I’m not a consistent writer. Not in terms of my work habits, not in terms of my approach, and not in terms of the genres that I’m interested in or my long-term goals. There is something inherently mercurial about my approach to all this, despite my best efforts to try and constrain my natural tendency to rapidly change my mind about things in response to external stimuli.
I spend a lot of time trying to figure how to get the hell out of my own way. The days where I’m successful are roughly equal to the days where I fail.
I am distractable, and fallible, and often lazier than I feel comfortable with. Frequently, when I post here, I’m engaging in a pep-talk that I need to hear above all else.
Right now, that pep talk is this: for the love of god, slow down. Pay attention to what you’re doing now, not what you want in give years time.
Partially this is a response to the looming reality of the new year. People start posting end of year reviews. People start posting about new year resolutions. Everyone is abuzz with fresh plans and shiny new ambitions and it’s tempting to start building your own alongside that.
I like goals. They’re always tomorrow’s problem, something I can adapt to and evolve my way towards. They’re like a little tiny adrenaline shot of ambition that keeps me buzzing for…well, two or three weeks, on a good day.
My goals are usually moderately insane and ambitious as hell, and they’re probably about as useful as a heroin habit. Goals open up the possibility of failure and, as I fall behind on my expectations, give me a mental out when it comes to abandoning them. Oh well, I’m not going to come close, so it won’t hurt to fall even further behind…
Goals shape expectations in weird ways. It puts all the benefits way, way off in the future. It’s why writers – even me, from time to time – get tangled up in the disappointments that things will not work out, long-term, and slip into occasional despair. Goals are often come up with as a solution to problems, and all too often they aren’t. It happens so often that I find myself repeating a single from Willow, inside my head:
“Everything will be all right once we get to Tir Asleen”.
Because, well, do you know what happens when you get to Tir Alseen? There are trolls and two-headed dragons and an army camps out on your doorstep. And I do not have a sword-wielding Val Kilmer handy to fight them all off.
When you get right down to it, goals are my response to the possibility of failure. An attempt to exert control over things that I cannot. Goals will get me to the keyboard or get me to crack open a notebook, but they won’t keep me there on their own. Nothing will kill a story idea faster than getting caught up in the idea of making it good instead of getting it done.
Goals are about intentions. Practice is about actions. The reward for writing today isn’t getting a book published or getting things read. The reward for writing today is writing – an activity inherently pleasurable enough that I will produce thousands of words every week for fun in the form of pro-wrestling fanfic and RPG sessions with my friends.
None of which is saying I’m swearing off goals. I am, after all, mercurial as hell and likely to change my mind six seconds after posting this entry. But my resolution for 2016 is pretty simple: it’s not about where I want to be, it’s about what I’m doing. Every hour. Every day. Every month of the year.
I’m paying attention to what I’m doing, not where I want to be.