Monthly Archives: January 2014

What We’re Doing When We’re Supposed to be Writing

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by | January 23, 2014 · 9:34 pm

Happy New Year! What are your New Year resolutions?

Lose weight. Exercise more. Adopt a healthier diet. Drink more water.
You too? Do these top your list of New Year resolutions?

I know all about goals. When I worked in Corporate America, I had to set goals. Short-term goals, the one-year plan. Long-term goals, the five-year plan. I had to write them down and submit them to my supervisor signed as if I was pledging my life away. As a corporate robot I set goals, wrote them down and charted my way to success.

What worked in my corporate America world, doesn’t work so well in my Happy Writer World. I’ve been a writer long enough to know that in happy writer world the best laid plans often end up in the garbage. Rejection letters sting and waiting for agents and editors to return calls feels like a waste of time not to mention control. My goal might be to publish a book or a short story but the publishing world has other ideas. It all boils down to what can I do better. How can I make this story float above the slush pile?

Recently author Cheryl Strayed summed up precisely on Facebook how I feel about New Year goals and resolutions:
“Is there ever an end to the daily struggle to be a better person? I’m not asking this rhetorically. I’m wondering if there’s a time when you reach it, when you say “I can no longer think of any way to be a better person.” (Or maybe there are people who do not ponder every day how they can be a better person?) When I say “better person” I don’t mean that I constantly tell myself how awful I am but rather I’m very aware of the ways in which I could’ve done better as a friend, as a mom, as a spouse, as a sister, as a writer, as a woman with some serious aspirations for this thing called “balance” (ie: time for exercise, lounging, sex, thrift-store shopping, voracious reading). On a pretty much daily basis I think of how I’ve failed in many of these areas. It’s not a self-hate thing, but rather a deep desire I have to someday fall asleep thinking, “Well done, Strayed. You’ve got it down.” I’m reflecting on this as the first day of 2014 comes to an end here on the west coast of America. Not thinking “Well done, Strayed” but thinking instead, “Maybe next year. Maybe tomorrow. Keep going. Keep walking. Just try to do better in every action, intention, thought and deed.””

I once sat in on a lecture by writer William C. Anderson. When asked a question about “how to know when to quit editing” he said that he was so relieved when BAT-21 was finally published because he could finally stop changing things and move on to something else. He said nothing ever felt perfect, nothing ever felt “done.” Most writers I know strive for perfection when theoretically we know there is no perfect, only better.

I’m struggling with these issues today as I think about what I want to accomplish in 2014. How can I write better? What can I do to propel my work forward? How can I achieve balance in this less than perfect world?

For me the answer is simple. Begin each day with optimism knowing I’m doing the best I can. Dig in knowing there will be ups and downs and some days will be better than others.

C. S. Lewis said, “ You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” So here’s my New Year resolution. Relax and enjoy the journey. It’s a brand new year full of wonderful possibilities.

What are your New Year goals and resolutions? Do you set daily word count goals? How do your reward yourself when you meet them?
-Bonnie Dodge

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