Category Archives: Life Philosophies

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear

One of the first pieces of writing advice I ever received was that if you want it to be your occupation, you need to treat it as a business. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a business plan — though it doesn’t hurt — but you do have to set regular working hours, make goals, and keep them. Part of that, especially when self-publishing, is to set a publishing schedule and to stick to it. However, sometimes keeping that schedule is not always possible.

I do realize that there has been a great deal of discussion about publishing delays lately, and I’m not going to give any opinions on someone else’s schedule. It’s none of my business whether or not (insert name of big author) is publishing a book this year, next year, or at all. The only person whose publication schedule I can comment on with any authority is my own and as it so happens I’ve had to make some difficult choices of my own.

Knowing that my debut novel was launching last June, I started writing the next book in the series at a writing retreat the month before. I managed to write the first third that week and figured that at my normal pace, I could probably finish it by the end of the summer, October by the latest. That would have given my beta readers plenty of time to read it, and time for me to put together a short story collection (and possibly release it in the spring). It was also plenty of time for revisions so I could release book 2 in the summer. Well, we ended up being really busy and short handed at the day job over the summer and that left me too exhausted to get much done on the book. It took me the entire summer to write two chapters. That’s it. That’s all I got done.

As far as progress goes that’s dismal. However, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I did get something done and it was impossible for me to do more. All of this meant that I had two choices. If I wanted to finish on schedule, I’d pretty much have to work myself to death for eight months. The other option was to put off the short story collection for another year, and postpone the novel release until sometime in 2019. It seems pretty straight forward as far as decisions go but what of the fans? There are people eagerly awaiting the next Oneiroi War book. Plus there’s the reader anxiety that seems to pop up these days anytime an author talks about a delay. On the other hand, I really don’t want to work myself to death for that long. It’s not healthy and the extra pressure would probably cause me to hate the book in the end because of what I had to go through to complete it.

I really don’t want to work myself to death and I don’t want to hate the book (because it’s really awesome) so I chose the latter but I do still feel bad about it — which is a bit insane. I shouldn’t feel guilty for putting my health and wellbeing first but letting down my fans still isn’t something that I wanted to do. It certainly isn’t something that I want to do lightly or make a habit of.

So what does all of this have to do with making goals? I think one thing that often is forgotten is that when setting goals it’s impossible to plan for every contingency. Yes, we can definitely keep our goals realistic, but that still isn’t going to prepare us — or our readers — for when things go sideways. When they do go sideways, it’s important to reassess the situation, and adjust the goal accordingly. Most importantly, it’s important not to see it as a failure; especially if circumstances were out of your control and you did your best in spite of it. After all, a goal is not a promise or a contract. It’s a determination to attain. The goal is still attainable…it’ll just take a bit longer than you originally planned and that’s okay.

 

The Goal Post

I’m a football fan. Apparently that’s somewhat rare in the world of writers. I love a lot of different sports, including baseball, golf, basketball and swimming. By some crazy coincidence I am writing this post smack in the middle of the NFL playoffs. And this month’s Fictorian’s theme is all about goals.

So, this post is about goals, ergo, it is the goal post. See what I did there?

OK, I’m sorry. Still, it’s a decent lead in, and the sports reference is useful too. Because I happen to be one of those people who think goals are a critically important part of life. Goals give us something to strive for, something to measure our performance against, and something to appreciate when they are achieved.

Sports is famous for setting goals. If you talk to just about any world-class athlete, they will pepper you with their goals. Each goal achieved is one more step forward in their quest to achieve the greatness to which they aspire. Each goal achieved opens the door to new goals beyond.

I approach writing that way. Well, I approach a lot of things that way. But writing is one of them. That doesn’t mean I always achieve goals, but if I don’t achieve a goal, I don’t abandon my dreams, I re-calibrate and reset. Then I work toward my new goals. The more goals I achieve, the closer I am to the dreams I have.

Goals can be far-reaching and ambitious, like “I’m going to write a novel.” Or they can be direct and practical, like “I’m going to write 1,000 words tonight.” Then, the next night, “I’m going to write 1,000 words tonight.” If you string enough successful 1,000 word nights together, you can achieve your over-arching goal, “I’m going to write a novel.”

