We all have dreams. For me, those dreams are being a published novelist and earning my keep as a writer instead of growing old, tired and snarky in traffic, offices and conference rooms.
I’ve learned over the years that dreams are no more than sugarplums dancing in your head if you don’t turn them into goals. Saying your goal is “write the novel” just isn’t enough. You have to break that down into chunks -“to finish this novel, I will write at least an hour a day,” or whatever mile-markers work best for you.
Hey, back up! That goal-setting stuff sounds an awful lot like … hard work.
What a great ride it has been. Guest posting for fellow LLCers every two weeks has forced me to analzye my progress so that I can share what I’ve learned about being a day-jobbing writer who wants to write … everything. Hosting other LLCers and reading our round robins has taught me even more.
But one of the annoying things about the “making dreams goals and making goals reality” journey is making tough choices along the way. You can do a hell of a lot, but you can’t do it all. If you don’t set priorities, you will dabble in all of your goals but not meet any of them.
I want to finish at least one novel this year, and make significant progress on another. I want to learn enough about self-publishing to make an educated decision about what to do with my works when they are finished. I want to continue querying and seeking markets for the short stories I’ve finished but not yet published. I want to learn more about the craft of writing itself. I want to maintain this blog. I want to pad my income as a freelance humor writer/essayist. I want to hit the gym at least 4 times a week to stay healthy and make sure my butt fits in its writing chair.
All that might be doable for someone who didn’t have a dayjob. Or for someone who had a dayjob but wasn’t too concerned about maintaining good relationships and sharing happy times with their partner, family and friends. Those someones are not me.
Sometimes you have no choice but to set priorities and sacrifice some things to make room for others. For me, one of those tough choices has been to give up my contributing writer spot with the Life List Club. It made me sad to admit it, but I needed sacrifice the time I spend writing about my goals to squeeze in a few more hours of actually working on them.
But because today is LLC Friday, and there’s another awesome blog hop happening even as you read this, there was one more thing I needed to do. It just seemed wrong to take off my LLC writer’s hat without tipping it to my fellow members. I’ve learned so much from each of them along the way.
I have a dirty little secret. I am completely and utterly disorganized in my personal life, and in the past that has included my writing life. I am easygoing, flexible and “spur of the moment” to a fault by nature. I can’t be these things in my day-job life of constant scheduling, deadline-juggling and routine. So when I leave the office, I let my inner “by the seat of her pants” girl out to play. Like many writers, I bundle this sometimes irritating aspect of my personality into my “creative quirks” package. I use “but I’m a writer” as an excuse for my disorganized chaos.
At least I did, until I met Marcia. Spend a little time over at her place and you’ll know you’ve found a creative and inspired writer. An organized creative and inspiring writer. Marcia is proof that you can be a creative spirit, have a ton of fun, and still use structure and organization to “get ‘er done.” I’ve learned from Marcia how to better arrange my personal life, my writing and even my blogging and social networking time while still letting my “free spirit” take the reigns now and then.
Jess and I have joked that in each other we’ve found our “blogging twin.” Marcia’s co-founder Jess is truly a bright light out there in the blogging world. Her blog – aptly named the “Happiness Project,” is chock full of the experiences she lives and shares. From travel adventures to the simple joys of books and guilty pleasure television, you’ll find a pick-me-up and an idea or twenty for spicing up your own life in her world.
But even with all that fun going on, Jess is busting her butt to meet her goals. Of all the LLCers, I sensed that her life was most like mine in terms of struggling to balance the demands of a crazy job with writing goals and the wonderful rest of life. The holidays found her practically working round the clock while still writing and soaking up the good stuff. Jess is doing it all. Sometimes it hits her just how hard that is, and she shares her struggles and frustrations. Then she gets back on the horse and does it all again.
We may be “blogging twins,” but I have years on Jess. If I had known at her age some of the things she’s already realized, you might just see my name on a bestseller list by now. She is a rising star. Watch her.
