Finding the Quest: My "Quest" to Write a Novel
#FindtheQuest in 'The Happiness of Pursuit'

Photo credit to Viktor Hanacek

As we get caught up in our daily lives – homework, jobs, relationships – it's all too easy to fall into a routine. And somtimes when caught up in that routine, we can lose sight of the things that really matter to us as an individual at our very core. Our "quests."  As we work on getting that paper turned in, meeting that work deadline, or making time for the important people in our lives, it can become not only a challenge to reach those quests, but to even remember them.

Chris Guillebeau's new book The Happiness of Pursuit (hitting stores tomorrow!) hits on this in an inspiring, motivating way. In it, he shares his completed quest of traveling to every country in the world by age 35. But because quests are as unique as the individuals who pursue them, he doesn't stop there. Drawing on interviews from hundreds of questers, his book shares the inspirations and movitations behind quests that range from philanthropic to artistic and athletic to culinary.

Today, I'm sharing a quest that I've been pursuing for as long as I can remember: writing a novel. More accurately, my quest is to finish and publish one. But it all starts with writing that first, rough-around-the-edges draft.

To describe myself in one word, I'm a: Writer. Not only by my profession writing creative marketing materials for higher ed institutions. (I love my job.) Not only by my hobby of sharing my thoughts, inspiration, and decorating ideas on The Lovely Side. (I love my blog.) But really, at my core, by my love of writing the stories that just, well, spring up in my head.

Though I was a bookworm as soon as I could read, it was puting words together on my own that I truly fell in love with. And so writing stories was my first passion. And writing "the story" became my first quest. One that I've been pursuing ever since. I've began and finished stories. I've began stories and left them unfinished. But one story in particular, I've been writing and finishing and re-writing and editing for over ten years now. This novel – to plot it, to draft it, to edit it, to polish, and to eventually publish it – is my quest.

In seventh grade, my history teacher gave us an assignment: to write a first person account of a big event in history. (Now, I'm going to skimp on some of the specific details so you can all be surprised someday when my novel does hit the bookstore shelves...) The short narrative only needed to be four or five pages. My imagination ran away with me. I'd written stories before, but I really got caught up with this one. And I turned in a stack of 79 computer paper pages to my teacher. He read it, he had his wife read it, he passed it on to my English teacher so she could read it.

I'd never shown anyone my writing like that before. It was scary and exciting. Their feedback was insightful and encouraging. My history teacher's wife commented it could turned into a movie. My English teacher scribbled on it that I should save her a signed copy of my first published novel. I chuckle now at those "rave reviews," but they really did make an impact on me as a young writer. I loved doing it, I felt like I was good at it and just hearing that encouragement from teachers I really respectd... well, it reaffirmed my belief in myself and my love of words and stories. It sparked a fire.

Photo credit to InspirationFeed
That 79-page story from seventh grade has been re-written and re-drafted and reworked more times than I can count. The characters' names have changed; the setting hasn't. The main character has grown up with me, but she remains very much herself. The plot has twisted and turned; the themes have grown roots. 79 pages has grown beyond 50,000 words through NaNoWriMo stints – and still, 50K felt like the tip of the iceburg.

I find that the more I write and the more I'm allowed to be creative, the more I write and the more creative I am. Writing at work, writing for this job, it all contributes to pumping those creative juices. Sometimes by the end of my workday spent writing (and whipping up a blog post over my lunch hour) I'm itching to go home, curl up in bed with coffee, and start working on my novel. I love that.

And now, freshly inspired by the quests shared in The Happiness of Pursuit, I'm making less of a "spare time" thing of my quest and more of a "daily to-do." I'm not waiting until November to churn out another rough draft of the masterpiece putting itself together in my head. I'm not putting off the characters who entertain my thoughts throughout the days. I'm going to write this story. Starting yesterday. 

Due to the nature of my writing habits and creativity, I'm keeping it flexible. I'm devoting at least one hour every day to this story. It can be an hour spent actually writing... or re-writing, or editing. It can be an hour spent fleshing out a character's personality, goals, and flaws. It can be an hour spent sketching the floor plan of my characters' home and my story's main setting. It can be an hour researching what my characters would have worn and eaten in this time period. Or it could be an hour doing any combination of things.

Sixty minutes out of my everyday life dedicated to the quest that brings purpose to my life like nothing else does. A quest that I'm not obligated to do. I quest I'm not being told to do. A quest to write a story unique to the makings of my head and heart. It's an exciting, mysterious, and overwhelming thing. But I hope to one day announce right here on this blog that I've reached my quest – and then promptly direct you to a link to buy and read my book. ;)

Now it's your turn. What's your quest? What makes you happy? How are you pursuing it?

Share your quest in the comments! And if you're interested in a hefty dose of inspiration and motivation, pick up The Happiness of Pursuit in bookstores tomorrow. 

Check out more about this book below:

One of the most common laments among people everywhere is how easy it is to feel that routine has taken over our lives. Chris Guillebeau is not one to bogged down by routine, but instead takes a “make every day count” approach to life.

With this attitude he completed his goal of traveling to every country in the world by age 35; and has learned that happiness comes from incremental striving (a “quest”) where we see taking shape, right in front of our eyes, the concrete evidence of what our life has been building toward. Throughout his 193-country journey, Chris met hundreds of questers like himself who were committed to years-in-the-making projects: jaw dropping, and often thought provoking.

Attempts to blaze a new artistic trail, reach an intellectual summit, change the world through philanthropy, or undergo an endurance-testing adventure—just to name a few.

