The Bangles on the bottom line of a writing career

For a lot of years, the only goal I had for my writing career was "make a living." I explored a lot of different avenues -- book length fiction, magazine service articles, a syndicated newspaper column, an advice column in national magazine, ad copy, PR materials, an awards show script, and on and on. I made a little money, but I spent a lot of time flailing. Then about six years ago, I connected with my second literary agent, David Hale Smith, and at our first meeting, he asked me the magic question: "What do you want?"

I hemmed and hawed and blathered, mostly about money, but he shook his head and said, "Obviously, you need money. Everybody does. But there are much easier ways for both of us to get it. I'm asking -- What do you want?"

Hmm. When I let myself think about it, I realized that the answer has been in my heart since I was a little kid.

"I want to tell stories."

While that single overarching desire doesn't eliminate any particular genre or format, it does dramatically narrow how I budget my time and energy. I'm a believer in the Do What You Love; the Money Will Follow approach. One of the lines that stepped out of Marsha Sinetar's book and slapped me upside the head: "Any talent that we are born with eventually surfaces as a need."

So what do you want? If the answer is "money", go get a real job. If the answer is "I don't know", don't be surprised you're not getting it.

I'm offering the Bangles here to reinforce that message. (And the rockin' mullets are a parable for trendiness.) "If she knew what she wants, he'd be givin' it to her. If she knew what she needs, he'd give her that too..."


Suzan Harden said…
Dang, Joni, don't leave us in suspense! What did your agent say when you told him you wanted to tell stories?
Joni Rodgers said…
He said, "Okay. Let's do that."

Then he helped me map out a loose five-year "plan to take over the universe." We parted ways after three years, but I have to totally give the guy credit for ramping my career to the next level.

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