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So Tell Me: What Personal Greatness Do You Aspire To?

What an interesting discussion we had yesterday! Some of you agree with King and some of you don't. From reading through all the comments, I'd say King's view of the bad, competent, good, and great writer looks something like this.

Great = Innately talented, has something that can't be learned or taught.
Good = The majority of successful published writers (and those aspirees with this level of drive and talent).
Competent = Potential to become published, potential to become "good," but maybe never quite good enough if the drive isn't there (the line walker).
Bad = Actually incapable or unwilling to reach competency.

Which would put most of us in the "competent" and "good" categories, including beginners not stuck in the (unfortunate) bad category. Would you agree with assessment?

I've got a different but related question for you today though. What PERSONAL greatness do you aspire to? Is it becoming a published author, prolific, renowned, a bestseller, an award winner? Or is it more related to craft... is there a level you're trying to reach, and how are you gauging it?

Do tell!


storyqueen said...

This is hard, because you never want to sound....uh, I dunno....dumb. But for me, being already published and all, I'd like to get more of my work into kids' hands. That means more books published and more sales of those that are published.

Sure, I'd like to win an award (especially if it came with a medal or a sash or tiara....) but some of the books that impacted my life the most received no awards. And I guess, my goal is now to make some kind of a difference maybe.

Sorry....quite rambley today

Unknown said...

Personal greatness? Hmm. I'd love to be published, and I'd love to be a bestseller. I don't know many people who wouldn't. At the same time, I want to achieve the highest level of craft possible- and improve on it. I know I can write better than I do now, and that's why I'm still writing- because that is the only way to improve. I gauge it by all of the other books out there, and the changing trends in my own writing. Luckily, I still have many years to accomplish this level of craft- and I'll continue to work on it every day.

Rebecca said...

I want someday for someone to walk up to me and say, "I read your book. I like/love/cherish it." And I want that person to be Stephen King....jk...it could be anyone. I want to do a reading at my old elementary school. I want to see my book on display in a store. I want to work on my craft until I'm crafty!

Unknown said...

I used to think it was to see my book in a bookstore. Just to open it and smell it. But then I realized if I persist, and keep writing, that is not such a lofty goal. That can and does happen to us. SO what next if that dream of greatness seems not so lofty anymore?

A movie option? No. Well.. yes of course. BUT... I'd like a room to write in that looked out over the ocean. And all I'd have to do all day is live inside the stories in my mind. That, to me, is personal greatness.

Nice post. Great blog. Nice to meet you.

Unknown said...

To become not necessarily a household name, but a "genre" name--I want people who know and love my genre to also know (and hopefully love) my work.

Joshua McCune said...

I shoot for the stars. If I fail, hopefully, I'll land in the stratosphere :)

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Funny... it's the little things. I'm a published children's Picture book author/illustrator, title: PYXX by Robert Wahl.
My aspirations have already been met -- just a little story.
I was fortunate enough to visit and speak at many schools in the San Francisco Bay area after PYXX was published. I recall one little kindergarten girl especially well. There's a line in PYXX that goes. "Pyxx kept that secret language where words can never go." After I read that, the little girl raised her hand, so I said, "Yes?" And she said she knew what that language was. So I asked her, and she said... "It's when you speak from your heart!"
I melted, perhaps even teared-up, and knew I'd done my work. For a child that age to understand such a concept was more than I could ask. I had arrived. I made a connection with another human being... Aspiration accomplished!

Haste yee back ;-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, Robert, that anecdote just about says it all. To reach another human being is why we write, I think. I also like what Suzanne suggests a wonderful room to write in and nothing but time to follow the stories. So the most practical way to get those things is to get published and find an audience that makes it possible to publish again. I don't know about greatness, but that would feel really great.

Buffy Andrews said...

I'm sitting here debating whether to answer this question because of being laughed at. But the personal greatness I most aspire to is to be the best mother, wife, sister, friend, mentor I can be. That's absolutely No. 1. Pretty high up there would be the aspiration to make a difference in the world through the gifts (hopefully writing) that I have. I sometimes write a newspaper column called Moments that Matter and I am always amazed by my readers who write or call to share how a certain column has touched them. To have a child read one of my books (I am not published) and enjoy it, that would be pure awesomeness. But I cannot aspire to any of the writing goals if I am first not the best I can be at the other things first. Does this make sense

Elise Hepner said...

