Writers & Their Career Goals

This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress). After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life (my writing career was one of them). My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one we inevitably have to improve the other.

I was having a conversation with a reader the other day. She was telling me about how she was writing her memoir, and how transformative and uprooting the process was. She knew that she loved writing but she told me she kept “wondering” about her choice to write in the first place.

It’s funny because she didn’t have to explain her situation too much for me to understand exactly what she meant.

In fact, I think she was going through the exact same thing I had gone through recently.

Writers and Their Career Goals

Recently, I had found myself in the exact same position as my reader:  I was caught in wondering about my choice to write.

You see, I have dedicated the last two years in pursuit of my career goals. I sacrificed a lot, took a lot of risks. I made some headway, but I’ve also had some setbacks. There’s been miraculous progress, but there is also been a lot of sobering moments.

After two years of attempting to achieve my career goals, I recently began to wonder:

Is this all going to lead me anywhere? Have I made a big mistake? And why does it not feel like enough? Why do even my career successes not fulfill me?

And that’s when I realized that my predicament was tied to an older lesson I had already learned: it had to do with me being only 1/4th of a writer, and not a whole one.

It wasn’t as if I was not addressing all the different aspects of my life, it was that I was only aiming to achieve one, single dream: my dream of making a living as a fiction writer.

You see, I had big, wild dreams for my writing career, but not for the rest of me. And that’s what let me slip and fall into Wondering-land.

That’s what makes us all fall into Wondering-land. We fall into Wondering-land when we seek a dream for just a part of us—and not for all of us.

What Happens When We Fall Into Wondering-Land

So, what’s happening when we’re “wondering” about our writing career?

What’s happening is that we’re making so many sacrifices and putting so much effort into achieving our career goals that we wonder:  will all of this pay off in the end? Will all my dreams come true? Will it all be worth the effort? And why spend so much time on this pursuit if one day we will just look back on all of this and regret it, too, just like we regretted not following our dreams?

We don’t really know the answers to all those questions. So we wonder. We wonder. We wonder about writing, we wonder about our career goals. We wonder whether it’s all worth it.

That’s what happens when we’re in Wondering-land.

We forget about becoming whole, and instead, we focus on achieving our career goals. We put everything on hold, and drive our energy behind achieving those goals.

But that single-pointed effort is exactly what’s keeping us “wondering.”

Why We Need More Than Just Our Writing Dreams

I’m discovering that we need more than just our writing dreams. We need dreams for our relationships, dreams for our community, dreams for our health, and dreams for our spirituality as well–and we need to work as hard to achieve those dreams as we do to achieve our writing dreams.

Accomplishing our career goals is really not enough for us. We’re much bigger than career goals. We’re much bigger than just one dream.

That’s really why we wonder.

We wonder:  even if we succeed in accomplishing our career goals—who will be there to celebrate with us? What will our health be like when it happens? And will it all still have meaning and purpose for us when the dream is realized? Or will we still feel exactly the same as we do now?

I remember learning in middle school Biology that an atom is always seeking eight electrons. When it has attained its full eight electrons then that means that the atom has reached its proper balance, and it will cease to look for any more electrons to complete it. But, as long as it has less than those eight electrons, an atom will continue to bind, steal, or trade electrons with other atoms in order to finally reach its ideal electron capacity.

You see, even an atom doesn’t just have one dream. It has eight dreams it tries to fulfill–until it’s finally whole and complete.

We, too, are like atoms.

Seeking only to achieve our career goals is like being an atom seeking only to acquire a single electron. That’s why even the pursuit of that “single electron” keeps us feeling off-balance. Because even if we are not aware that we are seeking wholeness, somehow we know, deep inside of us, that there is so much more needed for us to keep our balance. Something in us, naturally, yearns for more. It yearns for wholeness, it yearns for fulfillment, and it really will not stop until it gets it.

Having The Courage To Create A Way Out

The great thing about being stuck in Wondering-land is that you’re forced to think of new, innovative ways of getting out of Wondering-land. These new ways open you up to a whole new world of possibilities that were previously shut off to you.

When you wonder, you wander; and sometimes, if you wander long enough, you are led toward an exit.

When you are forced to ask yourself the tough questions like:

  • Do I need something more than a career goal?
  • Am I allowed more than one dream for myself?
  • Why do I feel like something is still missing?
  • I’m trying really hard to achieve my career goals, so why isn’t this effort making the rest of me happy?
  • I’m working to achieve my career goal, so why do I still feel off-balance?

