You can describe the cobblestones of the city your characters start in. You know everything that’s happened politically for the last 20 years, leading up to the conflict that forces your characters into action. There are times when you would swear you could smell the flowers in the queen’s private garden. And you know what? None of that really matters. It makes the setting real to you so you can write the best story possible but none of it will make it into the book.
Asked to describe their world, most author’s get the same manic look as a new religious convert. Their breathing shortens, their eyes get a feverish glow and they will talk your ear off for the next hour about the imaginary world they’re writing in. When asked to describe their writing career, however, most authors will give you a basic timeline of what has happened and what their agent/publisher has told them they can look forward to. They may have a couple books coming out but that’s about the only thing that might give even a pale comparison to the excitement they feel for their books.
Why is that?
I think it has to do with the reason authors work for so little.
There are self-confidence issues, to be sure, and the pressure of ‘that’s just the way it’s done’ that’s being pushed by agents, editors and other authors. There’s also a distinct lack of vision.
Vision is important to anything we want to do in either a personal or professional capacity. Yes, I have goals and plans for this next year but without a vision of what I am working towards, those goals and plans have very little chance of success.
If your vision is to be a starving, though critically acclaimed, artist, you’re going to be an artist who has difficulty putting food on the table. If your vision is the publishing equivalent of winning the lottery, you’re going to be very frustrated as you keep trying to promote the only book you’ve written. If you just want to write and not deal with any of the messy (or confusing) financial nonsense, then you’ll likely take what you’re offered and be ripped off by any publisher or agent you end up working with.
So many times I’ve seen people who can’t figure out why they’re not doing better; either professionally, with their health or financially. When asked, they can’t say anything about their vision. While a clear vision isn’t a magic wand to get what you want, it tells you where you are, where you want to go and what you have to do to get there. When you’re working towards a specific vision, you’re more likely to notice things that will get you there. Though it may seem like magic, it’s really just being better aware of opportunities that you may have been missing.
People in general, and authors specifically, need to have bigger visions. There is nothing wrong with acclaim and a nice paycheck.
So, what do you want to do? What is your vision?