GMC (It's Not What You Think)
Last month, I asked people to identity what they considered the biggest obstacle facing them and their writing careers. That was a mistake. Sort of. Clearly, knowing your obstacles is important, but I should have started with two different questions: Why Are You Even On The Writing Roller Coaster? and What Are You Hoping to Get at the Other End?
In other words, what are your goals and motivations?
What? You thought Deb Dixon’s advice only applies to characters? Every single person reading this blog has their own personal reasons why they are writing. These reasons shape your definition of success and they feed into the various obstacles you face in reaching that success.
When I talk about writing goals, I’m not talking about the day-to-day goals you read about in productivity lectures. This isn’t about word counts or typing The End. I’m talking about your ultimate, big-picture life goals. If you could describe your ultimate writing career, what would it be? Would you be a RITA winner? A New York Times Bestseller? Financially successful? My guess is many people would yes to all three. (Certainly, no one’s going to turn them down.) But at the same time, there are writers who could give two figs about winning the RITA. Give them a big, fat royalty check and they’ll be fine. Still others simply want to see their name on the spine of a book.
Just as important is knowing the reason WHY this goal is so important. Often, when you ask writers why they write, they answer with something like “Because I love telling stories” or “I loved reading and decided I wanted to write a story of my own” or some other variation. All this is well ad good. But I’m asking you to go deeper. To look beyond the “I love writing” to why writing and selling your novel is so important to that deeply personal reason only you know.
Knowing that reason is key – and ties back to so many of the obstacles writers face. Not the craft stuff. The paralyzing psychological obstacles, like doubt, perfectionism and procrastination. Obstacles are frequently the dark side of our motivation and internal goals.
If that sounds a bit like pop psychology, I apologize, but I stand by my argument. We are our own biggest obstacles.
For example, say you are driven by a need for respect. It’s important that you show everyone you have talent. As a result, you don’t You don’t just want to write a book, you want people to ooh and ahh over your prose. You want both readers and your peers to look at you as one of the most gifted writers they’ve ever read. Because opinions are so important to you, you might find yourself falling prey to perfectionism. You revise and revise and revise and never submit a thing.
Or perhaps you’re motivate by the need to belong. What drives you isn’t the work, but rather being able to attend the conferences and talk about being a writer. Maybe that’s why you can’t seem to get past chapter 3; because it’s not all that important to you. (That’s okay, by the way. There is no such thing as a wrong motivation.)
All of this boils down to a simple concept: Writer Know Thyself. The better we know the why’s behind our actions, the better armed we are in fighting the obstacles we will face. Sadly, we’re more likely to spend time fleshing out our characters' back stories than our own.
So here’s a little homework assignment for you. I want you to draw out a GMC chart for yourself. Look at both your external goals (e.g. write this book) and internal goals (e.g. do something for myself that’s not mom-related) as well as your motivations. Then try to think of the conflicts you might face that relate to those motivations. What you discover might surprise you. (I'll pop in from time to time today in case people have questions.)
Barb Wallace knows first-hand the ups and downs of romance writing having slogged away at manuscripts (published and unpublished) for close to twenty years. Her latest book is THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK from Harlequin Romance.