Tag Archive for: mind set

Making goals at the start of the year is exciting. “I’m going to do all the things! I’m going to live a better life! I’m going to succeed!” But a month or two into the year it’s easy to figure out all those big plans may not actually pan out. So, what do you do? Give up? Punish yourself? Make adjustments?

I’m an advocate for continuing in the face of failure and realigning my expectations. Realignment can come in a number of ways:

  • Trimming out goals that I know I cannot achieve
  • Breaking a goal into landmarks so I can check off achievements
  • Reducing goals to something that is more achievable
  • Replacing goals with goals that better align with how the year is going


Last year I planned to write two novels—one during the year and a draft of a new one during NaNoWriMo 2017. The novel I was planning to write over the year became what I worked on during NaNo. My time just didn’t align for being able to work on the draft earlier than November. Trimming out a new novel was an easy decision for me to make, even though it was disappointing when I looked back on my plans for 2017. But it was the right decision, because looking back on the year, I have no idea how I would have been able to work on another novel during 2017.


For the novel I worked on last year, I kept feeling intimidated by the process. Rather than continuing to look at it as “draft a novel” (which only sounds simple on paper), I broke it into several steps: write a two-page synopsis, draft character arcs for the main characters, re-read what’s been written, write 1,667 words per day during NaNoWriMo. Breaking the task into those smaller chunks gave me a plan for approaching the whole goal, and, even though I didn’t actually finish the draft, I did all of those other things! So even though I didn’t hit the main goal, I feel good about the progress I made.


Last year I planned to write 200K words. That pans out to 548 words per day. I hit the 200K early, but decided since writing was going so well, I should keep writing 548 words per day. Oh. Oh no. That did not work. Instead of beating myself up, I reduced the goal. I changed it first to 500 words per day and then to 400 and finally to writing on a specific project (and at least 100 words). Each adjustment fit with what was going on in my life and it kept me productive on the main goal (writing) without feeling bad about not hitting an unrealistic landmark.


I had every intention of launching my editorial website in 2017. By the time October hit, I realized I was not in a place mentally where I could offer my services to strangers. My friend had died, my cousin was in liver failure, and several other areas of my life were already in upheaval—did I really need to stick to a goal that could easily be pushed to a later date? Instead of pushing myself when I really needed to take care of myself, I dropped my launch goal and replaced it with a goal to take care of my mental health. I started grief counseling and focused my efforts on being mindful of my feelings, my grief, and finding joy. It was quite a switch from focusing on business, but it was the right switch for what was going on in my life.


Your goals should never be static, and they should never hinder you. If your goals are stressing you out and demotivating you, you should revisit them and revise them. Goals are supposed to make us better, to get us closer to the people we want to be, but we have to work with the people we are now and what we can bring to the table today. Realign your expectations, throw out what doesn’t work, but don’t give up.

May has been a pretty exciting month for me. I launched this website, started querying my novel and working on other writing projects, and the Cinescopers podcast returned after a three year hiatus. While some of these experiences are brand new, others are old hat—or they were when I was in practice. Reconnecting with old skills to work on these projects has been something of a challenge.

Podcasting again after three years has been part of that re-learning curve. We’ve recorded three episodes so far and while there are a lot of things I remember, some of those memories are vague, and some things that came naturally to me at the end of our first podcast run now feel foreign.

One of those foreign elements is our intro and outro. I was perfectly comfortable listening to my co-host run through the familiar spiel, but when he asked me to do it for the second episode, I froze. This was a script I knew cold at the end of our 2013 run, and even after Matthew provided a script, I was still struggling with pacing and naturalness and, basically, confidence. Podcasting isn’t part of my regular routine any more and while I’m not quite starting from scratch, I’m not coming from a place that feels like I have three years of experience.

I had a similar feeling when I went to grad school and had to write papers again. It had been eleven years since my undergraduate degree, and while I’d been working in academic publishing, it wasn’t a career in writing papers and following MLA style for citations. I had done this for years as a student! I had been confident writing papers! I had been good at it, judging by my grades! But those first few papers for grad school were like pulling teeth, and I felt awkward (the writing felt awkward) and I had to check and double check and triple check to make sure I was getting the MLA formatting right. The first semester was rough as I relearned the lingo, the thinking, and basically how to approach this very different kind of writing.

Writing short fiction has been a similar struggle. I’ve been focused on long-form fiction for a number of years, so trying to come back to smaller ideas, to constrain the story, to only hint at the larger world, has been a special kind of torture. I’ve read expertly written short fiction to help inspire myself and to analyze how other people do it, and yet when it comes to applying those techniques, I falter. I’ll think I have an angle on how to tackle my idea, and then, 7,000 words later I have people telling me I need another 3,000 words or more. How do you write short fiction? I feel like I’ve completely lost the thread on working that out. (This may be a conversation that is To Be Continued as I try to tackle more short fiction.)

I feel like I’m constantly judging myself against my previously perceived expertise. “I used to know how to do this” is a constant refrain. It’s difficult to know something used to be familiar and then struggle at it now. The set backs have a way of diminishing successes and enhancing flaws.

But here’s the thing I need to remember: It took me the first semester of grad school to get the hang of writing papers, but I did it. I even remembered how to make the process less painful (even if I was still a bit dodgy on citations). I have to assume the same will happen for podcasting and writing short fiction. It may take a few months for me to get comfortable behind a microphone and to relearn the rhythms of our podcast, but it will happen. For short stories? Oh man, if someone can tell me I’ll have it within a year, that would be swell. I suppose the key is patience. I need to be patient with myself while I’m on this re-learning curve and trust that with enough repeated practice, I’ll get the hang of it again.