Every week, my daughter Freya and I have a “storytelling class.” Really, it’s just a fun opportunity to chat about writing stories. This week, our topic was a mini-class where we talked about writing goals.
We always start with two questions: What did we read, and what did we write over the past week?
What Did We Read?
This week, I’ve been reading Dune to my eldest (who wasn’t terribly interested in the Wildwood trilogy that my wife is reading to Freya). I recently read The Lord of the Rings to the kids, and Tolkien’s verbose style is fresh in my mind. It stands in stark contrast to Herbert’s often terse style in Dune. Herbert loves to create compound sentences, but has an allergy to conjunctions. He tends to leave the “and” or “but” implied and just combine sentences with a simple comma or semicolon.
Continuing on my recent graphic novel kick, I also read volume 3 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I read the first couple volumes years ago, and I have to say, I was a little lost in this one. Volume 3 is titled “Century,” because it follows the nearly immortal characters over the course of a hundred years.
The premise is fun, but the story didn’t really grip me. The villain seemed almost accidental, and the end of the story was alltogether anticlimactic. The apocalypse was averted by a classic deus ex machina.
One of the big draws of the League stories is the wrangling together of other works of literature into something new, and there were some entertaining examples of that in this volume, including a rather famous wizard school and a magical nanny. Still, they didn’t have the same excitement as the original volume, with its Dracula; Invisible Man; 20,000 Leagues; and Dr. Jekyll references.
Freya has moved on to the sixth Harry Potter book, and continued to read The One and Only Bob at school, and Wildwood with mom at bedtime.
What Did We Write?
I finished off Chapter 8 of Razor Mountain. I’ve also been looking through some solo TTRPGs from the Itch.io Ukraine bundle.
Freya continued to work on her story, Amber and Floria.
Rather than tackling a high-level writing topic this week, Freya and I sat down and talked a little bit about writing goals.
I used to think my own goals were pretty straightforward: writing stories and novels and trying to get them traditionally published. However, in recent years I’ve been doing more writing just for fun. And, of course, I’ve been writing Razor Mountain serially and posting it as I go, while documenting the whole process. Which lands me somewhere in-between “just for fun” and “actual publishing.”
Two quotes stand out to me when it comes to writing goals. The first is by Neil Gaiman, recorded in print in his little book, Art Matters.
“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be…was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”
This simple heuristic is perfect for writers. There are a lot of ways to improve at your craft, and no strict curriculum. You just have to set some long-term goals and keep asking yourself whether you’re still walking toward the mountain.
The other quote reminds me that you don’t have to have goals at all. It’s from a conversation about writing on Mike Birbiglia’s podcast, “Working It Out.” Carin Besser talks about writing poems for nobody but herself, taking them out once in a while and working on them without worrying about finishing, and with no real interest in publishing. This is “writing like knitting.” It’s a pass-time, a hobby, or a meditative act.
Sometimes goals can be incredibly stressful, and distract from the fact that we’re doing something we love. Even if you do have long-term goals, it’s worth stepping back periodically and just enjoying writing for its own sake.