Writing On Purpose

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I spent all summer writing on purpose. I wrote articles when deadlines loomed. Radio commentaries got penned in a slightly panicked, bi-weekly frenzy. I chugged along on the radio documentary assignment and at work, I dutifully filled out grant applications because, well, it was my job.

Noticing a trend here?

Unless there was some form of compensation involved, I didn’t write it this summer. In fact, this spring, when things were getting kicked into high gear, I turned down a pro bono gig because I knew there just wouldn’t be time to squeeze it in with my other (paying) obligations.

Obviously, my goal as an aspiring freelance writer is to make money. The brilliant C. Hope Clark recently posted about not knocking the writer trying to make a living with their craft. As freelancers, our general goal is to write on purpose. And that purpose is often to write things we enjoy while making a buck. We’re told over and over again to set goals for our success. How often have you (regardless of your profession) heard: “you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going”?

This past week was meant to be my return to a more focused writing life. Yet an overnight trip to Duluth and one filthy cabin have kept me from spending too much time at the writing desk this week. Still, yesterday afternoon I found an hour to hunker down with the novel I revised last winter to begin writing a synopsis and working on proofreading and editing the text.  

As my red pen scurried busily across the novel’s printed pages, correcting comma splices, adding in forgotten words, crossing out sentences, I was struck by something: how much fun I was having. I realized how much I’ve grown to love all of my characters in the more than five years [gulp!] since I first I sat down in my room in the Irish cottage I lived in during spring 2005 and tapped out the short story that would grow into the 80,000 word novel it is today.

Let’s face it, taking the time to pen a novel is not exactly a great “get-rich” scheme. It’s kind of like pinning all your hopes on a single lottery ticket. Writing a novel with the purpose of fame and fortune is a largely delusional pursuit, especially since the bad economy seems to be prompting more and more people to focus on their literary skills. When it comes to writing a large work of fiction about the loftiest goal you can have for the experience is to have a good time.

Certainly there are hopes and dreams tied up in this little novel of mine. Still, as I read through the novel’s beginning yesterday, I realized all summer I’ve been missing out on writing just to see where the story goes. I’ve missed the writing that comes from not having a purpose or any guaranteed compensation.  

Maybe the novel will never find a snazzier binding than the three-hole binder it currently resides in. Maybe the novel will never make it to the bookstores’ shelves. But it’s sure been fun writing and reading it.  

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