Having high expectations to meet long term goals is something that runs in the blood, and brains, of type A personalities, but how do we learn to appropriately adjust our ambitions when repetitive failures of goals discourage us from chasing our dreams?
I’ve been trying to write the first draft of the first book in a very large dystopian saga since the middle of 2014. The idea has been brewing in my mind, and in the beginning it spawned binders full of brainstorming notes and a few short stories, scenes written mostly to test myself and see if I still had some writing talent left. My brain never shook the idea after five years though, and the wait finally paid off when I had a clear revelation of how to solve a plot issue, which propelled me back into the prospect of writing not only a novel, but an octet. (On the way to work, of course, when I couldn’t write anything down, so I had to repeat the newly formed plot points over and over again until I got to work and was able to jot them down in a four dollar notebook I had purchased to catch these shocks of inspiration).
When I finally began to sit down and write out the first few chapters in the beginning weeks of 2019, I had the entire first book roughly outlined (my outlining consists of bullet-pointing the plot beats and general happenings for each chapter, and then I “pants” everything else.), and the first few chapters came really easy. I figured that I would be able to breeze through all of the chapters as fast as I had the first ones, but I was so fucking wrong, and I laugh at myself now in between kicks. Now that I’m reaching the very beginning of the midpoint and the start of the real twits which correspond between multiple streams of story running congruently, I’m realizing that writing these later chapters, and subsequent books, will take much longer than I had anticipated.
In response, I can feel myself stressing out from not meeting my goals, and I’m left reconsidering my marketing plan and timelines again, something that I’ve already done before, which only bubbles my newly brewed cauldron of discouragement.
However, I have to remember that I am the one who set these standards, and therefore, I can change them. This entire process is in my hands, and I am dictating the timing and schedule of my own writing and publication. I have to remember to be forgiving to myself for not reaching unattainable goals and striving for perfection when it doesn’t exist, I have to remind myself that the only standard that exists is a fixed point where I will diminish my returns and waste hours because I’ve stressed myself out beyond the ability to be productive.
I am not pursuing a book deal, I am pursuing self-publishing and launching a publishing house for myself and other aspiring authors to publish their works internationally. I can do this in my own time, I can write and re-write, and re-write some more, until I polish these books to the best that I can get them. My current (tentative) date for publishing my first book is April 24th, 2020, and I shouldn’t beat myself up if even this date, so far off in the future, is changed as well. Everyone completes their book in their own time, and good things are worth waiting for.
So artists, please remember to be forgiving of yourself when you don’t reach the goals you demand, to be a friend to yourself instead of a tyrant. Remember to check in with yourself, asking if you’re being too hard with your standards, or if you’re stressed from something else and it’s taking energy away from your creative process. Do not put so much emphasis and stress on your art to the point that it loses the luster you loved it for in the first place.