…you are eventually led to the answers:

  • I need something more than just a career goal.
  • I am allowed more than one dream for myself. 
  • Each part of me (my heart, my mind, my spirit, etc.) has its own secret dream it is seeking to fulfill.
  • Feeling successful in my career is directly correlated with how successful I feel in all the other areas of my life.
  • Finally: as hard as you work to achieve your career dreams, you need to work equally as hard to achieve the dreams of your mind, body, heart, and soul.

As you might have guessed, the above are the answers I have discovered through all my wandering—answers I didn’t find until I fell into “wondering” myself, and came out of the other side, enlightened.

much love,


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23 comments on “Writers & Their Career Goals

  1. danezeller says:

    Yup, Ollin, you’ve nailed it. Now get back to putting pen on paper. Open the vein.

  2. Anil says:

    thanks…..a timely post for me

  3. Dana Bennett says:

    Ollin, excellent post. I keep wondering and wandering all the time. I only recently added “writer” to my list of goals, though I’ve been writing for years and years. I also have two serious illnesses so I have to focus on health. The illnesses put a drag on my soul, so I also am focusing on my spirituality. I am grateful for the focus on writing, though, to keep me from spending too much energy on contemplating the health issues too much. I like you seek balance. And you’ve just inspired me quite a bit more to continue wondering and searching for balance. Thank you!

  4. Lyle Pigeon says:

    I have been a closet writer for decades and have done everything in my power to avoid stepping off the bridge. It appears that life is forcing my hand, I received this post at the end of a songwriter 9 week media challenge from Heather Pirie. I am excited about this new gift from the universe.
    T.B.C. ( to be continued )

  5. We’re much bigger than just one dream.

    I’m realizing the one-minded tunnel vision that my hard focus on writing has created. I’m also realizing that through packing my schedule to the gills, I’ve been hampering a lot of my health for the sake of writing and pleasing others.

    This idea of we’re much bigger than any single dream is another piece of the puzzle I’ve been working out here: http://www.elisestephens.com/2012/03/19/my-life-in-red/

    Thanks, Ollin!

  6. Ollin, I’ve nominated you for the very inspiring blogger award, if you wish to accept it please check my post http://creatingwithin.com/2012/03/20/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

    Love & Light,

  7. spinx says:

    Wow. WOW. And WOW!!!

    What is even more bizarre than the fact that you just made a post on a topic that had been on my mind this whole past week – is the ATOMIC analogy!
    That just drove me nuts! YOu know why?

    Two years ago, I had the same exact though while going through some ATOMS.

    Aaaaaahhh…..I´m still excited over this little something.

    And yes, isn´t it the truth, we always need more than one field to feel truly satisfied with our lifes. One heart, after all, isn´t enough to make our body work. No matter how well developed, how big and how healthy that heart is – it will never be enough to make your body work. It will never be able to replace the liver, the stomach, the brain – will never be able to overtake their funktions.

    Likewise, we humans are build in different levels. The basic needs must be satisfied first, before we tackle the rest. An empty stomach, for example, won´t leave much thoughts for anything else but hamburgers, bread and a cake.
    only when it is full will you be able to look for more.

    And even when we truly manage to develope every single field in our life, the work does not end there!
    Becasuse then, the truly hard process of maintaining those fields for the rest of our lifes will need even more hard work.
    Great post, Ollin!

    Thanks for reminding me once again ;O

  8. OMG thank you so much for this post! I often end up in Wondering-land too and now I totally understand why! 🙂

  9. Love the atom analogy, but that sounds more like a physics/chemistry lesson that a biology one! 😉

    Life is all about balance, or yin and yang. The Pagan religion is heavily based upon balance, and strongly emphasises you must be balanced to be happy. For me, I usually spend one week focusing on writing, and I mean really focusing, and then the next I’ll allow myself a bit of a break to catch up on my socialising. Writing is a lonely profession and personally I can’t work at just one thing all of the time. I get extremely bored and exhausted!

    • Ollin says:

      Haha. Well, it has been a while. But I do know I learned that in middle school than later on in AP Biology. That is fascinating about Pagan religion. I don’t know anything about it but it sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Jeanne says:

    Thank you Ollin. A while ago I decided to spread my wings. I still write but I also draw and clay model. I find that if I do other creative activities with my hands, it feeds my imagination and inspires what I write. For example, I churned out a family in clay recently. I still have to paint them but I have already assigned them familial roles. I think a visual helps when we create.



  11. RD Meyer says:

    Wondering can be great when it leads us to pursue our dreams, but it becomes a swamp of lost dreams if we get stuck in it.

  12. Surabhi Naik says:

    I love reading your blog. The most amazing part, other than the fact that it leaves me dumbfound-inspired, is that you always have something positive to say about anything that could put you down. I love how there’s always a “The great thing about ‘this-bad-thing-i-am-talking-about’ is…” Its plain incredible!

    Thank you 🙂

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