An interesting thing about posting on the first Saturday of each month is that, every year, I get to write an article during the first week of the new year. For the last few years, I’ve written about setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based goals. And, being honest, that’s what I was originally going to write about this year.
But, here’s the thing: I haven’t achieved anything I set out to do last year.
See, the last couple of years have thrown one spanner after another at me. At this point, I have enough spanners to start my own spanner store. But what I don’t have is a lot of writing to show for it.
Well, unless writing about spanners counts.
So this year I want to write about something different. I want to write about looking objectively at the reality of our lives and the world we live in, and planning our goals from there.
The World Kinda Sucks
There’s a part of my brain that tells me that the world doesn’t suck right now any more than it’s always sucked. The issues and problems facing the world-as-a-whole right now aren’t new. There have always been dangerous politicians and discrimination and looming environmental disasters. None of this is new.
But the other part of my brain is jumping around like a frog on meth, shouting that things have never been this bad.
Maybe it’s the 24-hour news cycle, or the way social media makes everything feel more personal, or the fact that I’m a parent now, and more worried about the future than I’ve been before. Maybe it’s just that it feels impossible to escape the over-arching feeling that the world isn’t going to hell in the proverbial handbasket, because it’s already arrived and we’re too busy trying to make the handbasket climb back up the hill to pay attention to anything else.
Whatever it is, it’s almost impossible (for me, at least) to concentrate on crafting authentic, believable, fictional worlds when the real world jumped the shark a couple of seasons ago.
Look out! The Spanners are Coming!
But it’s not just the about the state of the world. It’s also about my life. A couple of years ago, I had a solid writing plan. My kids were both in school, and I was going to go back to university part-time and spend the rest of my suddenly child-free hours writing.
Then life happened.
Now, I’m homeschooling my children (so much for child-free hours!), studying, running two businesses from home in my “free time” and teaching creative writing to other homeschooled kids in my community.
Now, I absolutely love my life as it is. There’s not a single thing that I wish I wasn’t doing. But there really isn’t a lot of time for writing. At least, not the kind of writing that I would like to be doing.
I’ve talked to a lot of people over the last few months, and found that many of my writer-friends are in the same boat. For all our plans and SMART goals, the spanners have sent our lives ricocheting off in a completely different direction.
What’s The Plan?
I think it’s really important at this time of year (well, at any time of year, really) to stop and take a breath and ask ourselves that question:
What is the plan?
And, perhaps more importantly, why is that the plan? And is there another way to get where you’re going?
I remember watching a great speech by Neil Gaiman back in 2012, where he was talking about his experiences as a writer.
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.
Walk Towards the Mountain
I’m a big believer in goals. I really am. But our goals need to be flexible. They need to take into account the realities of our world – both in terms of the big picture and our own situations.
Too often, I think we set ourselves goals that are based on what we think we want to do, rather than what we actually can do, given our current circumstances.
So, this year, I’d like to propose that we focus on walking towards the mountain.
Whatever your mountain may be, walk towards it.
Even if, right now, your long-term goal seems absolutely impossible.
Keep walking towards to mountain, and instead of complaining that the spanners are throwing you off course, pick them up, take a look at them, and think:
Hey, this is a pretty interesting spanner. Didn’t expect to have a spanner like this thrown to me right now. I wonder how it’s going to help me climb my mountain.
At least, that’s what I’m going to try to do.
Do you have writing goals for 2019? What does your mountain look like?
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