After thinking about why I write stories, thanks to Book's post, I started thinking about what I want from them. What are my goals or ambitions? I want success, of course. I want a career. What could be better than gaining financial security from doing the one thing you most love to do? And thus be able to devote your full time and devotion to it? And as part of that I want an audience, and I would like to hope the audience would appreciate me. If you spend that much time doing something I think it's only human nature to want a little acclaim for it, a little recognition of what you've done. An element of me wants respect. I admit it. Part of me would be tickled if I received widespread admiration for my abilities. It's the vanity within all of us (or most of us), and Ego is a tricky bugger.
But these are all secondary ambitions, and they are pale shadows next to my true ambition: to write something great. Not to write something good, or very good, or even really really good... but something great. I'm a perfectionist, and I dream of making something as perfect as my talents allow. I want to write something worthwhile. I want to write something that resonates long after it has left me to venture alone into the world. I want something that can stand by itself and exist. I want something great.
And what is "great"? I suppose you could measure it in awards, in money and books sold, but these are always going to be somewhat subjective and artificial. They provide a sort of validation, but it's a validation that might be meaningless without that inner sense of having accomplished something. It's a feeling I'm looking for. A feeling I get when I know I've done something just right. I think I'm always looking for it, pushing myself, my writing, towards this. I want to do something as perfectly as I humanly can. I want to be able to read it and know. It may not sell, it may not be a success by any common standard, but if I can hit that mark and feel that story resonate in some way that's bigger than me, with a reach greater than my own... I'll know I've done something worthwhile.
I may not reach that point. But part of why I love writing is because it's not easy. I think I love the challenge of it, the struggle, the way a story shifts and turns beneath the words you choose. There is no right answer in writing a story, only, perhaps, an answer that is more right or less right.
When I was young I was a jaunty little math wizard. It came very easy to me, and I liked finding a solution, learning how to solve a problem. And after that it bored me. Math was about repetition, full of rote memory work to absorb formulas and theories. The joy of discovery faded quickly beyond a vast wall of repetitive questions, the same thing written over and over with only the numbers different, a simple game of substitution. It didn't fool me. It was the same question, and answering it once was enough.
I discovered that writing a story, though, was a constant act of discovery. Each one was new and different, and all but the most basic formulas shifted and changed constantly beneath my fingertips as I typed. There were no solutions, only journeys, only a long process where each step was as important as the final destination.
That's what I want most of all: a story that takes me one step further on the journey.