Goals that are unrealistic or too big, or are just simply too overwhelming, aren’t going to get us anywhere. As a writer, I must have goals and discipline, just like others who want to accomplish “great” things where their passions (or responsibilities) lie. But I’ve found that if I make them too big, I just set up myself for failure. So I’m starting to figure something out. Maybe it will help you too with your accomplishments.
First of all, making a goal to write an entire, 400-page novel is totally ludicrous, and I never should have entertained the idea. But I did it when I was young and naïve (nice idiom for “stupid”). Now I’m stuck. (I try at least once every week to quit being a writer. But I can’t stick to that goal either.) Secondly, I should have never brilliantly thought it would be fun to write a trilogy. My attention span isn’t long eno— Squirrel!
So now that I’m stuck, what do I do? My favorite (or at least most frequently used) motto is, “How do you eat an elephant?” You know the answer, right? One miserable, gagging, dry, awful bite at a time. (I’m a vegetarian, so it’s especially tough. Pun intended!) Now maybe—if I’m lucky—one out of two-hundred bites might taste like chocolate (okay, not really, but maybe carob) when I have an especially word-lucrative idea-flowing day. But usually not. So I must ratchet back the world-sweeping ideas and go for “what can I do today?,” a method I’ve used before to get through when I wake up staring twelve or so hours straight ahead and I wonder how I’m going to cope. Fifteen minute increments are the saving grace. When you face something that you just can’t stomach, or that stresses you no end, or that you can’t possibly picture "getting ’er done," set a timer. We can all probably do something for fifteen minutes (unless it’s like push-ups or eating slimy worms). If not fifteen, try ten. Or five. When I was near the end of my pregnancy and I’d been on bedrest for eighteen weeks and in the hospital nearly two months, and in pain and having trouble breathing and eating, and frankly, just living, dangling at the tippy tip of my proverbial rope, a dear nurse and lady, Jeannie West, held my hand when Jason was away at work, and she said, “We’ll just get through this next five minutes together, just keep breathing through it. I’m going to sit here with you and we’ll get through this.” And guess what? We did. We made it, I and my four tiny babies. Plus then another five after that. Then another.
So today, my goal is to write 3,000 words on Chloe’s Odyssey. I’m not going to think about the total 120,000-ish the books needs. I might slip off this ledge. But I can do 3,000. I’ve done that lots of time. I got this!
If you have a daunting task, or something you hate that you must do, try a little increment of time to take a little bite out of it. Pour on a little ketchup if you need to, like turning on some great music, or grabbing a cup of your favorite drink, or inviting a friend along to do it with you. Before you know it, your microwave will be chiseled clean, that report will be on its way to being finished, you will have gotten those awful repetitions done, your [INSERT YOUR GOAL] will be fifteen minutes closer to what you hope it to become. And possibly, it will slip into the next fifteen minutes without you noticing. The first fifteen are often the hardest. Good luck! Now, I have to go come up with 3,000 words and fit them into a cohesive order that readers might one day find entertaining. :) Onward, friends!
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