How My Lofty Goals for Summer Melted Away like an Ice Cream on a Hot Day.
When I stepped back from my weekly blog posts, it was with the goal of freeing up some time during the (Northern Hemisphere) summer to tackle the final revision of my manuscript.
“Manuscript” is what writers call the working document that we hope will become a book! To call it a collection of pages that reflect my blood, sweat, and tears, the very essence of my soul, would be more accurate, but that is not what writerly folk do.
I posted my last blog on May 28. We left a few days later for my week-long birthday celebration.
On the flight back, I envisaged the hours, days, and weeks stretching ahead, just waiting to be filled with my sparkling prose.
Although I still worked at my day job (public speaking coach), I had blocked off time for Writing—I always see it with a capital W. On the first day of the first block, I sat at my desk, flexed my hands, and pulled my laptop closer—time to set some goals.
As we all know, before you can set goals, you have to have the right stationery. Lots and lots of stationery.
An entire afternoon of trawling through Amazon gained me enough stationery to supply an entire ten thousand pupil High School—yes, they exist.
With color-coded notebooks (different colors from the note cards and the sticky notes, of course) all lined up, pencils sharpened, laptop scrubbed clean, I was ready to set some goals.
Next was outlining the actionable steps, then setting times and measures for these steps, and so on and so on. Let’s just say, I talk a great pre-game strategy.
No way would I be part of the 70% of people who set goals then fail to follow through. No, not me.
Day 1 of actual Writing dawned bright and hot. Like an aging racehorse, I was strong right out the gate but quickly lost momentum. I told myself I was rusty and just needed to reawaken the muscle memory. Day 2 arrived, but I was pulled away to deal with something else, and the manuscript languished on the corner of my desk. After that, slabs of time that I’d carefully blocked off were eroded by, well, life!
Days became weeks, and before I knew it, it was the end of June, and I had almost nothing to show. Fourth of July rolled around, and I told myself I would get going as soon as everything was back to normal.
However, a few weeks later, I had to admit I was failing at the very goals I chose to set!
I told myself I just needed to have some time to do nothing. I told myself I needed a solid 3 to 4 unbroken hours to really get my teeth into it. I told myself…I told myself…
To paraphrase Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men….”
As anyone else who has been in this position knows, all these justifications are rapidly followed by gnawing guilt. Guilt that I couldn’t even bring myself to gather all the files and folders together, let alone start wading through 92 000 words, line by line.
After that, it was all a bit of a blur made worse because I couldn’t even verbalize why I was dragging my heels. I had taken all the ‘right’ steps to succeed, but it wasn’t enough.
Then one fine day, as Summer was winding down, a client canceled at the last minute. Suddenly, I sat with almost 2 hours wide open. For whatever reason, a light went on in my cobwebby writing brain, and it seemed doable. I made space on my desk, grabbed my manuscript and a humble (and very chewed) HB2 pencil. No colored notes, no files or folders.
There was only one way to do this: start with the first word, of the first chapter, on the first page.
Since then, I wish I could say I had powered ahead and completed the final revision, but this isn’t a fairy tale or one of the motivational blogs. What I can say is that progress has been steady, and continues to be steady.
I’ve set aside the spreadsheet of goals and packed away most of the stationery, and you know what, it’s okay. Life is tough enough without berating myself when I don’t live up to a goal that only I knew about.
I am sure every adult has experienced those times when they disappoint themselves—it’s almost harder than disappointing someone else. But, we get up, brush ourselves off and figure out how to move forward.
As promised, I will resume my Musings blogs, but with one small change; I will post every second Friday.
Thank you for wading through my mea culpa and I hope to see you back on October 15th for my usual Fresh Friday Blog!
Perhaps just like rules, goals are meant to be broken. Bird by bird, Jane, to coin…I mean, steal from Ann Lamott…a phrase. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. Thanks for posting!
Thanks for the kind words, Martha. Slow and steady wins the course!