“My books will be read by millions of people!” The celebrated writer Octavia Butler thus challenged herself to pursue her publishing goals long before her books achieved commercial success.
The late science fiction author, winner of a McArthur “Genius” Grant, is known as the founder of Afro-Futurism. The collection of her papers, including 8,000 individual items, is housed at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles. Among the collection is a handwritten note from 1988 that spells out Butler’s vision for her writing career:
This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My books go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists. … I will find the way to do this. … My books will be read by millions of people! So be it! See to it!
Beyond this ambitious, empowered vision of herself as a best-selling author, Butler also wrote out detailed goals that focused on helping others, including her plan to “send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops.”
This handwritten note offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a talented writer who managed to overcome significant obstacles to achieve commercial success. Butler wrote the note long before her books became widely read. She faced enormous challenges as an African American woman writing science fiction, and her achievements are remarkable.
Perhaps it was writing out her vision—boldly, without conditions or apologies—that was a key to ultimately achieving her goals.
So writers, here is the challenge: Are you as bold as Octavia Butler? Will you dare to write down your dreams of publishing success?