. I’m not up for giving up years of my life but I hope you get the point.


    • Thanks for dropping by and commenting. 🙂

      In relation to your first point, I see what you’re saying. But I would never have experienced the books I’ve experienced if those authors and stories hadn’t been published. And in order to give back to people in the same way (and reach a large audience), I also need to be a published author. As for the idea of whether that needs to be published in a “traditional sense”, that’s hard to say. My goal at the moment is to be traditionally published. But as you are probably aware, the publishing industry is in the midst of major upheaval at the moment, and it’s hard to know what the landscape will be like when my book is ready. So I don’t rule out any avenue of publication.

      I know quite a few people who don’t read fiction, but there’s such a great range of narrative non-fiction out there these days, it hardly matters. There’s plenty of true stories to fill us with Dostoyevsky-like joy.

  2. MerylF

    I write to make money. Also, it’s fun 🙂

  3. This question of why I wanted to be published — as opposed to why I wanted to write — was first put to me by an agent in the spring of 2010, and it started off a lot of soul searching. I had plenty of reasons to write, but the reasons for being published often came down to “that’s what comes next, right?”

    Anyway, after almost two years of soul-searching, I think I found my answers for “why do I want to publish?”, and those answers caused me to ignore traditional publishing completely and go with self-publishing instead. I’m not saying that everyone should choose the path that I did, but once I came face to face with my real reasons for wanting to publish, I can confidently say that I made the right decision for me.

    • And really, Dan? That’s the most important thing — that you made the right decision for you. I think we’ve talked about this before, so it should come as no surprise that I don’t think there’s one right way to play the publishing game. I distrust the “everyone needs to self-publish” crew as much as I distrust the “all self-publishing is vanity publishing” crew. Everyone has different goals and expectations and skills. The important thing is to identify your own needs, and then act on them.

      So good on you for working out your own answers, and following through on them.

  4. You’re welcome Jo 🙂

    You’re right there are a lot of beautiful true stories but I think it is the narrative that is the problem: if a story is sufficiently well written, it will be so powerful that it could quite easily floor me mentally, send me nuts and yes, I can usually put it down but the ideas remain and can haunt me for a long time. I’m in a remarkably good mood at the moment but even so I’m extremely bitter about this, it’s really not fair! Oh well, I suppose if I want beautiful stories that I know won’t trip me up mentally speaking, I’ll just have to write some…

    Well done Dan! I think self-publishing is a better way to go than traditional publishing for a whole article’s worth of reasons; too many I think to put here.

    I think traditional publishing was the only way to reach an audience not so long ago but that’s not so now.

  5. I have always wanted to get published, since I was a kid, but I haven’t examined why in a long time–if ever! It’s time to do that. I can, however, approach from the other point of view as a new publisher. I want to make others’ dreams come true, to share beautiful work with the world (the ultimate “here, read this!” statement to other readers) and to promote and raise the visibility of local writers.

  6. Hi Jo,
    I loved Vaughn’s post, as well, and I’m glad that you’ve put your response here (always happy to see you over at WU, too! ) I think that sharing your stories is wonderful, and dynamic, and for many people part of the process — communication rather than meditation. I think getting published can be a way to reach more people; it also shows that you value what you’re sharing, and will only share it with people who also value it. (Some purists might argue “hey, I value my work at a hell of a lot more than $3.99 a book!” but that’s not the point, IMO. You don’t want people to treat your stories of hope and strength like Faberge eggs: they’re precious to us, by all means, but I don’t think that means we want them to be exclusive, a reward for privileged people ponying up some cash. I think publication at that price point makes it low enough to be accessible to all the readers we want to reach, but enough money to help us make a living wage and to get them to put some skin in the game.) That’s just my opinion. Thanks so much for sharing the post! 🙂

    • Hi Cathy,
      I’m so touched that you visited my blog and left a comment. You’re exactly right about sharing stories being the difference between communication and meditation. I’m with you on the price argument, too. Yes, I value my work, but not so much that it needs to only be read by the super-elite. See you around WU. 🙂

  7. Wonderful post, Jo. You, and Vaughn have both inspired me. There are as many reasons as writers, I suppose, for writing and wanting to publish. Whenever I think about the ‘why?’ of writing, one major reason always comes to the forefront:

    “I write because reality doesn’t live up to my standards.”
    – Philip K. Dick

  8. I read Vaughn’s post and also commented. Sometimes we need to ‘go back’ and take stock of why we started this journey and his post was a great reminder to me that it’s time for me to do that again…

  9. Thanks for making me think about this some more. My reasons are threefold. Validation (which is why I’m going the traditonal route for now, I don’t want to be the only one who thinks my book deserves to be published). Money (I’d like to justify staying out of FT non-writing work, at least for a while). My characters (I really want to give them “life” in the real world).

    • Those are three great reasons. (While I’m not writing specifically for the purpose of making money, it would certainly be nice to be able to pay the rent using money earned by writing!) I wish you well in your writing and publication journey.

  10. To get it out. Out there. So I can find out what comes back from it.

  11. I think it’s my purpose in life. And I want to. I know it will be hard, but I want to. Me being a Christian, you might not understand that, but that’s what I feel. Also, reading is kind of an escape. Writing is being able to share myself to others. Plus, I’m a bit socially awkward with words and better at writing so yeah. That plays a big part too 🙂

    • That’s a great answer. Knowing the WHY always helps, I think. And I love the idea that writing is about being able to share yourself with others. I read at one point about how many writers write because, at some point in their past, they felt they didn’t have a voice. It sounds like that may be the case for you.

      Best of luck with your writing and publications goals. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Why Ask Why? « My Random Muse

  13. When (and if) I get to my 2013 goals post for the year… I’ll have to put some thought into this side of the equation as well. I’ve a few knee-jerk responses and a few “I think I know what I want” responses, but the question deserves some soul-searching, doesn’t it?

  14. A beautiful post – and one that has encouraged me to think too. Many of my reasons are the same as yours. Essentially there is something about reading other peoples books that has allowed me sift life. Writing was an extension of that – to enter into the bigger conversation and to sift the world and what it could be.

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Raewyn. Your reason is beautifully expressed. I love the idea of writing as a way to enter the bigger conversation and sift the world. Best of luck with your goals.

  15. Pingback: 2013: Goals, Plans, Dreams « The Undiscovered Author

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