For most of us, the answer to the question “Why do you write?” is obvious. Because we have to. For writers, writing is simply something that has to be done. We have stories to tell, so we tell them. But we all have different ideas about success. What makes someone a successful writer? Fame? Money? Awards? Positive feedback? Your parents’ approval? A loyal online following? A book with your name on it sitting on the shelves of your local bookstore? Publishing something that will last forever? We all have different ideas about where we want our writing to take us. Some do dream of fame and fortune; others dream of a nice, quiet, comfortable life, typing away somewhere secluded with the person they love nearby. Some want to be Dan Brown or Stephen King, selling millions of copies of their latest work. Others wouldn’t mind being Don DeLillo, or Alice Munro, or Tom Perrotta, building a lasting, great body of work. Some might want to create a character like Harry Potter, where they build a series of books, following their creations’ adventures for many years. Others want to write movies and television shows, and see their words come alive on screen. And some simply just want to work, whether is be writing articles, interviews, product reviews, keeping busy with a variety of different assignments. Every writer has his/her own goals and dreams. Success means something different for each and every one of us.
For me, the goal is simple: To write for a living. To wake up when I want to wake up, to set my own hours, to work mostly for myself, from wherever I choose to work, be it my office, my living room, or a coffee shop down the street. I don’t want to have to punch a clock during the day and work on writing projects at night. I want to write twenty-four-seven. That’s the easy part of my goals. Obviously, having no other job save writing would be the ideal.
What of money? Would I like to be rich? Of course. Do I crave it? Nah, not so much. What I do crave is to earn enough from my words to live a comfortable life, a life of not worrying about paying my rent every month, a life where I can take the occasional vacation to some exotic locale without fear of breaking my budget. I want to earn enough to be okay, to live a fine life. That’s all. Fancy things don’t mean much to me. Peace of mind means everything.
What of fame? Not really interested. I’ve always been more of a behind-the-scenes type of person. I don’t want to be on television or on the cover of some glossy magazine. I just want to write and put my words out there. I don’t need to be out there, just my work. I crave no attention other than the occasional fan saying, “Hey, I loved your story.”
What do I want to write? Having recently moved to San Francisco, I’ve been mostly writing screenplays, stories intended to be filmed. I’ve been writing scripts for a comedy web series called “Apt. B” and later this week they’re going to film my first script in Los Angeles. The thought of seeing my words come to life, spoken by actors, filmed, then shown on the internet is very exciting. When the opening credits rolls, and I see “Written by Ervin V. Anderson” come across the screen, I might very well cry. My mother will probably cry, too, until the actors start cursing and having sex, that is. Screenwriting has clicked with me. I feel like I’ve finally found my niche, finally found the best outlet for my ideas. Still, I love prose, and I will never give that up. I have a memoir I’ve been working on for years, and having that published someday will probably be my greatest joy. So, in the end, I guess I’d like to take William Goldman’s path, writing movies and books. Maybe it won’t happen exactly like I imagine, but I know the kind of career I want, and I’m going to do everything I can to make it happen.
But what of all of you out there? What are your ultimate goals as a writer? What are your hopes and dreams? Not everyone cares about being published or produced. Some just write for the catharsis of it all, the release. What kind of stories do you want to tell? What format works best for you? Are you in it for the fame and money? Do you want writing to be your life or just a hobby?
So, I humbly ask the question: What would be the perfect writing life for you?