a blog by J.M. Cottle
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On setting goals (and wantonly abandoning them)

On the eve of NaNoWriMo, with half an hour left before we begin, I’m pausing to reflect on how I’ve given up on the most important goal I set for myself this year, and how I’m glad of it.

Recently, two of the bloggers I read talked about goals, and they made me think. (Hurray!) Niall posted about public accountability and looking back on the progress he’s made on his goals, which made me think back on my resolutions for 2012: become vegan, move to San Diego, get a job I like, and publish a novel. I completed the first three, but barring some massive change of heart, I’m not going to be completing the last one before the end of this year, and that one was the most important.

You see, I was planning to finish and self-publish my vampire novel, It’s In the Blood, but I became sidetracked by the project my partner and I have been working on for years. It used to be a fun, rather pointless story that would tug at me whenever I was trying to work on other writing; now it’s morphed into an idea for a novel.

I immersed myself in outlining and research (WWII, Nazi espionage in neutral Ireland). Suddenly, the thing that had been distracting me from my Serious Writing had become my Serious Writing – it had become my entire life, basically. I haven’t felt such all-encompassing excitement for a novel since the very first one I wrote. We’re going to work on it together for NaNoWriMo and I am going to put my vampires on the back burner.

Of course, this means that I am not going to be able to reach my goal. At first I felt bad about this. How will I ever get anything published, I berated myself, if I wantonly abandon my novels in pursuit of shiny new ideas? How will I ever become a Real Live Author without the discipline to push through and get something done?

Then I was listening to Matt’s podcast about getting started with running, and he talked about Leo’s goal-free approach. I’d read this post before, but sometimes the first time you read something isn’t the time you need to hear it, and you have to wait and read it another time for it to hit home. Matt isn’t a goal-free kind of guy, but I think I am. As long as I’m doing something that makes me feel alive, I’m doing something right. Right now, working on this novel with my partner is the most exciting thing in the world, so I really don’t care that I’m throwing away an older goal in order to do it. I would rather go more slowly and not try to force myself to work on something that doesn’t excite me.

The best news is that my partner and I have no trouble getting motivated to write together. Once we decided to stop being silly and just allow our collaborative projects to become something publishable, everything started making sense.

There are four minutes left until midnight and we are ready and raring to go. This novel might turn out to be The One, but I’m not going to make any promises. We’ll see how it goes.

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