Jeremy J. Jones – Stranded in Thought

January 23, 2010

Writing goals and motivation

Filed under: Writing — Jeremy @ 9:51 am

Like most writers, I have writing goals. Mine are quite specific: write at least 500 words of fiction every day, fill my fiction writing log up to 10,000 hours writing (and however many words that makes), write and submit one short story per week, write and submit three to four novels per year. (There are more of them, as well.) The first two goals are set because they help achieve the second two and are more manageable.

Image copyright © 2010 Jeremy J. Jones

My writing goals are no different than my exercise goals or relationship goals. They become fixed in my mind and drive me accomplish them. That’s a good thing, because this is the point of setting them in the first place.

However, goals can actually get in the way a bit of anything, if we let them. Once set, the writer places a huge placard somewhere: WRITE TWO PAGES EVERY DAY! It might be pinned on a wall, the monitor, the desktop wallpaper, the mirror in the bathroom, et cetera. All these displays are intended to create a placard in one’s mind like an incessant drum beat: write, write, write, write. This is good, because the goal becomes a higher priority, and the writer will eliminate excuses for why he can’t write, and find the time to do it. Somewhere, anywhere, at all times.

But once we miss the goal, fear grabs us, but not in an obvious way. We don’t become afraid of the goal per se. Rather, this fear is manifest in the voice that says, “Well, I missed that goal. That was a pipe dream anyway. I might as well quit.”

And then the writer is done. That happened to me last year. I had many, very challenging events going on in my life due to some changes my wife and I made, not at all unlike billions of other people in the world. But that fear got me. My aforementioned writing log has a huge gap between two days of writing. I started on my “write 500 words of fiction every day” goal and successfully managed it for ten consecutive days. That was a wonderful feeling. But then I missed, for no better reason than because my niece and nephew stayed at our house and by the time they went to bed, I was too tired to write. So the last writing fiction in that log was August 5, 2009. It stayed there, mocking me, through increasingly difficult challenges, and the farther time got from that date, the more despondent I became about my writing.

I finally achieved the goal again (the first day I tried – it’s an easy goal) on January 5, 2010. Precisely five months between writing sessions. In that time, I should have finished twenty or more short stories and one novel. But instead, I didn’t write a page. Fear. Excuses. And I’ve gone nearly another six months without achieving my bigger goals. I’ve got plenty of time left, but if I allow my fear to get the best of me, I will be eighty years old wishing I had followed my dreams. (That’s a measure I always use – I don’t want to be eighty, looking back on my life at all the things I wanted to do but didn’t simply because I was afraid to try.)

Since January 5, I’ve achieved the goal on January 15, 19, and 20, and I’ve now had a gap since then. And yet I’m taking the time to write this because it’s important and I want to cement it into my own mind as well as provide it to others. In those five months not writing, I adopted a bit more of a “try, try again” model. If I don’t hit the goal one day, it’s no big deal. Things happen. Life can get in the way. On January 21, I was just too tired to do it. Last night, I actually went out with my wife and we had a great time, coming in at about 1:30 a.m. in absolutely no condition to write fiction, though it might have been interesting. But I was very tired and skipped writing, know that it only delays me one day. I can write today, and get back on the horse. And I’ll eventually achieve that goal.

One of my high-end dreams is to one day meet George Lucas and thank him. Sure, he’s entertained me for thousands of hours of my life, and my childhood officially ended when the credits rolled on Revenge of the Sith, as the saga had ended. But the real reason is the mantra that I have taken with me for thirty years: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” That simple dialogue has pushed me to accomplish nearly everything I’ve wanted to in life.

Writing is no different. I don’t try to write, I do it. Or I don’t. But I no longer allow my goals to make me captive. They are my tools, to help me achieve my dreams, not to stop me.


Copyright © 2010 Jeremy J. Jones



1 Comment »

  1. Life is not that difficult, you just have to relax and enjoy it.
    Also remember, “Give me the wisdom to change those things that I can and accept those that I can’t”.

    Comment by Dad — June 25, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

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