In The Happiness of Pursuit, Guillebeau draws on interviews with hundreds of fellow questers, revealing their secret motivations, their tricks for leaping the hurdles of time and money, the role played by friends and family, and the importance of writing it all down.

A remarkable book that will both guide and inspire, The Happiness of Pursuit reveals how anyone can bring meaning into their life by undertaking a quest.

When he set out to visit all of the planet’s countries by age thirty-five, compulsive goal seeker Chris Guillebeau never imagined that his journey’s biggest revelation would be how many people like himself exist – each pursuing a challenging quest.  And, interestingly, these quests aren’t just travel-oriented.  On the contrary, they’re as diverse as humanity itself.  Some involve exploration; others the pursuit of athletic or artistic excellence; still others a battle against injustice or poverty or threats to the environment.

Everywhere that Chris visited he found ordinary people working toward extraordinary goals, making daily down payments on their dream.  These “questers” included a suburban mom pursuing a wildly ambitious culinary project, a DJ producing the world’s largest symphony, a young widower completing the tasks his wife would never accomplish, and a teenager crossing an entire ocean alone - as well as a do-it-yourselfer tackling M.I.T.’s computer-science course, a nerd turning himself into real-life James Bond, and scores of others writing themselves into the record books.

The more Chris spoke with these strivers, the more he began to appreciate the direct link between questing and long-term happiness -- how going after something in a methodical way enriches our lives -- and he was compelled to complete a comprehensive study of the phenomenon and extract the best advice.  In The Happiness of Pursuit he draws on interviews with hundreds of questers, revealing their secret motivations, their selection criteria, the role played by friends and family, their tricks for solving logistics, and the importance of documentation.

Equally fascinating is Chris’ examination of questing’s other side, including questers’ acute awareness of mortality, their struggle against monotony, and their wistful feelings once a quest has succeeded. What happens after the summit is climbed, the painting hung, the endurance record broken, the “at risk” community saved? 

A book that challenges each of us to take control – to make our lives be about something while at the same time remaining clear-eyed about the commitment -- The Happiness of Pursuit will inspire readers of every age and aspiration.  It’s a playbook for making your life count.

Photo credit to Stephanie D Zito
Chris Guillebeau is an entrepreneur, traveler, and New York Times bestselling author. His first two books were The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup. Recently, he completed his quest to visit every country in the world before the age of 35. Host of the World Domination Summit, an international gathering of creative people, Chris is focused on encouraging individual quests while also “giving back.” His main website, ChrisGuillebeau.com, is visited by more than 500,000 people per month.

Visit his official website | Follow Chris on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Random House.

The Lovely Side is on: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


Unknown said...

These types of stories always inspire me so much and help rekindle that "I want to do something AMAZING!" feeling inside me! I also fell in love with writing at a young age, but it has been years since I've truly nurtured that passion (at least in novel form- I still have my blog!). I'm feeling inspired to go write a few chapters of something historical...The last novel I started was a historical piece set in 1800's France, with a little conspiracy and magical realism thrown in for good measure. Good luck with finishing your novel- I'll be watching for the day it hits the shelves!

Kati Rose @ Constantly Seeking Wonder said...

I'm really intrigued by Chris' book and have added it to my booklist - it sounds like the perfect inspiration for now. I found myself reading through your post and understanding where you came from with so many things. One of my biggest goals in my life has to always be a published author - I've recently tried to write one page a day because one page seems simple right? Hopefully this book can fire both you and I up to succeeded and finally meeting our goals :)

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to write for ages now but have never got round it. I stopped once I started college andI would love to start again but I struggle with balancing uni, voluntary work, spending time with family etc. Love your blog - reading from the UK :D

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this, your blog has always grabbed my attention. Does it ever happen to you that, at certain moments in your life, you find things that just work perfectly with what you are going through at the time? Whether it's a song that pops on the radio or a random quote you see on a bumper sticker on the car in front of you? That's how I feel about this post of yours.

I, like you, have always loved to write. It started in 5th grade, a similar story as yours where my teacher had around 15 beginning sentences for stories that we could choose from and allow our imaginations to lead us wherever we came up with. I can't tell you what my story was about specifically, I vaguely remember it, but I remember my teacher (who was probably the meanest teacher I've had ha) was so surprised and happy by the story, she had me stand up on my desk chair and read it to the class and she asked if she could save it for next year's example. (Thinking about it, I wish I had thought to have made a copy!)
Since then I've hoarded notebooks full of half finished stories, short stories, entries on significant moments in my life, what I decided to eat that day... anything.
My major in college was English Lit. Then, of course 2 years ago, at 20 years old, I met my first boyfriend and you are right, writing was one of the first of my passions to be put far away on a shelf somewhere in my mind.
After a while I wondered if it was even a passion of mine anymore. I thought my life was going in a completely different direction, so I decided to stop going to college for English and just work full time since my boyfriend and I moved in together and there were bills to pay and our life together to focus on.
We broke up a little over a month ago, and you know what I have been doing every single day? Writing. My schedule is so much more jam-packed with school and work than it ever was with my boyfriend and yet I find a moment every day to jot something down.
I think that life gets in the way sometimes, and sometimes you can really lose yourself and lose that passion because of the routine, because 'there's not enough time in the day', because there's more important things you should be doing.
And I've come to realize that without doing the things you are passionate about, you can easily lose yourself. And I know, at least for me, I became a pretty unhappy person. I didn't even realize it until after we broke up how much writing means to me and how much it helps me get through anything. It's important to keep up with the things you love and make it a priority to keep them in your life. It definitely makes for a much more fulfilling and enriching journey in life.