by Francine Puckly
Like many of you, I launched into the new year with new energy, new hopes and new goals. This would be the year I finally embraced a healthy balance of novel writing with other creative pursuits such as reading a book cover to cover in one sitting, scrapbooking or decorating cakes. This would be the year I stayed physically fit, ate well (foregoing a sample of the aforementioned decorated cake), and slept often. This would be the year I whiled away the hours with my family, sipped chai tea with friends, picked out a tune on the piano, kept my house in order and completed several manuscripts. Yup. The goals seemed realistic on January 1st. After all, these were the important things in life. These were the things I valued. It made sense to make them my priorities.
Tonight I sit in a middle school cafeteria scented with stale chicken nuggets and French fries while my butt goes numb ever so quickly on a plastic, circular seat. I wait for my daughter’s rehearsal to finish and watch a March 1st storm whip snow horizontally outside the window. As I see the flakes swirl by, I start to think my goals and enthusiasm have blown away with the storm.
When I’m tired and numb (quite literally…remember the plastic chair?), it’s easy to start beating myself up about what I don’t do. I usually only allow myself a year-end assessment of accomplishments, but tonight…why not a two-month rundown of the things I have accomplished year-to-date?
Success #1: Manuscript time. I’m “dating” two writers simultaneously. Lest you get some distorted idea of my personal values, let’s be clear that our dates constitute sitting across from each other for three hours while working on our respective manuscripts. No talking. No excuses. But an occasional mug of chai tea is thrown in. I go out with each of them once a week so that it keeps the relationship (and manuscript) alive. My husband and I, however, haven’t been out together since our anniversary in September. Maybe he should write a book.
Success #2: Order. Despite trying really hard, I didn’t burn down my house yesterday when my oven locked shut and cooked my zucchini bread at 800˚ F. The added bonus was that this confirmed the smoke detectors needed new batteries. So check that off the Daylight Savings Time To-Do List. I also had to scrub soot off the outside and inside of the cabinets, so everything’s neat and orderly again in the kitchen. I’m thinking of setting fire to the family room next week.
Success #3: Scrapbooking and photo management. I love scrapbooking, and I think the reason I’m so passionate about it is that I get to tell a story with photos instead of words. It takes time from my manuscripts (which induces guilt), but some days it’s worth it. Like today. My daughter graduates from middle school this year, and her baby and school activity photos were due to the yearbook staff today. Yes, I knew about this six weeks ago, but first of all, I’ve been playing the field a little bit, haven’t I? And that takes a lot of time. And secondly, I worked in manufacturing for years, and the Just-In-Time inventory philosophy is permanently entrenched. So I spent the morning digging through boxes of her baby photos—reluctantly skipping over the picture of her lying buck-naked on a blanket after her bath—and sent two conservative photos off. In addition to that little task, I’m compiling a scrapbook of the holiday photo cards we get each year from our friends. Wanna see someone age quickly? Line up ten years of photo cards.
So, look at that! Chalk up a few successes. Slap a couple pats on the back. But what about those detailed goals? You know the ones. The ones about changing daily habits and routines and sticking with them…Well, those aren’t going quite as well.
I hyperventilate over rituals I still can’t seem to develop, slips in my diet or fitness goals, and the litany of things added to my daily, weekly, and (soon-to-be) monthly to-do lists for writing, family and home maintenance. But when these heart palpitations hit (daily between 12:37 p.m. and 1:49 p.m. and again late at night), I brew a cup of strong tea, meditate on the good, and re-read my 2012 aspirations. Because tomorrow may be the day I read a book cover to cover or decorate a cake (baked in somebody else’s oven). You just never know. Until then, I’ll go out on a date or two, place my butt firmly in a non-plastic chair, and work on my manuscript.
For more blogs, check out Francine's group blog on goal setting and other writing topics at www.24carrotwriting.com.