(mostly) Unlimited Ambitions

On the first day of my literary journalism class, the professor asked what our dream situation twenty years from now was. He emphasized that for this particular question, he wanted the pure dream situation- no thought for practicality or difficulty, no restraint of likelihood.

That’s a tough one to tackle at 8:00am.

I said that I wanted to be a successful fiction writer, one who was well-known and respected as such. But had I been more awake, I would have had more details as to what I wanted for my life twenty years from now to be. However the question did get me thinking, and after some thought I think I’m able to give a more coherent answer than “Best-selling novelist!!”

So here’s what my vaulting ambition would ideally bring me in twenty years, hopefully without the side effects it had for Macbeth.

  • Good storytelling

I want the stories I tell to be good- and I want their presentation to be of equal quality. This means that not only will I craft a story that is engaging and thought-provoking, with complex characters and themes, but I want the words and the mechanics of my language to be nothing short of spectacular. I want the images to resonate. I want people to quote the passages I write. I want professors analyzing my chapters for the impact of the diction and flow of the sentences. Twenty years from now I would like people to look at the first stories I published and say that they are still worth reading.

But if that fails, twenty years from now I, at least, want to look back at the things I’ve written without shame. Even though in some ways it’s too late for that- I find myself very embarrassed when I see older blog entries, never mind older stories- I can still find good kernels in the rotten shell of inexperienced writing. Despite the poor quality of my metaphors and my unintentionally hysterical dialogue, I can still look at my older stories and say “There was something there that was good.”

If I can still say that of my current work twenty years from now, I’ll be content. If other people do the same, I’ll be ecstatic.

  • Good stories

When I discover  a book/play/television show/movie that’s really good, I’ll ramble about it to as many people as I can  until someone forcibly puts a sock in my mouth or until the unlucky person finally agrees to go and check out whatever I was so enthusiastically praising. (This is part of the reason I started this blog.)  If I come across a story with a brilliant world populated by great characters, I make sure people know about it. And if that story is told well, I make sure to bring it up at the first possible opportunity.

I would like my stories to have this effect on the people who discover them.  But if this world takeover plan doesn’t happen in twenty years, I’d like the next best thing- I’d just like people to read them because they really, really want to.

After all when it comes to books, television, and films, these are things that people ideally will consume in their spare time, which we’re having increasingly less of as our culture gets busier and busier. So if someone decides that my stories are a good way to fill their spare hours, I’ll be more than happy to have written them.

  • Memorable Stories

Part of the reasons I like books so much is that I often think about the words and the decision to include or not include a certain conversation or detail. I love that a whole world can somehow be shown through ink on paper, and becoming immersed in a story is one of my favorite things in the world. But for a good story, I want more than to lose myself in the story.

I want the story to stay with me, long after I’ve left the confines of a theater or a page. And if my own stories can do that to those who read them, I’ll be happy. I want the characters I conjure and the worlds I build to stick in someone’s head. I remember when I was a child how badly I wanted to go to Middle-Earth (and how annoyed I was that there was no Narnia-like magic to take me there).  I’d like for my worlds to have that same lingering pull, leaving readers and watchers with a vague sense of loss that the worlds within them can’t be reached.

And if people think about my stories and how they could apply to reality, that would be the best thing I could hope for. I want to touch upon some greater truths in my fiction, even when those deeper things are dressed up in literally outlandish clothes. If I can touch upon something greater that will have impact twenty years from now, I’ll be satisfied.

If I can talk about the world- or any world- in such a way that people hundreds of years from now can still access it, that’ll be a dream come true.

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8 thoughts on “(mostly) Unlimited Ambitions

  1. Lovely post, I identify with it so much. I’d love to make my mark in the world with my writing – but at least not to look back in shame at it is no mean ambition either. I’m fairly new to the world of blogging myself and already I cringe at some of the stuff I’ve posted!

    • I wish you luck in all your writing endeavors- they can be quite the struggle sometimes. And I know what you mean about the cringing- looking back on my older stuff makes me want to put a paper bag over my head. But it gets better, trust me! The more you blog, the easier it’ll be to figure out what suits your style and what you’re hoping to get out of it.
      Thank you so much for this whole comment, by the way; it made me very happy I wrote this up.

    • Spotting the flaws in your own work can be painful, but it’s actually a good thing. It means you know what can be improved, and stuff.

      I had a quick peek at your blog (sorry, I can’t resist a blonde girl leaning against a wall), and I see you’re agonising over battle scenes.

      I’ve never written fantasy, but I think you might be in danger of trying to over-learn things. Visiting battle re-enactments is a great idea, but I’m not so sure that scouring some self-help/advice books is.

      Think of it like learning to ride a bike. Filling your head with a list of dos and don’ts will just confuse you, and make it harder. You need to get your bum on the seat, and wobble furiously until you get the hang of it. For the learner, the fact that you should peddle with your toes rather than the sole of your foot doesn’t really matter. That kind of fine-tuning comes later.

      Also bear in mind the authors you like to read rely on editors!

      I’m certainly no expert though, and of course some people work differently, etc.

      Good luck!

      • Well good to know leaning against a wall gets my blog read! I don’t think I’ve read any self held-advice books??? (Unless I’ve forgotten something I wrote, which is possible) Just asked for suggestions from other readers/writers as to good battle scenes they’ve read. It seems everyone has a different take on what makes a good battle scene – some like it really technical, others a lot of gore, others a more emotional take. I’m not trying to learn to do it ‘by numbers’, as it were, but just get some inspiration that will set my mind spinning off in its own direction – and in a better direction than my last few attempts!
        Thanks for you comment and do visit me again 🙂

  2. I think being a good storyteller outweighs commercial success in every respect, but then again perspectives change when offered a butt load of money! I hope I can keep my integrity if it ever comes down to it, and only work on projects I truly have a passion for. Great post!

    • I like to think so too- until I have to look at how much my textbooks cost and then I think that if I could make the amount of money some *really* bad writers make, I’d commit their sins in a heartbeat. My hope is to identify the things I love that might also have a shot at commercial success and then write those for nothing more than the love of the concept. And that’s assuming I ever catch a break from school.
      Thank you so much for commenting!

  3. Enjoying life at uni, then?

    Personally, I reckon that anyone who doesn’t cringe at least a little bit at their older work is either a liar, or an egomaniac. It’s easy to look someone else’s work and wonder why you can’t do the same – it’s like looking at a group photo, and being paranoid that your wonky tooth stands out from everyone else.

    Not that I’m saying that you actually have a wonky tooth, of course.

    • I am enjoying college, if you call constant stress and obligations enjoying. But I am having a lot of fun being ridiculously busy.
      Yeah, it would be like looking at home videos of your early dance recitals or music recitals and thinking they needed nothing to make them better, which would be bogus. But as far emulating the greats, I think the only thing to do is just keep fixing your own mistakes, over and over, and over time it will get easier not to make them. It’s just a question of having the patience for that sort of thing.

      On an unrelated note, I actually do have a wonky tooth. It grew out of line and ended up not coming in it all, leaving a gap in my bottom teeth.

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