When I started writing, I used to keep a spreadsheet of how many words I wrote every night. I had nightly, weekly, and monthly goals for words written. If I came up short one night on a nightly goal, I could buckle down the next night and get back on track for a weekly goal.

Some people give themselves rewards for reaching goals. That’s fine, it probably helps some people, but for me the main reward for reaching a goal was… you guessed it, reaching the goal.

I’m just now wrapping up my fourth novel. I’m already planning my fifth. I remember when my loftiest goal was “I’m going to write a novel,” and that goal seemed light-years away and nearly impossible to reach. In truth, it wasn’t really that much effort, it was mostly all about sticking to my goals until I achieved them.

One of my favorite Robert Browning quotes is “Ah that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” That’s one way of saying that goals can help us achieve great things. It’s similar to “Reach for the stars, if you fall short, you might still reach the moon.”

Set some goals. Make them specific. Make them meaningful. Track your progress. Reward your successes. That’s not a bad way to get through life in general, and it just might finish that novel you’ve been working on forever.

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting – A Guest Post by Heidi A. Wilde

A guest post by Heidi A. Wilde.

When I was first asked to submit a post about knowing when to quit your goals I had mixed feelings. Aren’t we supposed to never quit? “Winners never quit and quitters never win” and all that? But the more I thought about it, and read other people’s thoughts on the subject, the more I realized that there are quite a few instances where quitting is actually the right thing to do, and that it doesn’t mean you have failed. I love playing games of all sorts, board games, video games, computer games/MMOs/etc, you name it; and as I was pondering how best to talk about the circumstances when it is okay to abandon a goal a few gaming correlations came to mind. Stick with me here, and I’ll share five examples of when quitting is the better option.

  1. Your quest log is full and/or you’ve out leveled the area you’re in. In order to make room for more level appropriate quests, you need to abandon some whose rewards are minimal because your level is too high. If you made a goal in your 20s and you’re now in your 30s but have yet to accomplish it, chances are that the goal just doesn’t fit your life now. You’ve grown past it. It’s hard to let go sometimes, especially as we’ve been told so often that quitting equals failing. If you’re only hanging on to this goal because you don’t want to be labeled a quitter, but it’s not actually going to give you anything in return, it’s time to let it go to make room for goals that are more appropriate to where your life is currently heading.
  2. Your raid group cannot defeat a certain boss. Every week you and your friends group up to try their hands at the new raid boss (big level character that takes many people to defeat), but just can’t seem to do it. Perhaps it’s time to look at your equipment, your understanding of the boss mechanics, your understanding of your own class abilities. In other words, you’ve set a goal for yourself that you don’t actually have the tools to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with setting aside a goal for a time when you are equipped to complete it, or of simply dropping it completely.
  3. Overcomplicated Quest line whose benefits are not worth the effort. You heard about a quest that sounded pretty cool, but when you get into it you discover it has 36 mini quests and you need to complete them all before getting any rewards, and the reward you do end up getting is a piece of junk. Are the developers trolling you? I would say this example would be when you set a goal for something you thought would be simple, but discovered it would take much more time and effort than you thought. Now, there will still be goals that are worth pursuing even if they end up being more complicated, but that is something you will have to decide for yourself. Is the end reward what I thought it was going to be, and will it be worth my effort? If not, then don’t waste your time. There are plenty of other quests in the game 😉
  4. Limiting Quest Line. There are some quest lines that open up relations with certain factions, but by doing so you become hated by/closed from interaction with an opposing faction. You need to find out which faction will give you the benefits you want and can use. Does a goal of yours cut you off from interactions that would be more beneficial than the ones brought about by that goal? This would be a time where dropping a goal would be appropriate. Again, you are the only one who can decide which benefits are best for you, but don’t be afraid to let one go just because you’ve invested time into it if there is a better goal for you out there.
  5. Misleading Quest Line. Either a quest line looks like it will lead to a certain perk (new mount/companion/area), or you were told it would, but you find out once you get into it that it doesn’t. It’s not uncommon to set a goal with a certain outcome in mind only to find out that working on the goal is actually taking you in a different direction. If that direction is not something you want, don’t feel bad about letting go of this goal. Just because you start something doesn’t mean you have to finish it if it is going to work against you in the end.

These are just a few things that popped into my head while contemplating this topic. I hope you were able to get something out of them whether you are a gamer or not. There are a couple of other thoughts I had that I want to hit on before I end.

