wander - write better by clarifying your quest

With all the associations wander has with aimless vagueness, why is it the trigger word for clarifying a quest? It’s because, again and again, I’ve seen writers working on defining their goals find freedom, peace, and excitement when the idea of wandering is allowed into the equation.

So, how do you wander into clarity? How do you turn a goal (yawn) into a quest (onward!)? You get curious about where you really want to go with your writing.

A goal that doesn’t include the real you will drain your energy. It will set up a you-against-the-goal atmosphere that won’t serve you the way a goal should. Goals that work are more like quests. They motivate. They include all the bits of you that need to be included to inspire the journey. A goal raised to the power of a quest generates a steady stream of electric juice that fuels your forward motion. Don’t settle for less.

Our culture, families, colleagues, bosses, and egos often want us to choose goals that are safe and expected, goals they can understand. But turning a goal into a quest requires striking out on your own, wandering off the marked trails. Your clarified quest may not look like any goal or quest you’ve heard of or read about in the many books about writing or goal-setting you may have pored over. Or it may look perfectly normal. What matters is how you feel about it.

wander – trek, amble, saunter, stroll, peregrinate, prowl, roam, ramble, rove, gad, meander, hoof it, saunter, ramble, dawdle, traipse, meander, mosey, tootle, toddle, follow one’s nose

You track down and define your own quest to make it your own, to commit to it wholeheartedly. Even if the quest you clarify as a result seems normal to someone else, it will be imbued with meaning for you, because you will have found it for yourself, as yourself. You’ll own it, free and clear.

Your job in clarifying your quest is to explore and allow without judgment. That’s how you locate and tap the vein of excitement that tells you you’re on the right track. Wander around yourself. Sniff out and unearth the truest truth about your writing and where it and you are headed.

For example, if you want to write a book, get curious about the book you most want to write, and about how you go about writing that book. Bushwhack your way to answers that ring true for you, even if that means stumbling through thickets of falseness and others’ expectations until you connect with the thrill of certainty. Paradoxically, even if your truth scares you, connecting with it will be a relief.

When coaxing truth out into the open, be gentle with yourself. Watch for previously imprisoned bits which may come forward shyly, on wobbly legs. Be patient. Accept what emerges. Come out here. Come on. It’s okay. Let’s have a look at you.

Your true quest may surprise you. Let it.

  • I have absolutely no idea what this book will be about. I just know that I must start writing it today.
  • Only five snippets, all dialogue, feel true in the 243 pages I’ve written so far. So I’ll build from them and toss the rest.
  • I keep imagining a sex scene that’s too graphic for the genre I got the book contract for. I’ll finish this contract fast, then write the other.
  • I don’t actually want to write fiction after all. I can’t stop thinking in memoir.
  • I need to write this book as a series of spreadsheets until the final draft.
  • I want to write a book just for me, and not share it with anyone.
  • This article has to be digital instead, so I can link to songs and pictures.
  • I need to write the screenplay that will require all of me. I know the one.

When I suggest that you be curious in order to explore and clarify your writing quest, I mean curious in two senses of the word: eager to learn about yourself and willing to be odd, as in Hmm, that’s curious. Tolerate strangeness. The goal that feels like a quest may look outlandish and strange, or go off in a direction no one sanctions. Go there.

strange – curious, unconventional, atypical, exotic, unexpected, weird, eccentric, irregular, peculiar, abnormal, quirky, kooky, deviant, mystifying, zany, offbeat, outlandish, foreign, out there, freaky, unparalleled, uncanny, unique, rare, special, exceptional, remarkable, singular

See how synonyms for strange include words and concepts like unique and rare and remarkable? Wandering with intent into the land of the real you makes you unusual. It’s tough to fake a compelling creation that rings of truth. The creation has to actually be true. A glorious bonus of having a true quest that fires you up is that it’s going to deliver a much more unique and compelling creation. It can’t not.

Okay. Enough reading about it. Try it: Ask yourself questions. Answer. Pay attention.

“What shapes our lives
are the questions we ask,
refuse to ask, or never think to ask.”
Sam Keen

Ask yourself questions about your writing desires. Probe your yearnings. Find the questions that most scare you or make you alert or make your heart beat faster. Ask yourself strange questions. Ask others to ask you questions about your writing. Answer all the questions as truthfully and bravely as possible. Pay attention to what’s happening in your body as you answer or try to answer.

Here’s a mini starter kit to get you going. Ask yourself …

  • What’s underneath the goal I’ve been working on up to now?
  • What has recently excited me the most, whether it’s about writing or not?
  • When did I last see the real me in my writing?
  • Have I been shoving any unruly desires under the rug?
  • What percentage of this quest do I own as the real me?
  • What fears can I address or include in this quest?
  • What quest would feel like freedom?
  • What quest would feel like joy?

Peel back layers of desire until you find and define a quest that feels like a secret, a treasure, a dream worth pursuing with devotion and single-mindedness. Dig. You’re down there, waiting for curiosity to spotlight your quest. When you find it,  you’ll feel both peace and excitement. No more pushing at your dreams. Your tailor-made, clarified, magnetized quest will pull you forward. Go.


This is the first in a four-part series on writing better by being curious about yourself:

1 – wander – write better by clarifying your quest
2 – wonder – write better by exploring your fascination
3 – ponder – write better by organizing your ideas
4 – persist – write better by maintaining your focus

2 comments to wander – write better by clarifying your quest