Wednesday, August 27

Goals: Not Always Helpful

Well that's an odd thing to say, isn't it? Shouldn't writers (or artists of any kind, really) have goals?

Yes.

But goals need to be both reasonable and flexible

I have a goal of writing 2000 words a day. Most day I make that and a little over, but it wasn't so long ago that I was struggling to even make 500 words a day. There were a couple of days when I barely got 100 words down on the page. 

I spent the day after, beating myself up--which isn't a terribly good way to keep the Muses dancing in my head. 

A few years ago, I set my goal at releasing 6 titled in the following year. I released 1. There are a bevy of reasons, most of which you all, already know about. (For those who aren't regulars, I had a major bout of depression last winter, but even before that, I was dealing with it off and on and it is *very* difficult to be creative when all you want to do is sleep all day. And my depression isn't server. Even last winter, when the past few years finally caught up with me, when we realized we were losing our house, and when the weather was just *awful* I was definitely depressed--but there are far worse cases out there. Which I don't say to lift myself up or tell myself that "see, it's not so bad." I'm saying that because you might know someone suffering with depression and you might not even know it, because most of the time it's invisible. It isn't taken seriously. It should be, because it's real.)

Okay, PSA over. 

But in all seriousness, depression of any level of severity is nothing to be brushed aside. Even though most days I did eventually get out of bed and get dressed, I still didn't seem to be able to get anything done, especially writing.

And I love writing.

It became this viscous cycle of not writing because I just couldn't find the mental and emotional fortitude to put words together, then beating myself up for not being productive (because one of the habits of happy, productive, successful people is to write or produce their art whether they feel motivated or not--only amateurs wait for "motivation"). And of course, the more I beat myself up, the deeper into depression I sank, the more difficult it was to string words together on the page, the fewer words I produced, the more I beat myself up. 

On one of my worst days not so long ago, one of my Facebook friends (and I am so sorry I've forgotten who it was, because it was another author) said to my complaint about taking so long to write so few words that "any progress forward in the story is progress" (or something incredibly similar). For once, I took the simple (true) encouragement to heart and since then have been doing better. There will still be days that are better than others. I still have a house full of boxes to unpack and drywall to tape and "mud" (which thankfully has nothing to do with actual mud, but is going to be a heck of a job, because there are a *lot* of seams in the drywall and they're not all real even and...and yeah. There's a lot of work to do.) I still have to sand and stain my office floor. 

So I had to lean to be flexible. My goal is 2000 words a day, but if I don't make it, that's okay. I put *some* words on the page. Or maybe I unpacked some boxes or tackled one of the kajillion projects still waiting for me around this place. I've also learned that, at least for me, "writers' block" is just my subconscious telling me that something isn't right with the story and keeping me from going forward until I fix it. Sometimes it takes time for my subconscious to figure it out and let me know what needs to be fixed. While I'm let it chew over the problem, I can do other things. I can do anything but beat myself up over taking the day off from writing.

So I'd like to encourage you to stop reading all of those "habits of happy, successful, wealthy people" memes and figure out what works for YOU. Sure, some of the advice is pretty universal (the more time you spend on Facebook, the less time you'll have to produce art; spending time with people who actively discourage you--or even not-so-actively discourage you--is totally counterproductive to an artistic career), but "just smile and do it anyway" doesn't always work in life. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to miss a goal, build a blanket fort, or go hang out with your best friend. 

My (flexible) goals:

  • Finish and submit A Place to Belong and Bound: Damaged Goods by the end of the year. 
  • Keep up with my monthly newsletter and weekly (or more) blog
  • Write 2000 words a day (more when I can)
  • Spend 2 hours a day reading (instead of farting around on Facebook)
  • Work on meditating every day (or at least every other day) and get back to working out

Next year:
  • I will write and submit 4 novel-length books for publication (which involves promotion, blog tours, marketing...heck, it involves editing and a lot of hard work above and beyond 2000 words a day!)
  • Keep up on my newsletter and blog (which count toward my writing word goal)
  • Attend Rainbow Con (I'm already booked in as an author)
  • Attend Dragon*Con (which is really a family vacation, but it's a monetary goal of staggering proportions! I'm also going to submit my name for the author track and see if I can get on a couple of panels)
  • Have a vegetable garden (good for both the pantry and my emotional well being)
  • Finances available, remodel kitchen (because you know, stuff always comes up when you least expect it and something else might become more important)
  • Work on some other artistic endeavors I bought the supplies for but haven't gotten around to doing anything with (oopsie!)  
  • Continue making time for my spiritual life
  • Continue working on my body, not because of anybody else's idea of what I should look like , but because I just plain feel good when I work out 4 or 5 times a week and make healthy food choices (at least most of the time. According to Bill Cosby, chocolate cake is food, right?)
  • Join a professional organization--but it probably won't be RWA (Romance Writers of America). I'm looking at AG (the Author's Guild); I may or may not blog about my reasons in an upcoming post. 
  • Above all, remain flexible (except w/ Dragon, because oh boy were those hotel reservation terms scary!)

Have any goals you'd like to share? Or any anything else you'd like to say? Leave a comment!

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