Sunday, December 28, 2008

A goal rant, of sorts.

One of the biggest traps an unpublished writer can fall into is the "magical thinking" trap.  The magical thinking trap tells you that one day, the writing fairy will visit you and you will sit down at your keyboard, spit out 100,000 perfect words in a weekend, sell this fabulous story to a publisher (without any pesky agent taking his or her cut) and become famous overnight.  The magical thinking trap tells you that in the meantime, you should call yourself a writer, but not to worry about actually writing anything.  The writing fairy will come, and in the meantime you can just sit back and relax.

Don't deny it - you've had this thought.  We all have, in one form or another.

Last night, I ran into a woman who told me all about the young adult fantasy trilogy she was writing.  When she mentioned she struggled with getting things actually written, I helpfully recommended a class at the Loft to provide a kick in the pants, and some much-needed camaraderie.  To this, the woman responded with all the reasons she couldn't take a class: 70 hour work weeks, volunteering, and several other commitments that left her with "absolutely no time."  She wasn't actually writing at all.

This woman fell into the magical thinking trap, firmly believing she would write the Great American (fantasy) Novel with no work on her part whatsoever.  She was completely committed to the idea, but refused to make it a priority in her life.

The saddest part is that I'm fairly certain she had no idea she was doing this.  I realized (not for the first time) how easy it is to let the craziness of life get in the way of your dreams and goals.  

One of the biggest things I've noticed about those who are highly successful at reaching their goals (becoming a published writer, a CEO, aItalicn Olympic athlete) is that these people keep their eyes focused on their goals at all times.  Even if they must occasionally take a detour, they always come back to the dream.  They make sacrifices, rearrange their schedules, get up at four am, whatever it takes.

The idea is humbling, and motivating.  I've often said I suffer from a lack of applying bottom to chair, that this is the main thing that keeps me from becoming the writer I want to be.  The nice thing about this problem is that it is easy to remedy: Sit.  Place hands on keyboard.  Type.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

On the eve of a New Year, consider what's keeping you from your goals.  What will it take to get you there?  Are you willing to make the sacrifice?  And are you willing to fail, and try again and again until you get there? 

I'll admit that the idea scares me, but I'm not going to dwell on it.  I'm just going to take one day at a time.  Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a chair that needs a bottom . . . 


Kelly McCullough said...

Very smart. Linked.

Laura Bradley Rede said...

Very good advice, Nola. I know that, for me, it is sometimes tempting to let that story stay in my head as the theoretical novel I will write someday because that way it stays "perfect," rather than becoming the messy thing it will have to be if I start to write it. Ironically, sitting down to write my fantasy novel is hard because it means facing reality: hard work, tough statistics, and the limits of my own current abilities. The only way I make myself apply butt to chair is by threatening myself with the thought of how bad I will feel if I never do it. Then, when I'm actually writing, I usually rediscover the real motivation, the fact that this is freaking fun :)

Anonymous said...

Kelly - Thanks! Now if only I can remember to be smart all the time. :)

Laura - I wonder if that's why a lot of writing advice starts with "write every day" - it's so easy to forget that this is fun if all you remember is the messiness & work.