Being an Ambitious Writer

A dragon writing on a typewriter
Here’s a dragon writing on a typewriter

I asked on social media and in several of the writing Discord servers that I belong to the following question:

Do you consider yourself an ambitious writer? And if you do, what does that mean to you?

So I am interested in whether my writer acquaintances and friends consider themselves ambitious in their writing. I got plenty of answers, ranging from those who don’t consider themselves ambitious at all to those who write 3-4 novels a year and plan on making a living with their writing within just a couple of years. One respondent said they plan to “redefine the genre”, which is definitely ambitious.

I think about some ambitious writers in history: J. R. R. Tolkien was definitely ambitious, in that he redefined how people read high fantasy fiction. C. S. Lewis as well. Neil Gaiman expanded fantasy again, and though he is modest he definitely “redefined the genre”.

In general, the answers I got as to what ambition means in writing means pushing boundaries, doing things that other writers haven’t done, and so on. In short, having an original vision and putting that vision out into the world.

Of course, the definition of “ambitious” is different for different people. Other writers defined ambition in writing as aiming for awards (in genre writing, such awards include the Hugo, the Nebula, and so on) or higher pay for their work.

I don’t think I’m very ambitious at work. When asked in the interview for my current job where I see myself in five years I answered, very honestly, that I had no management or supervisory ambitions; my only ambition is to get better at what I currently do.

As far as writing goes, my ambitions are to write better than I used to be: to constantly improve my craft and writing ability. Of course I’d like money, recognition and awards as well, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I set goals for myself and do my best to achieve them, but I can only control my own output; I can’t control my sales or whether I get awards or not. I think that’s fine too.

Any thoughts, readers, on what ambition and writing mean to you? I have a lot more to think about on this, and probably at least one more blot post to write.


Today I’m recommending my friend Paul’s Fenway Stevenson series, a mystery/thriller series which begins with The Reluctant Coroner.

Cover of The Reluctant Coroner by Paul Ardoin
This is the book I was telling you about just now!

Paul is an excellent writer, and I find this series compelling and engrossing, even though I don’t often read thrillers or mysteries. Paul is also in my writing group, so I get to read early drafts of these novels, and I consider myself very fortunate.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

2 thoughts on “Being an Ambitious Writer”

  1. I have no ambition, but that’s because I never manage to achieve very much when I do try because I have to appeal to other people and that’s not something I’m good at. I don’t give any kind of shit about my career or what I do, other than I’m forced to job hunt, and I’d like to get better parts in theater but that doesn’t happen unless there’s a very small pool, and I’m kind of burned out on entering stuff in state fair and I don’t have much ambition to get published, so…meh?

  2. To me, the kind of ambition in writing that matters is along the lines of your first definition: having and expressing a vision, being in some way original. It’s a process-oriented kind of ambition and one that’s ultimately measured first by the writer. Awards or sales are external validation that owes as much to luck as to skill.

    Is it possible to be an ambitious would-be writer? IF I was writing, I would be so ambitious.

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