Summer has begun, which—in the United States—means a long vacation for children of school age. Naturally, being a writer, I can’t possibly ponder time off or travel without heaping it high with ambitious writing-related goals, such as “finish my To-Be-Read list” and “write novel”. In fact, those goals have pretty much been on my weekend list for the past twenty years.
Even when I do manage to finish reading or writing something, there’s always another one queued directly behind, demanding attention. The Sisyphean aspect of thinking this way can be very discouraging: it always feels as if there is something to do, and it never feels as if anything is ever finished.
This is why I am forcing myself to think in terms of smaller goals.
For example, this summer, I’d like to finish an outline of my next novel. Bookflow’s project dashboard makes it easy to see my scene ideas piling up, and the daily word count on the homepage shows me exactly how much writing I’ve done...and when I’ve skipped a day. That kind of accountability is essential, because—as writers—we have much more control over our input than our outcomes.
Anne Lamott’s famous book on writing, Bird By Bird, reminds writers that it’s important not to overwhelm ourselves with the big picture. Every goal that lives in the far-off distance consists of a single step followed by another step. It’s impossible to reach the finish line by skipping the steps, so focus on each one as you complete it.
I can control whether or not I write daily and I can hold myself accountable for writing. Word by word, sentence by sentence, we build our stories.