For Writing and Life: What Do You Want?

In the TV show Babylon 5 there are four questions that are central to the series’ theme, and that are asked by different characters throughout the story: Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?

In this blog series, I want to cover each question individually – what it means to me, and what it means to you. If you’re a writer (or pursuing a creative passion of any sort), I think these questions are especially important.

As a writer (and reader) of fantasy tales, I believe that one of the strengths of the genre is to give us a new and deeper way of looking at reality. The best fantasy always points to the truth. And so, I ask this question:

     What do you want?

We all want things: money, fans, ice cream, sleep, friendship, new shoes. We express hundreds of wants every day, from the fantastically wishful to the mundane.

In Babylon 5, it’s the Shadows and their servants who most often ask this question. For all their faults (the Shadows are the main antagonists of the series), they know how to pull the answer to this question from the deepest parts of a person. They do not ask this question because they’re curious about what a character wants for dinner or wants to do tomorrow – they are searching for the driving force at the core of each person, their deepest motivations.

Goals and Dreams

These two things are not the same, though they go hand in hand. A dream is the calling of your heart, your deepest desires and your highest wishes. A dream can be motivation, even when circumstances are against you.

A goal is a dream with a deadline. If you’re a writer, your goal might be a publishing deadline, a trip across the country for hands-on research for your next book, a daily wordcount, or maintaining a consistent blogging schedule.

Set a date, plan your action steps, and do the work. This is how goals – for writing, and for life – are pursued and accomplished. But a goal is useless – and usually unattained – if it’s not backed by a true want, a dream.

Never stop asking the question

As life goes on, you change and your writing changes. And sometimes your dreams and wants change, and that’s okay.

It’s important to keep asking yourself what you want. Periodically analyze your dreams and goals, and see if they are really what you want. It’s a good thing to change a goal because your deep desires and motivations have changed over time.

The Shadows, though they were masters at asking the question of others, had forgotten how to answer it for themselves. They could no longer be the guardians they were originally intended to be. They were so busy pursuing the same goal they had always pursued that they never stopped to explore their own desires. They became creatures of habit instead of dreams.

Make sure that you’re always writing about what you want to write about. This keeps your writing genuine and your voice unique. Never lose track of your dreams.

What do you want?

“The question is its own purpose. What do you want?” -Morden, “Signs and Portents”

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Keep the purpose in mind

I’m a firm believer in writing just for the sake of writing. Writing what’s on your heart. Writing for yourself first and foremost, and never mind if anyone ever reads it or likes it.

These are all valid reasons to write and should never be ignored or abandoned. But if you want to move on to the next step—like getting published, entering a contest, or writing a blog—you need to have a goal in mind.

I’m hardly an expert in any of these areas—though I do have a few months’ worth of blogging under my belt now, at least. But all of my current writing endeavors have a purpose behind them.

I’m still writing what’s in my mind and my heart. I’m still writing for myself and writing what I want to read. But now, I’m starting to write for others, as well.

I started this blog with the intent of it serving a two-fold purpose—to share my (limited) writing knowledge and experience with other budding writers, and to share my own personal writing journey and ideas and inspirations.

Even if your blog is truly nothing more than a personal journal that you’re willing to share with the world, chronicling your hopes and fears and daily activities, that’s fine. If that’s your purpose and that’s what you’re doing, then you’re walking the path you set for yourself and accomplishing your goal.

If you want to get a story published one day, then whenever you work on that story, keep that goal in mind. If you’re still working on your first draft, there’s no need to worry about tight sentences, correctly-spelled words, and such—that will come in the editing phase. And if your goal is to get published, then yes, there needs to be an editing phase. Probably more than one. Keep that goal in mind as you write and as you edit.

If you’re writing a story for a contest, or for entry into an anthology or e-zine or something similar, remember that as you write. What is the plot/content supposed to be, or what’s the maximum word count? Again, some of these details can be hammered out during editing, but keeping the goal in mind during the first draft can make the whole process more streamlined.

Write for fun, and write what you love. But if you dream of sharing your work, selling your work, growing as a writer—don’t forget that as you write. Focusing on your purpose will keep you on that road.

What’s your purpose with your writing?