The first one is about mindset. Sometimes being too focused on results can be a detriment. Enjoying the process, the journey, and focusing on that will bring more joy. The Bhagavad Gita (Gandhi’s ‘spiritual dictionary’) states “Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.” A goal should have you thinking more about ‘getting better’ than ‘being good’.

Secondly, if you are contemplating abandoning a goal, I want you to ask yourself a few questions. Why did you set the goal in the first place? Do you still have the same reasons for completing it? Do you want to quit merely because it is harder than you thought it would be? Or is it that the effort involved is too great compared to what you will actually obtain from completing it?

Make a list of honest pros and cons for quitting. Only you can know what’s best for you and what will make you happy. Get rid of goals that don’t bring happiness and fulfillment. Executive coach Steve Robbins said, “The people who had the least extraordinary lives were the ones who managed to adhere closest to their plans.” Lives change, circumstances change, so don’t be afraid to dump any goal that isn’t working for you anymore.

 

About Heidi A. Wilde

Heidi A. Wilde is a Respiratory Therapist by night and aspiring author by day. She spends her nights dragging people back from the brink of death, but she has dedicated her daylight hours to the pursuit of writing. Current projects include a Regency Romance series, a fantasy saga, and even a foray into the realm of Steampunk, as well as the occasional short story competition. She attributes the bulk of what knowledge she can claim to attendance in fabulous programs such as Superstars Writing Seminars, Dave Farland’s workshops, and various conventions.

New Goal: Stop Making Goals

Growing up, I kept my goals mostly to myself. Even in my mind, they didn’t seem like goals.

“I want to be the lead in the musical.”

“I want to crochet a blanket over Christmas break.”

“I want to graduate with a 3.5 GPA.”

I don’t think I realized that I was actually setting goals. I saw it as simply evaluating what I wanted to. I don’t remember making to-do lists until my first job after college when the mass of small responsibilities became too much for my brain to hold.

Now? I’d panic if I ever accidentally deleted my to-do list. I’ve made countless pages of long-term and short-term goals. Part of me gets near-sexual satisfaction checking off a goal as completed. Oh, what’s that? Too much information? Soooooorry. 🙂

Almost exactly a year ago, I realized that I might be too far on the pendulum swing toward my Type-A tendencies. I was born an extremely Type-B girl and learned to function as a Type-A thanks to difficult and stressful jobs in my 20s. When I looked back on my teenage years and early 20s, I realized I had been juggling a *lot* of different hobbies, jobs, school, and obligations with little or no stress. But in adulthood, stress and anxiety seems to follow me everywhere I go, no matter how few my responsibilities at any given time.

A major component of my more recently developed stress and anxiety comes from, surprisingly, making goals. I have an almost militant reserve to complete every item on the to-do list, make sure every goal written down manifests. I’ll write down the smallest items on my to-do list, like “Text Stephan back” or “Research if wrapping paper is recyclable,” all the way to the biggest, like, “Edit book.” (You know, just edit a book. No problemo. I’ll do it after I clean out the litter box.) Clearly, there are big jumps in my goals and to-do actions which can, and more often than not, becomes overwhelming. I can knock off two or three things on the to-do list while that big task simply looms, bothering me and holding me hostage to its size and long-term commitment.

Watching a big goal hover over you every day, I’d argue, can incite a negative reaction instead of a positive one. While completing one’s goals usually makes people feel great, not being able to check a time-consuming one off the list for months or even years can make a person grow apathetic toward it. Which was exactly what was happening to me.

So, last year around this time, I made one goal. Stop making goals.

It forced me to live in the moment instead of in the future. “What do I want to do today?” replaced the question, “What do I have to do today?” Instead of beating myself up for not taking steps toward a big goal, I enjoyed focusing on what was in front of me that needed attention, time, and care.

I wasn’t able to cut loose my to-do list. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully let go of it (my preciousssss). But at least now, I’m able to split my goals into smaller, easier to-do items that don’t intimidate me nearly as much as those big, looming goals did.

If you’re finding that setting goals is sapping your energy and leaving you apathetic, try taking a break from it. Enjoy what’s in front of you at the moment, take care of the immediate things that need your attention. When you’re ready, you’ll come back to some of those long-term goals with new enthusiasm.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
-Greg Anderson