If Gary ever decides to teach a course on publishing, I will be the first to sign up. He is a true student of the industry and his posts on both self-publishing and traditional markets have given me much food for thought and set me on the path to exploring my options myself. Gary is someone I would write to for his opinion on a publishing option in a heartbeat, and his thoughts would weigh heavily in my decisions. He does his research and he shares his findings in a way that helps us all.
Gary also helped set me back on track with my writing goals when I was on the verge of at least temporarily derailing. His guest post here on setting a writing goal of 500 words a day helped me reset my targets to something I could manage without being overwhelmed. Giving this suggestion a try kept me from throwing up my hands in frustration and walking away for a while – something I’ve done in the past and regretted sorely. For that, I will always be grateful to Gary.
What I’ve loved most about reading Sonia is how she delves fearlessly and honestly into some of the questions and emotions that come with being a writer. So many of Sonia’s LLC posts have resonated with the thoughts rattling around in my own brain.
Perhaps the one that sticks out in my mind the most is a guest post she did at David Walker’s on “shoulds and shouldn’ts.” Until I read her post, I hadn’t really thought about how many opinions I get on what I “should” (or shouldn’t) be writing and how much that well-meant advice often weighs on me. As someone who wants desperately to get out of the grind and write full-time, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come close to just trying my hand at “writing what sells” even if it doesn’t truly inspire me. That urge is a “should” that bops around in my own head and is echoed in many of the suggestions I get from others. Sonia’s thoughts on that have helped me quell that urge – at least for now – and keep working on what I WANT to write instead.
In college, my advisor in our creative writing program told me that my writing reminded him of Erma Bombeck. When I read Jenny, I often think the same of her. She shares snippets of daily life with a humor and sense of shared experience that keeps you coming back for more.
Jenny translates this gift of hers into writing about goals – and writing – too. She spoke to my evil inner critic with a post about done being better than good. In another post, she took the lessons she’s learned from being a parent and applied them to raising our own inner writers. And let’s face it, there are times when carrying an author around in our heads is a lot like trying to manage a toddler. Making those connections and relating our goals to everyday life is the hallmark of a writer who is going places.
Sometimes, my writing and my work take over my time to the point that I’m neglecting other aspects of my life. I lose me, the girlfriend. Me, the daughter. Me, the granddaughter. Me, the friend. Me, the person who needs to go look at a sunset.
When these times hit, I sit back and reflect on some of the things David has written. He is working on his own writing and publishing goals, maintaining a diverse and thought-provoking blog, and working with Writer’s Boot Camp. But always in the forefront of the advice he shares in his LLC posts is a reminder to keep loved ones and daily joyful moments at the top of your priority lists. David has been my reminder that a writer who doesn’t take time to live is going to be a dull – and unhappy – writer. Through sharing his own writing journey, he’s also taught me that having your goals and priorities around your works-in-progress shift is not only OK, but sometimes necessary to get where you’re supposed to be going.
I’m still discovering Lara. One of the awesome things about a group like the Life List Club is that, like our writing, it grows and shifts and changes. Other contributing writers have moved on before me, and newcomers have joined after me. Lara came on board at about the same time I decided to resign.
But I can already tell what a wonderful contribution she’s going to make. Her first LLC post, “Discipline, Planning, Work. Ewww,” made me laugh out loud just at the title. I could see that Lara, like me, is one of those creative types who doesn’t like the structure part of the game as much as the storytelling. A woman after my own heart, but one who like me is realizing just how critical the “worky” part of writing is and sharing how she’s going to make it happen. I look forward to seeing more of Lara’s work and getting to know her better!
I wouldn’t give up learning from and sharing the journey with this gang for the world. I may not be guest posting anymore, but I’m still following the LLC and keeping my own list out there. My LLC blogroll will stay right there on the sidebar, and I’ll be clicking through it every other Friday for a new dose of inspiration.
I hope you will too. Since today is LLC guest post Friday, grab a cuppa joe, jump up to any of the links above or on over to my blogroll, and join me in a blog hop!