In Praise of Big Goals (or NaNoWriMo)

sage

I’ve always been a fan of big goals. Every day, I have a bristling to-do list, and I manage to cross off some things. I almost never complete all of the things on my list. I keep a list of goals for the day, the week, even goals for the year. I’m quite optimistic by nature (some might say a starry-eyed idealist; others might say delusional) and I manage to set goals for myself that any rational person would see are quite impossible. Not least because I have children, which means most of my priorities revolve around them.

And yet, I still keep setting big goals. Ridiculous, ambitious, crazy goals. I love those things. I love crossing them off my list, but even more, I love the challenge that they represent. And if I don’t quite achieve them? Well, I’ve still made a leap forwards, towards where I want to be. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I might not manage the whole elephant today, but tomorrow is another day, and I’ll be going to bed full of elephant tonight.

Here is the accepted wisdom on goals: goals should be SMART. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-limited. Goals that tick all of these boxes are more likely to be achieved, and are going to help you reach all kinds of giddy heights of productivity. I know this. I’ve even taught it in several different contexts. But here is the other important thing about goals: they’ve got to work for you. If you’re the kind of person who needs that sense of achievement every day, and melts down when your goals aren’t met – well then perhaps sensible, achievable, SMART goals are the way to go. Me, I like a crazy goal. I might not achieve it, but it’s going to make me work harder and longer than a sensible goal would.

Case in point. This year I haven’t been working full time (for the first time in a while), and have had no other major projects on the go. My plan has been to write. I’ve wanted to write for most of my life, but I’ve always been derailed by all the other things I’ve had going on. This year, I’ve decided to prioritise writing. My notebook is full of ridiculous goals like ‘write 1000 words’ or ‘finish this chapter’ – ridiculous because I still have part time work, kids, a house to look after, animals, a somewhat sporadic social life. And yet somehow, in this year of not quite achieving my goals, I’ve still managed to get a lot done. I started a draft of a novel at the start of the year, which I’ve outlined, and written about a third of, then put on the backburner. I’ll probably go back to it some time when I’m ready. I’m one chapter shy of writing an entire first draft of my ‘fun’ project, Tuesday Afternoon Murder Club, and I’ve started another project, a novel based on some local Esperance history. As well as that, I’ve managed a few short stories and kids’ stories, some blog posts (some of which should have never seen the light of day, some of which I’m quite proud of) and some articles for the Esperance Tide. I look back at this year, and recall days, weeks, even months of being frustrated with how little I’m achieving. Still, all of the little bits of achievement have added up, and now, almost a year into this whole, crazy writing experiment, I’m actually quite proud of how much I’ve managed to write.

The end of the year isn’t far away, so I’ve decided I need to step it up a notch. In November, I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It’s a worldwide project where you sign up, and then attempt to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in a month. Crazy, right? I’m going to do it. My goal is to write 2000 words a day for the whole month of November. Ok, so there’s a pretty good chance that I won’t achieve that, but I’ll still end up with more words on a page than I had before I started. Maybe I’ll get to the end of the month and have nothing worth salvaging from the pile of words I’ve written. If that’s the case, well then I will have practiced consistency and discipline with my writing. I’ll be more familiar with my characters, I’ll know what works for the story and what doesn’t. And maybe, just maybe, come December I’ll have the first draft of a novel.

Wish me luck, friends. I’m going to need it. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. And one day, when I’ve sifted through the piles of dross that I’ve written, when I’ve edited and rewritten, and rewritten a bit more – one day, maybe I’ll be done, and you’ll all get to have a read. Until then, you know where to find me. I’ll be over here, biting off more than I can chew, and then chewing like crazy. Here goes….

 

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