You can't say I don't have goals.

by Stella

You should see the beautiful schedule I made for my blog posts in Excel. It is not only meticulously calculated but adorably aesthetic as well. Just looking at it cheers me up, like being color-coordinated is a step closer to being a good writer. But though I could tell you, more or less, what I’m going to be blogging about in sixth months (yes, I know that’s a little eccentric), what I don’t have is a schedule for other long-term projects.

Short-term-wise, I have three things to keep track of: the blog, which is a kind of combined endurance test and experiment lab; writing for the View, which has its own schedule in Excel form (yes, yes, eccentric blah blah); and a series of short stories. The short-term list is like a fitness program, keeping my writing muscles in shape and in a normal routine – crucial, given that I can’t devote myself to writing all the live long day. (There’s this “real life” thing and its responsibilities, which I have to juggle as well.)

Now my long-term list doesn’t include any projects I’m actually working on, but is really a collection of projects I’d like to work on eventually. Items – to be written as screenplays – are as follows: one western; one sci-fi; one romantic comedy; something filmed in black and white; adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I’m trying to keep the word “novel” off the list, because, though tempting, it would be an act of foolishness.

The only things I don’t have any schedule or list for are the projects I’m currently working on. Why? Good question. Once I did try to make up some kind of schedule, but I never finished it. I simply didn’t feel good about the type of pressure it created. Like the Writing Police were going to take away my license if I didn’t produce something immediately. It has been pointed out to me that I’m needlessly delaying the part of the writing process that involves criticism and rejection, and that it would do me good to just finish something already and deal with it.

There’s something to that. I can’t deny that it’s still an ordeal for me to let people read my writing. It’s not because I’m afraid of getting a bad response – I appreciate constructive criticism – but because I already know that I still have work to do. I also enjoy that the projects are hanging around, trying to stand the test of time, hopefully improving as I improve. Color-coordinating skills aside, I think that’s a good sign.

7 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

Stella, Difficult as the schedule you've assigned yourself appears--and colorful of not, it sounds daunting to me--I envy you: all that excitement; all those plans; so much bristling writing bursting with life.
Worse, for me, is that flat phase, where nothing has gripped you so hard you can't ignore it; that emptiness, which demands so much senseless faith while threatening doubt without end.
Give me way too much over nothing any day. Balance? That's for highly evolved people, not me. But maybe Excel would help.

theamateurbookblogger said...

Stella - thank you. I'm glad it's not just me. I have the colour coding on my due dates calendar - due, plan, execute, ongoing, overdue. If I spent as much time writing as I did planning, along with everything else I think makes me a better writer except the actual words on paper, I might one day get my novel finished. Why don't we set ourselves one long term goal of our choice - to be achieved by today, June 10th, in one year. We can report in every quarter - September, December, March 10th... anyone on for it?

Stella said...

Kathleen - I've never thought of myself as bursting with plans. Actually I've considered myself more as an underachiever. But I think it's all relative. I couldn't do what you do - posting whole segments of fiction day after day as part of an ongoing blogvella (that's the word, right?). I have to have the whole - complete - or I get twitchy and want to keep rewriting. Though do try the Excel thing. It's a kind of therapy ;)

theamateurbookblogger - It's nice to know my organizational quirk is shared by others! Re: the deadline thing. I don't really trust myself there (not surprising, huh?), but I have tentatively planned to finish a few short stories by the end of this year (probably the beginning of next year). What goal would you set for yourself?

kathleenmaher said...

Stella, You know I started the blog writing because I was rewriting so much it was stupid.
The only way to put something out often is not to think of it as finished. For blogging, I think of my fiction as performance art.

theamateurbookblogger said...

Stella - I'd like to think I would finish my novel. It's on hold at 37,000 and I plan a first 'big' edit for September, before I get started again.

Kathleen, I like that idea "..blogging...as performance art."

I get so hung up on whether or not my post is 'worthy' of doing, that I make very few and infrequently. I suspect I should just be more accepting of the muse in the moment and not worry about the outcome as much.

Paul Burman said...

I don't have a schedule, Stella, because I'd either get disheartened because I could never keep to it or I'd worry that I wasn't spending as long on a piece of writing as I should because I was being driven to meet my schedule instead. I might have an idea of what I want to achieve on a particular day (or across a weekend) and what I'd like to have completed in six months time, but at the moment I'm two months behind in my single six month goal and this always seems to be the way things go. Maybe I'll catch up in the next few weeks, but I doubt it.

As for 'needlessly delaying the part of the writing process that involves criticism and rejection', I know what you mean about giving pieces the chance to improve as you improve, but I also doubt that anyone is ever 100% happy with a piece of writing or art. There might be a fleeting moment of satisfaction when we think something's finished, but it's guaranteed that we'll be ready to improve it further if we leave it alone for a couple of months. So when do we know to let go and see what sort of reception other people will give it?

Stella said...

Kathleen - I like your performance art metaphor, but it reinforces my scaredycat attitude. I have terrible stage fright ;)

theamateurbookblogger - Accept the muse! Now there's a slogan for you. Writers of the world unite.

Paul - "So when do we know to let go and see what sort of reception other people will give it?" An excellent question. First, I'd have to have a finished draft (not "finished" as in "complete" but at least a draft where you can get a feeling of what the final result will be like). Then I'd let it sit for a bit before doing a rewrite. Then I'd take the plunge and let someone read it for a first opinion kind of thing. Then there'd probably be more rewriting. Basically, I'm still on the part where I'm working on the draft... I do know there's no such thing as 100% ready, but I'd like to get into the low nineties...