Being an A-type ambitious writer is often like being a traveler. Of course you love, enjoy, and are grateful for the destination you’ve arrived at. But you’re also aware that there are more places out there waiting to be explored and you’re constantly looking to go out and find them.
If you’re an ambitious writer with big dreams and goals, here’s my advice to you: Do the work you’re meant to do, take the actions you know you’re meant to take, and just keep going. Keep plugging along, keep tuning in to make sure that you’re on the right path, and just keep walking forward. That is all there is to it. You take one step, then another, then another, and just keep going until you hit the destination. You stay there for a while, enjoy the waterfalls and the pretty flowers, you unpack a picnic, have a bit of a rest, and then you’re off again. A traveler is never happy being in one destination. You, the creative traveler will always go in search of more creative fulfilment, better projects, newer challenges. You will always need to see more.
You will set a goal to see this incredible place, spend months, sometimes years planning it, saving up for it, allowing yourself to dream about it and consistently taking the steps you need in order to get there. And then you arrive at the destination. And you love it. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s exactly how you imagined it—and more. Or sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s completely underwhelming and you think—I wasted three months of food money for this?
Here’s what a traveler doesn’t do: She doesn’t sit down in the middle of a village in Uganda and think, okay, I’ve done it now. I’ve traveled. I’ve arrived. That’s enough of that done. No, instead, she thinks, wow, I’m so grateful that I get to be here and to witness this. This experience has been so enjoyable. I can’t wait to do it again. Where should I go next?
That’s how it is as a creative traveler, too. I love where I am in my career. I am making the money I aspired to when I first started in this career. I am filling my days with projects that I love and enjoy and my financial achievement is no longer based on their success. I can take creative risks without risking my daily survival. I have a team of mentors and coaches at my disposal who help me when I get stuck.
It’s fantastic where I am, but I am constantly asking new questions. What is the next adventure I’m going to embark upon? What’s the next challenge I’m going to set for myself? What’s the next peak that I’m aiming for?
People look at ambitious people like me—heck, sometimes I look at ambitious people like me—and think, why are they always so in discontent? Why can’t they just be happy with where they are? Why do they make themselves so crazy setting a new goal before they’ve even achieved the last one?
It’s not discontent. It’s ambition, it’s the thrill of the chase. I’m not unhappy where I am—far from it—I love what I’ve achieved and created—but just like the traveler planning the next journey while still on the first one, I’m constantly creating new adventures in my life and career. I loved journalism but I also wanted to explore what it would be like to write for well-known brands. I enjoyed that, too, but I also wanted to build a business. I wanted to self-publish books, write and sell novels, and now before even having hit the novel goal, I’m already looking at screenplays. I’m not replacing, I’m adding. I’m still doing all the things I want to, and of course, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all that I take on and sometimes it all works seamlessly, and sometimes it all falls apart, and it’s all okay.
Because here’s the important thing to remember: The travel is never about the destination but the journey, and for me, my writing career over this last year has increasingly stopped being about the results of my writing and become exactly what it was when I first started—a way in which I enjoy spending my days.
Of course I care whether my novel sells or not (and how much it sells for), of course I want to build a successful business (my next annual revenue goal is a million dollars), of course I want to self-publish books and write essays and do all the big amazing things that everyone sees as a marker of success. But there is another way in which I define success for myself and in the day-to-day, when I wake up in the morning, that is the most important one: Am I going to spend the day today doing what I love and enjoy? What will I challenge myself with next? What is catching my interest and my fancy today?
Some days, that’s writing a nonfiction book and publishing it on Amazon. Some months it’s working exclusively on the novel. Sometimes, it’s just re-evaluating my entire business and changing it in one fell swoop. This is something that used to make me nervous because I’d look at all the other writers who, from the outside anyway, seemed to have their shit together and knew exactly where they were headed and how they were going to get there and it made me feel bad about myself because why couldn’t I do that? Just set a goal, hit it, and then by happy and content with what I’d achieved?
But that is not who I am. I am a creative traveler. I like movement, I like challenge, I like growth.
I like visiting places, staying there for a while even, but then I need to move on.
Because there are more places that I want to visit than I have days in my life. And there are more books, more movies, more essays, and more blog posts, too.
I am a traveler. It is not in my nature to settle, it is in my nature to discover.
And so I do.