My first novel was published three years ago. Along the way I’d written four books that were rejected, and had the book that was eventually published turned down by at least thirty agents. So when it came out you can imagine how jubilant I was.
Apart from I wasn’t jubilant at all.
Don’t get me wrong. I was very pleased – just not swigging Champagne straight from the bottle, or God you can take me now type pleased.
Along with virtually everyone else I’d seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk about the importance of working out what you’re why is. Focussing on the reason you do what you do is what will propel you to success. My ‘why’ had always been that I wanted to be a published writer. Now I had a well-respected agent, a two-book deal and I wasn’t walking on air. What had gone wrong? Did I have the wrong ‘why’?
What I had was the wrong story. Or more precisely I had a story that had a definitive end point. I’d worked out my when rather than my why as in ‘When I get an agent then I’ll be happy’, or ‘When I get a book deal I’ll be fulfilled.’
And then I found out there is no when.
Movies end after the third act. Bond triumphs. Aliens are sent packing. The girl gets the guy. What happens after that? Who knows? It’s left to our imagination.
Real life stories carry on rolling….
Which is why I’m a little sceptical of goal setting. Objectives are useful but in my experience (personal and professional) it can make people blinkered in their day-to-day, and underwhelmed when they finally tick the relevant box.
No question we need to know our direction of travel (our ‘why’). But it’s important to understand that each arrival inevitably heralds a new departure.
This month there are two other blogs.
Quest or Order? is for those if you who pitch solutions and need to get the right story for the right client. You can also check out my guide Nine Strategies to Win More Business With Stories. It’s available free at www.gregkeen.co.uk
And finally there’s The Butterfly a short piece about the importance of struggle in commercial and personal stories.