Have you ever set a grandiose goal for yourself with complete confidence that you’ll fulfill said goal’s stipulations?
I’m sure most of us have done so at one time or another. On too many occasions, I’ve made myself such promises. And it’s not that I am incapable of making good on my goals; it’s just that I end up taking on too many other responsibilities.
If you didn’t know this about me, I possess an advocate/helper-type personality – I love to assist others when I can and lessen their burdens and struggles. From picking up extra shifts at the library and dog-sitting to designated driver duty and babysitting, and not to mention saying yes to practically every freelance job or assignment that comes my way – my days and nights fill up and leave little room for my own creative endeavors, like finishing my novel’s third draft by April 1.
Perhaps it was a long-haul April Fool’s joke I unknowingly set myself up for. Things started out strong earlier in the year. I was editing four pages a day, sometimes more, and making what felt like genuine progress. I also got caught up in strengthening the world’s depth, making the characters more fleshed out, and delving into the whys and hows that still picked at my thoughts. Because I’ll admit, when I first started writing this tale, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and I certainly wasn’t aware of the world-building process or how to appropriately mold an idea into novel form. I dove in with a “once upon a time” approach and ran with it, hitting bumps along the way and setting aside unknowns and uncertainties for a later date.
And it’s at this point in the editing process – a point I’ve come to on numerous occasions over this multi-year project – where I ask myself a few direct questions:
What’s the point?
Why am I writing this?
Who is going to even read this?
The story’s basis is solid, exploring many well-trodden paths – good versus evil, love triumphing over all, fighting for what you believe in, figuring out who you are, friendship, discovery, etc., etc., etc. These are elements that the readership-at-large is well-versed in because, ultimately, so much of what we watch, listen to, and read deals with such topics, especially in the realms of fantasy and fairytales. And even though my story has such relatable and familiar themes, I still ask these questions and internally criticize myself for thinking I could craft a novel.
Had I met my goal and completed the new draft by April 1, things might’ve looked a bit like this: I’d get to the ultimate page – the cliffhanger ending that’ll draw readers into craving book two – make my final edit, click save, and then uncork the bottle of wine I’d been saving that shares the name of my WIP – The Calling.
I’d raise my glass to the Google doc glowing in front of me, the cursor rhythmically blinking beside the last punctuation mark in acknowledgment of the completed feat. Then, I’d text a few people to see if they are interested in being pre-readers or beta readers, providing me with the “what works and what doesn’t” feedback to make me cringe, contemplate, and carry on to the fourth draft later this year. (It’s always good to set a project aside to allow your mind some rest and to let ideas percolate before diving back in.)
So then, with my manuscript shut away and partially out of my thoughts, I’d embark on another creative adventure, like attempting cross-stitch or arranging the iron-on patches on my jean jacket to visually express my nerdy weirdness – after all, I have no shame in representing weird.
But I’m not at that place yet. After months of diligent editing, I returned to the novel’s beginning, re-wrote scenes, added new dialogue, and bulked up the details. And with a busy summer approaching, I don’t know when I’ll be ready to ship my third draft off to readers, but it’ll happen when it’s meant to. Most importantly, I cleared up my questions for the umpteenth time – I just needed to cool off and drop the critical, beat-myself-up perspective…again.
What’s the point? The point is I’m telling a story only I know because it’s in my head, and I want to get it out. Creatively expressing myself is a must.
Why am I writing this? See the above answer – because I’m the only one who can.
Who cares? I do. And honestly, I think a handful of kind hearts and loved ones also care about my writerly endeavor.
Who is going to read this? Hopefully, those kind-hearted loved ones I mentioned will peruse the pages of my story when I feel it’s as complete as it can be. And maybe, just maybe, someone else will pick it up and find temporary enjoyment or even inspiration to tell their own story that’s floating around in their head.
Ultimately, I failed and didn’t achieve my goal as planned. I’m off track and completely off schedule, but who isn’t nowadays? A failure like this, however disappointing, can’t hurt me because I’ll keep working and making the story better and stronger. And in order to succeed, we usually fail a few times anyway.
So, today, after work, I’m uncorking my bottle of wine and cheers-ing to missing my self-appointed deadline – because isn’t every milestone worth celebrating? Tonight, I’ll be celebrating failure. I took a risk in naming a date to be done by, and my reward of a completed third draft hasn’t happened, but I am rewarding myself with a nice drink in a nice glass because I’m still working and making progress – and that’s the state of the draft.
Here’s to failing and setting new goals!
Coming up next:
Monday, May 8