I set goals.
Maybe you do too; I don’t know. A lot of people do and a lot of people don’t. Most of the goals that I set for myself have to do with writing.
I have a full-time job here in Greece of teaching English as a second language. I also treat my writing as a second full-time job. Due to circumstances I have to give priority to the job that makes more money, which at the moment is the teaching. I hope that situation will change in the future, but in the meantime I set goals that will help me realize the vision I have for my writing.
Some goals work, and some don’t. A case in point: I set a goal around the middle of January concerning how many stories I would like to write, as a minimum, during 2011. The first story I finished, no problem, but the second has been a problem. It’s not that the premise isn’t sound; the idea is dynamite. The problem is that the story turned out to be much more complicated, and therefore longer, than I had thought it would be, and I don’t really have the time now to work on something long. During the summer, maybe, but not now. Too many things interrupt. For example, I just got a note from an editor who is interested in one of my stories for an anthology; he requested a rewrite, and so I had to drop what I was doing and take care of that. In addition, I am in the final stages of preparing the memoir of my time on the road for publication, and I have to work on that. Then there are stories that have to be sent out due to deadlines in various markets.
It’s not that I don’t want to write; it’s just that I can’t get my mind on a long project right now. So I am putting it aside. I am not abandoning it. I have often stopped stories half-finished and come back to them when the time is right, and they have turned out to be some of my best stories. But if I continue to slog away half-heartedly at a story just to get the work count in, that story will be crap, and I don’t want to waste my time writing crap. I want to write good stuff, spot-on stuff.
Sometimes, I have to admit, it’s hard to know the difference when you are in the midst of the fray. I have persevered through some stories when I felt it wasn’t going well and when I came to the end I found out that they were just fine.
But other times, you have to pause, analyze the situation, and see if you are really following the right course of action, or if you should re-set goals and follow an even better path. This is true not just in writing but in any worthwhile endeavor.
That’s what I had to do recently: reassess.
After writing the above, I did some of the business that had been pending: I did the rewrite the editor had requested and sent it off, I wrote a blog post, I took care of some other things – and you know what? I went back to that story I thought I would have to set aside renewed, and I was able to continue with it in joy and not with a sense of oppression. The difference was attitude. Before, I felt the burden of my self-imposed word count and the fact that I had so many other things to do and could not enjoy the task of the writing. Afterwards, the burden was lifted and I realized that circumstances were not to blame – I was. That story might get finished this month after all.