I just want to have a publishing contract so I can keep churning out books that people will read. I don't care if their bestsellers, I just want enough people to keep reading them that I can keep my contract and keep writing. So a steady published career would be nice, but I don't want fame or craziness, just the ability to do what I love everyday and get paid nicely for it.

K. M. Walton said...

Person Greatness Aspiration #1 (professionally): Land an agent, get a book deal, have it sell like mad, have book made into wildly popular movie, and then keep writing sellable books for the rest of my days.

I want for very little.

Lori W. said...

I love Haste Yee Back's story, too.

I just finished a book that made me laugh, cry, and feel awe and amazement. I mean the way that writer used words was a thing of a beauty. But that's not all. This book also made me think about the world in a new way. That's the kind of book I want to write. We're talking dreams, so I'll put the biggest one out there.

Anonymous said...

Well, since it's what we aspire to that you're asking about, and not what we might reasonably expect to attain, I'll say... Pulitzer. Maybe a National Book Award.

I don't need the Nobel prize, though. Let's keep this realistic...

And yes, I really do want to reach that high. But you know what? It doesn't matter much if my work doesn't touch people in some way. I just want people to feel something when they read my stories.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

What great posts, Casey! I like how you broke this down, too. That's how I would describe each one, too.

I aspire to be good, but I don't have to be published to know when I reach that point. I aspire mostly for the craft. Getting published is a perk. :)

Marsha Sigman said...

I want to be published and I want to be able to write full time eventually but I think more than that I want to write stories that make you forget where you are.

The kind of stories that make you look up after hours and say 'God, where did the time go?'. If I can write like that,then the rest is all gravy.

Jm Diaz said...

I believe that even those in the "great" category can go unpublished if they haven't taken the time to polish their skills or train themselves in the art.

I aspire for greatness. Not in the award or bestselling way, but rather, to leave my readers saying: "Wow, what a great story. tell us another one."
Thats all.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i just want to touch people with my sords, stories and ideas. Im not sure how to gauge that - i guess bestselling so i know I touched alot of people?

Jade said...

I just want to be published and make enough money to do it full-time.

Awards are overrated!

I gave you an award on my blog in thanks for your amazing blog.

Keri Mikulski said...


To continue writing books as a career. And to, of course, continue to hear from readers who like them. A long career is more important to me than making the bestseller list or winning an award. But, I'm certainly open to it. :)

Tabitha said...

For me, this is a very personal question...but I will try to answer to the point where I don't feel like I'm running around naked in public. :)

I think anyone reading this post is aspiring to be published, otherwise why be here? So I will admit that I want to see my books on shelves.

But that's not the goal I work toward. What I focus on, seek out, and kill myself over by working hard, is craft. I want to tell stories that are as powerful as Laurie Halse Anderson's. I want my characters to be as amazing as Catherine Murdock's or Tim Tharp's. And I want my stories to be as exciting as Scott Westerfeld's, or Suzanne Collins's, or even Neil Gaiman's. So I keep working, and I will keep working until I am no longer able to pick up a pen, because I believe this will take a lifetime of learning. :)

Heather Kelly said...

To always be able to write the book that I need to write (to paraphrase L'Engle). To grow in my craft, and to share my words with others. A lot of others.

Samantha Clark said...

Being published is definitely my goal, but, if that never happens, I'll still write. I guess my ultimate goal is to be a good storyteller.

Tana said...

Um... beyond great! Now if I could just convince the right person....

Casey Something said...

Again, what amazing responses. I think the one that resonates with me the most, personally, is Tabitha's.

I want to write books that are profound, that matter, that can take your breath away. I guess I'm afraid that I'm not innately talented enough to be the writer I aspire to.

And I don't want to publish just to publish. I want to publish something that lives up to my expectations.

But wow, thanks for sharing all your thoughts, hopes, dreams, and aspirations with me over the last few days, everyone!

Dream on! Write on!

London Mabel said...

At the height of my aspirations, I'd like to reach Wodehouse or Heyer. Meaning: Really great technique; not considered "classics" but they have staying power (they transcend the time they were written in.)

Smaller aspiration: Just enough of a little following that I can have several books published.

Sherrie Petersen said...

This is such a tough question because, at least for me, my goals are always changing. As I accomplish things I set higher expectations for myself. Not that I'm greedy, but I never want to settle or get too comfortable and not keep working. I guess that ultimately I think King is wrong because I've seen good become great and I think we should all try for that.