Eyes Off The Prize

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Serdar and I have been making various posts about writing and focus.  He recently discussed the importance of writing systems – that they can be more important than goals.  I’d like to add that goals can get in your way.

The problem with goals is that they’re distractions from reaching them.

Big goals, elaborate plans, fantasies of success can occupy your mind so often you don’t actually put pen to paper or finger to keyboard.  It’s easy to spin off into what could be, what might be, and never get there.  Many a book is unwritten as people stop at the idea and don’t get to the making it real.

Future hopes can also lead to hopelessness.  You can feel you’ll never get there, that you’re not worthy, that you aren’t up to the task.  That keeps you from doing anything including, well, actually writing.

Finally, goals and hopes can lead you to planning, and documenting, and the like but never actually starting.  It’s easy to get lost in planning and outlines and charts and never do the work.  It might even be comforting.

Want to know what works?  Doing the actual task.  Dreams and plans do not do your writing.  Only writing does writing.  This is not to say you shouldn’t have big dreams and even bigger plans.  What you have to do is take time to forget them and do the job.

This is where writing practices and systems come into play.  Yes they may require you to set goals, but they also break down your work into deliverables you can actually do and then you do them.  If you write an hour a day, great, then you write no matter what.  If you have an elaborate outline of scenes you can write each scene without worrying about anything else.

The best way to reach your writing goals is to stop thinking about them.  Any good writing system, any good writing practice, will help you get time to forget why you’re writing so you can do your writing.

Steven Savage