Moving Toward the Mountain

I’ve been thinking about goals lately and about what I want out of my writing career. I’ll tell you that, personally, I know quite a few writers. I count many as friends. Some of them you’ve never heard of, and some of them I’m fairly positive you have. Most of these people are working at different levels in their career. Writing their first book. Writing their twentieth. Looking for an agent. Looking for a film deal. Looking for the internal fortitude to take the next step, whatever that may be.

Wherever we are, we’re all working and creating and taking the same journey, though in completely different ways. We’re all working toward our personal goals.

I’ve talked here before about Neil Gaiman’s exceptional commencement address to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Honestly, if you are a creative person of any kind, you need to watch or read it here. In that speech, Gaiman talked about how he saw his goals as a writer.

“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.”

I don’t think that you need to write down a detailed list of what you want to accomplish as a writer or an artist. You certainly may if that is what motivates you, but if you’re like me, you may not have specific goals, only general ones:

  • I want to tell stories.
  • I want to write better every day.
  • I want to be able to pay my rent and buy groceries.
  • I don’t want to be bored.

Being a writer is my mountain. My goal. And as I continue on in this very busy, very noisy world, I have to ask myself, “How I am going to get there?”

“And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”

Is the next step you’re considering going to take you closer to your personal mountain? Or further? It’s very easy to be distracted. There are personal and family obligations that are not optional. But there are many, many social or professional obligations that are. How much time to you spend reading blogs? How much time do you spend on social networks? How much time do you spend studying about writing when you could be actually writing?

“I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”

See, for a long time, I spent many hours a day trolling through the internet, reading excellent blogs or journals, finding those writers who had been on this publishing journey before me. I was learning. I was gleaning the information from this source and that experience. I had a list of sites that I checked, some of them daily, so that I could keep up with current publishing news. At that point in my journey, those things moved me toward my mountain.

Then, I published my first book. And most of those sites told me that I needed to maintain this blog presence or build that audience or promote in that community. And I did some of that. And those efforts (with varying success) moved me closer to the mountain.

So, I published my second book. (And it was no less nerve-wracking than the first.) And then I published my third and my fourth and my fifth. And through those months, I learned that, when things got too distracting, too overwhelming, or simply too complicated, I turned back to advice I heard from this man when I first started my journey: Focus on writing the next thing.

Because writing more will always lead me closer to the mountain. Though I took a degree in English, I never studied creative writing formally. Like Gaiman, “I learned to write by writing.” So how do I get better? I write more. And I keep writing.

Soon, I found that I wasn’t reading as many blogs or websites or journals because… they were no longer moving me toward my mountain. In my own body of work, I struggle with the idea of going back and re-editing my first book, A Hidden Fire. There are things about it that I know could be improved and, as an independent author, I could update the file easily. It’s tempting for my own ego, but I’m not sure whether it moves me toward the mountain or is just a distraction. (I’m still debating this, by the way, so feel free to weigh in with your comments.)

In conclusion, ask yourself today: Are the steps I’m taking in my journey moving me closer to that mountain? Or are they a side trip? A distraction? And don’t be afraid to say yes, but I’m going to do it anyway. Some people prefer a more meandering path, and that’s your prerogative. If you’re smart and observant, you’ll learn things either way.

But don’t stray for too long. Keep moving toward your personal mountain. Keep working. Keep learning. Mostly, keep writing or creating. Gaiman said it better than me:

“And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

Posted in Art, Fiction, Life, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. I love your goals. They’re wonderful. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own, as I debate whether to look for a job and struggle with my motivation to start (or not) my next book, but I really like the clarity of yours.

  2. Wow. I was JUST asking myself “Um, is reading this article about Katy Perry’s film being based on her ‘lowest point’ getting you where you need to be today?” I LOVE this post. I love the clarity. I’ve struggled this summer to balance the last precious few weeks with my kiddo before school begins with getting writing done and also just having a summer to relax around. Why is it that the least motivating time sucks are the easiest to become fast and ingrained habits? And, if I may weigh in, I think about going back and reworking my first book, too. But I put my vote in for no ;)! Unless there were things that steal from the readers’ pleasure (like editing glitches), we have so much to move forward with. And, I’m a lover of growing with any artist. As critical as we may be of our earlier work, adding polish may well take away the raw beauty of our first passion. I say we let it go and get writing our next book with new lessons in our brains. And, with that…I go to write!! Thank you for the nudge!

    • Thanks for the vote, Liz! And I agree, it can often seem like the most frivolous things become the biggest wastes of time. But even moving beyond that, GOOD things can move us farther away from our goals, too. Time with the munchkin, however, should never be traded. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I’m an avid reader and have been wondering for years if I can write. I recently put pen to paper and wrote 3 or 4 short stories…I call them vignette as they are a snapshot of a special time in someone’s life. I got brave and actually gave them to a friend who insisted on posting them on her website. That was nice..and complimentary but I my age (50) is it too late to start writing and will I get better …your post told me I could and gave me the direction to follow to get there ““I learned to write by writing.” So how do I get better? I write more. And I keep writing.”…Thanks for boosting my confidence..Next a novella perhaps:)

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  5. I have read all your books available on Amazon. You are a terrific writer and have that little extra something that makes me forget the craft and enjoy the story. I was also very moved by Gaiman (a favorite of mine) and his words about making good art. It is what we all strive towards.

    On a humorous note…because I read all your books so close together I observed your ladies “whimper” and your gentleman “growl” at many …climatic moments. While I appreciate your tasteful scenes and I have no idea how to “change it up”…still I hope for a bit more variation. What would a very vigorous whimper be called?

    Looking forward to more of your thoughtful books on relationships! 😉

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