Imagining Future Success: Boon or Bust?

Writing at my parents’ house does come with a few distractions…

Maggie and me3 6-30-14 - edit


So far, I’ve experienced some really strange mentalities while in the middle of the drafting process. Leading up to the draft, it’s all preparation and planning and anxiety about actually starting to write. Now that I’m in the middle of the process, there are several different trails of thought pulling me in different directions.

One layer of thought is just trying to keep the inner editor from destroying everything with his doomsday prophecies. I just have to keep up the mantra of, “First draft. First draft. Revision is coming. First draft. Crappy first draft.” In the moments when I am sure I am spewing the worst trash to ever be inflicted upon humanity, I just keep telling myself, “First draft.” Which is true, and it works, but it does zap some of my energy.

While that fight is going on, another layer of thought is surging ahead, imagining the finished draft and potential success in all its glory. Part of me wants to criticize this kind of thinking, since it emphasizes “success” as the only reason to create, which is just not right. But the other part of me realizes that visualizing success is a great motivator, especially when it makes me more impatient to finish—and thus better able to push through the resistance.

So is thinking about the hypothetical future success of a story a boon or a bust?

As I said above, the good thing is that it can help keep you motivated. Whatever your idea of success—reviews on your fanfic, getting published, impressing your former teachers, etc.—thinking about it can help increase your engagement with your current project. Now you can envision the specifics of that success, and use it to fuel your desire to get this project done.

However, there are some pretty big pitfalls here.

First, the danger that comes with any visualizing of success, which is that you can spend so much time thinking about the positive emotions that could come with success that you feel too lazy to actually go out and get it. On some level, you feel like you’ve already achieved it. This is what my horoscope seemed to address so well, and it made me question my habit of daydreaming so frequently.

The second danger is the more immediate one, and that is the fact that when you start putting your specific story into your daydreams of success, you might feel like it doesn’t quite measure up. Especially when you’re just working through the first draft and it’s not that great. A component of feeling like you’ve already succeeded is the feeling that, within the specifics of this project, you’ve already failed. And it’s hard to keep going when you feel like you’re dead on arrival.

For me, I’m going to take the side of not imagining future success while in the middle of the draft. It makes the job of fighting the inner editor that much harder. And I also think it’s important to look at writing and creating as a process of growth, and to think of a writing career as a multifaceted evolution that may not hinge on this project alone. That way, I don’t put too much extra pressure on the draft at hand.

Keep daydreaming if it helps keep you motivated—but I’m going to avoid daydreaming specifically about this project’s potential success.


About J. Sevick

Just write.
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6 Responses to Imagining Future Success: Boon or Bust?

  1. I agree that for some people, imagining success may be a motivator, but that can also be dangerous. Personally, I write my stories for myself first. It can be hard, but I try not to think about what other people will think or anything, just write the story how it wants to be written. I think that’s important, especially in the first draft. Then, in revisions and editing, start thinking about success or how other people will take it. Also, love the pic. My dog does the exact same thing. “Wait, why aren’t you paying attention to me? I’m cuter than your stupid laptop..” 🙂

    • J. Sevick says:

      One of the biggest things I think I’ve learned in this drafting process so far is just to constantly give myself permission to write what I want–what I find funny, or interesting, or whatever. I can always edit it for an audience later, but for right now, it’s just for me.

      And it would have been completely adorable if she didn’t keep trying to lay on top of my arm or underneath it, or jump up on the table where she knows she can’t be–and of course I’m completely distracted by how cute she is. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. That picture is too cute X3 I have two kitties and they like to help me write, and by help I mean they like to lay on the keyboard XD

    I never thought about this. I think I do a bit of daydreaming about the reaction to my writing. Like as I’m writing something I might think, oh this is brilliant, readers are going to love this 8D But my driving force is my own reaction to the story. Like when I write a descriptive scene well I get the same joy out of writing it that I would reading poetic prose in a book. I wrote a scene with a comatose patient incorporating reality into his delusional thought process. And I was thinking that people probably wouldn’t like it or understand it, but I didn’t care. I wanted to write it, so I did. It’s interesting that you mentioned fanfic, lol. Were you a fanfic writer? I wrote for the Final Fantasy VII fandom for 5 years, but I quit this week. That makes it sound like it’s a job XD I stopped because I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I just started writing my own original pieces. I may write short stories for fanfiction in the future (not for FF 7) but I probably won’t do another fanfic novel for many reasons. . .

    I have a hard time getting words on paper sometimes because I’m so self critical. It’s hard for me to just write crap and then continue. I can do it to some extent. If it’s a descriptive scene it has to be perfect before I move on. But if it’s not that descriptive I just write it, like dialog, which I hate >_<

    • J. Sevick says:

      I think daydreaming about how writing will be received is natural–after all, there’s a reason you’re writing it down and not just sitting and thinking about it. But when you can enjoy it just for your own sake, that’s the dream.

      I have written fanfiction–not in several years, but back in high school and a little in college. I actually wrote for the Rurouni Kenshin fandom (it’s an anime/manga). I just like to talk about fanfiction or other creative pursuits because even if you’re not writing for capital-P Publication, you’re still being creative. 🙂

      Learning to write badly has been the greatest (and most difficult) lesson for me. I just keep reminding myself I can come back and do it all over again… so we’ll see how that goes.

      Thank you so much for your comment!! 😀

      • I’ve heard of Rurouni Kenshin, but I haven’t seen that anime. I’ve seen quite a few others. Yes, fanfiction can be so fun 😀 My friends and I would flail over the awesomeness and sexiness of the characters XD I think if I fall in love with another fandom I might write short stories again. I just wasn’t enjoying writing Final Fantasy VII anymore, so I quit. Final Fantasy 15 is coming out in the future. I will probably get into fanfic for that. Noctis * -*

        Yeah, I think I could probably let myself go for the non-descriptive parts. But some lines take me forever to write, but even if I wrote it badly, it would still take me as much time on the edit to fix it. Although sometimes I get a descriptive line that is awkward, and I can’t fix it. For that I think I can learn to move on. I would probably have an easier time after I came back. I’m a compulsive edit as I go sort of person. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that I wrote fanfiction so instead of writing the long novel, I did it chapter by chapter.

      • J. Sevick says:

        Fanfiction can definitely be a ton of fun to write–and getting that instant feedback is fun, too. I think it’s a great way to write in an environment where pretty much anything goes, which is a perfect way to grow as a writer.

        I think everyone writes differently–I edit a little bit as I go, for very basic grammar and repetition stuff, but if I think too much about it, I slow way down. For this first draft, given that I’ve never been able to finish anything like it, I just wanted to capitalize on my momentum while I had it. Other projects may be different… And I have no idea how long revision will take. So it may end up not “saving” me any time at all. 🙂

        Thank you so much for commenting!

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