In December 2000, Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt starred in the movie What Women Want. Like many women, I appreciated the sensitivity displayed by Gibson’s character, Nick Marshall, when he finally connected with the female lead’s innermost desires. Reflecting on this chick flick, I think we writers share similar longings — in our relationships with readers.
For instance, most of the non-fiction writers I know want the following:
- To be heard. Non-fiction writers want to know readers are not only listening to what we are saying through the written word, but are finding our content valuable enough to actually apply to their lives.
- To be accepted and understood. Non-fiction writers want to gather readers who are unified in their search for answers, support, and encouragement.
- To be desired. Non-fiction writers want readers to want our books, our messages, and the unique way we express ourselves.
- To make a difference. Non-fiction writers want to know readers are influenced to spread their words so that more people are impacted in positive ways.
But fiction authors want these same things in their own right:
- To be heard. Fiction writers want to know readers are drawn into our worlds, where conflict, setting, dialogue, intrigue, and resolution come from the depth of our imaginations and transform into a tale we tell.
- To be accepted and understood. Fiction writers want to gather readers who are unified in their search for escape, entertainment, and thought-provoking plots.
- To be desired. Fiction writers want readers who fall in love with our characters, our creative environments, and our page-turning stories.
- To make a difference. Fiction writers want to know readers are influenced by the nuances of our novels, allowing educational tidbits to seep organically into their brains as they devour each page of our prose.
But regardless of our preferred writing genre, we writers must guard ourselves against wanting so much that we allow the joy of our chosen craft to be stolen away. In a single word, we must protect ourselves against dissatisfaction.
Any of us can fall into the trap of feeling dissatisfied, no matter what we’ve achieved.
- There are authors who make bestseller lists who feel disappointed and frustrated because they don’t receive literary prizes.
- Some achieve great commercial success, only to pine over a lack of respect from professional critics and other publishing insiders.
- While others are appreciated all around the country, but not in their own home communities.
- Most feel as if what they’ve written is never quite good enough.
No matter what we accomplish, many in the writing profession cannot help hoping for more. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting more — within reason. But if we aren’t careful, we will miss out on the best of our own experiences if we focus solely on what we don’t have, versus celebrating what we do.
I imagine any writer would agree that our ultimate desire is not only to achieve, but as we walk the writing path, to milk every ounce of pleasure from the journey. If we allow ourselves, we might even dance in celebration. That’s what I want.
How do you exercise intentional appreciation for your writing successes?