Thursday, January 5, 2012

You can go your own way

Today I want to reply to some of the comments I have had in response to my last blog post, to those of you who claim you wouldn't be able to function without goals or to-do lists. You know what? Neither would I.

I have no choice when it comes to list making. There was a time in my life when I could keep track of everything in my head. But that ability left me along with my youth. And like everybody else, I have schedules and deadlines that I must adhere to - most related to pursuing my passions, but some simply the consequence of being a human being living in a complex society. So I use the calendar on my iPhone to keep track of appointments and meetings; I have a teaching schedule posted in my piano studio; and I refer to a short list of morning and evening routines around housekeeping and exercise every day. But I don't think this is contradictory to living freely.

Because at this point my big-picture goals are so much a part of who I am that I can't NOT pursue them, whether or not they are itemized on piece of paper. No matter what else is going on in my life, no matter how busy I am, I somehow find time to create every single day, whether it's making music with my students, writing in my journal, or designing a new piece of jewelry. It's what makes me feel alive. But I want to remain open to adventure and possibility. And I can't do that when my every waking moment is accounted for before I get out of bed every day. After functioning that way for many years, I reached the point that I almost didn't WANT to get out of bed. I was so burned out NOTHING brought me joy. And that is no way to live.

Yes, I dream of being a published author, and I realize that dreaming about it isn't going to make it happen. But since I have abandoned daily word count goals, I am actually writing more - and better. Monday, for example, I got stuck on a paragraph and wound up laboring over it for a long time; as a result, my total for that day was less than 200 words. Tuesday, though, the words were flowing, so I kept working until my first piano student arrived, at the exclusion of everything else, and I added over 3000 words to my manuscript. Previously, I would have stopped the moment I hit my randomly selected number for the day, whether it was 500 or 1000. Then yesterday I had brunch with a friend and spent the rest of the morning running errands and I didn't get around to writing at all but I was okay with it, whereas before I would have beaten myself up for missing a day.

I understand that every writer's process is different and I'm not suggesting that anyone else should follow my lead. And that applies to everything else, too. What practices bring YOU closer to fulfilling your purpose on this planet? For me, it used to be New Year's resolutions, short and long term goals, and a rigorous daily schedule. Now, it is simply waking up every morning, listening to my heart, and following its path.

I wish you joy on YOUR journey!


Denise said...

I've been living the same way and it works for me to. Yes, I have things to do and I do them but I keep things flexible so I can dive deep when I want to and rest on the beach when I need a break. As long as I'm staying focused on my focuses it's all ok. And brunch with a friend is always a good use of ones time.

Carol Burnside aka Annie Rayburn said...

I think perhaps our ways of getting to our goals isn't so different. I have a big spreadsheet that tells me what my target word count is for the day. But it fluctuates, depending on my actual output. I never stop at the target if the story is flowing and I don't force myself to write if the scene just doesn't feel right because I need a bit of distance.

If I only write 57 words today and quit to contemplate, but add 2000 words tomorrow, I'm still ahead of my targeted word count. It's a guideline to the end goal, not a have-to or die trying mission.

If I get behind because I've gone on vacation, I don't let that throw me because I've built in some down time. The real goal is to write more this year than last. My less than rigid approach might not work for some, but it does the job for me.

Pam Asberry said...

It sounds like you are well on your way, Denise. And there is nothing better than brunch with a friend! :-)

Pam Asberry said...

That's a great system you have developed, Carol. And I have no doubt that you will achieve your goal of writing more than last year. It will be exciting to see what you come up with next!

S.M. Carrière said...

I couldn't agree more. There are as many paths up the mountain as there are people.

Don't worry about what others do. Follow your own rhythm. It's almost always right.

leslie tentler said...

Wow, Pam. This post really spoke to me, especially the part of having every minute of the day accounted for to the point that you had lost the will to get out of bed. I've felt like that for so long and am struggling to figure out how to balance my need for freedom with the achiever in me. It's so easy to get out of balance.

I'm not a proponent of word count either, for the exact reason you mention. But I do agree that each of us is different and what works for one might not for the other.

Great post!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, S.M. It's great to have so many wonderful people climbing up this mountain with me - like you! :-)

Pam Asberry said...

I agree, Leslie; it is painfully easy to get out of balance, but it seems like I always err on the side of running myself into the ground. I think that's what overachievers do. Congrats on your latest book, by the way! You must be doing SOMETHING right! ;-) Can't wait to get an autographed copy in my hands. :-)