Pursue

Technically I’ve already written about yearly goals. But this isn’t just about the resolutions and goals I have for this year. It’s about the resolutions and goals I have for my entire life and what I’m doing now to work towards them. It’s about pursuing my dreams and thriving in every moment along the way, hence my word for the year: Pursue.

I tend to over-plan and set too high of expectations for myself, especially in my creative efforts. Considering how I’ve done the last several years in achieving the goals I’ve set, I don’t have a chance of coming close this year.

But I’m doing things differently.

Not only am I setting goals, but I’m also planning everything out in detail—scheduling my writing, editing, posting, and sharing; creating rewards for my accomplishments and punishments for my failures; and finding people to hold me accountable, inspire me, tell me off, and rant with.

If you aren’t already aware, I have five major writing goals for the year:

  1. Post at least one blog a week.
  2. Finish the rough draft of my first novel by the end of June.
  3. Write, edit, and post at least one video a week.
  4. Write at least one poem a week.
  5. Write at least four short stories this year.

I know there will be times I exceed these goals, and I also know there will be times that I fail gloriously. But the point is to keep creating, no matter my mood or lack of belief in myself because these are my dreams. And I will not let myself give up the things I love because of my own self-doubt.

I’m also working towards doing yoga and other forms of exercise more regularly, eating healthier, saving up money (which is difficult when I might not have a job after next week), and taking time to relax. Doing all of this and trying to achieve my creative goals may be awful on occasion, and I’ll definitely want to give up sometimes. But I won’t. I won’t be happy if I do. Goodness, I’ve already fallen a bit behind. Even so, I will not stop trying to accomplish these dreams. I will work to catch up when possible, and I will continue turning to people who can keep me accountable.

I did the cliche thing and started most of my goals at the start of the year, even though doing so is rather arbitrary, because it feels easier and somehow more inspiring. Also, it’s just loads easier to track my progress when I start a goal at the beginning of a year instead of the middle of a random month.

Anyways. Whatever goals you set for yourself at the beginning of 2017, I truly hope that you are able to meet them. In this third week of the year, when motivation and inspiration start to fade and you start thinking about giving up on those goals, know that they and your dreams are attainable. Don’t give up on yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your goals or terrified of what others’ opinion may be, think of how you’ll feel if you give up and then think of how you’ll feel if you push through and achieve those dreams. Because very few things feel as good as meeting goals that you once felt were impossible. And, love, you can do it.

What are some of your goals for the year? Let me know in the comments!

Setting Goals

I think everyone knows the struggle of setting goals. Whether it be writing, exercise, reading, creating, or monetary goals, we can’t seem to stop ourselves from creating giant mile markers in our lives. We usually set the goals when we’re feeling on top of everything and ready to tackle the world, but we don’t often take into account that once that motivation starts to fade, the things we’re enjoying and planning to accomplish tend to become the same things that stress us out to no end and are put on the back burner because life just gets in the way.

My writing goals for 2016 are a great example.

Goals Accomplishments
Screenplay(s) for Eragon

(because everyone knows it needs to be redone)

It hasn’t even been started.

…but I did reread the book.

Novel It has been started, but it is only at 4187 words out of a minimum goal of 65000.
Ten short stories Three shorts stories were plotted, but none were finished.
Twenty poems Eight poems were written.
YouTube scripts (one a week) Only about ten YouTube videos were written, and only five recorded.
Blogs (two a week) Well, this went well for a few months, and then everything went awry, and I’m just starting back up (yet again) with a goal of one post a week.

Originally my goal was to finish my novel and the screenplay by June on top of half of the other goals as well. What I didn’t account for was my motivation or stress levels. I quickly encountered problems with that blog of mine disappearing, trying to balance part-time fast food work and a few full-time level freelance gigs, trying to find new roommates, looking for steady work, and traveling.

The thing is, though, that if I had taken a few things into account and simply structured my goals and my schedule better, I could have easily accomplished these goals.

  • Set aside specific days to work on specific projects.

I’m far more likely to work on them and reach my goals, even if I’m still not very good at sticking to it. I’ve been trying to write blog posts on Thursdays so that I can have them ready to post on Mondays. Although I’ve been awful at it for the last few months, when I push myself to do it, I can easily whip out a blog and put it up on the editing page that Azelyn and I use.

Now this technique looks different for writing my novel and all my other projects. Starting in January, I’ll be aiming to write a minimum of 2700 words a week for six months. I’ll be trying to split that throughout the week, but I will be setting aside the most time on Sundays and Fridays to work towards this goal. I’ll be planning like this for my other goals as well.

Here’s what my average weekly writing schedule now looks like:

SONY DSC

Now this might seem excessive (it certainly does to me), but if I routinely follow this schedule and manage my time, it should be relatively easy to follow. I’ll definitely be allowing myself to work ahead on any/all project if and when I like, and I’m quite excited to do so.

  • Set smaller goals at different increments that will help you reach your larger goal.

As you can see in my planning chart above, I’ve come up with specific goals for each week, and even each day. Obviously, nearly every day has overlap, but I vary the degree of difficulty/time commitment from day to day. But the most important factor is that I have a minimum goal for every week.

I’ve found that having weekly goals helps me most, but some people prefer daily, monthly, or quarterly goals. Having the weekly goals, but a daily plan gives me some leeway on what I should/could accomplish in a given day. I’m already aware that there will be days or weeks that I cannot finish the tasks I’ve marked. My schedule and the goal to work slightly ahead will help when those times arrive.

  • Work ahead when possible.

I know this is something I tend to hate thinking about, just like many of my friends do. But sticking to a schedule and getting ahead of the original plans can not only help reduce stress in the future, but it can also help your creativity become an integral part of who you are and get you in the habit of working on your projects, even when you don’t feel like it.

  • Find someone to help keep you accountable.

This can occur in so many different ways. I’ve tried several systems, and each has worked in its own time. Currently I use a combination of a couple accountability techniques: inquiring, nagging, and punishing.

Azelyn and I already talk on a daily (or as close as we can get) basis. However, amidst our regular conversations and fangirling, we still constantly ask each other how our projects are coming along. Largely, this is just because we’re curious, nosy, and each other’s number one fan. But also, we do it to ensure we’re actually being productive. The nagging is very rarely towards Azelyn, and it’s usually just about getting her post on our editing page earlier so I don’t have to edit it super early on Sunday morning. It’s a whole other matter for me. Azelyn is constantly nagging me about any and every project I’ve set before myself because I am the queen of procrastination…which is one of the reasons we’ve added punishments to our accountability. Right now, this is specifically meant for our blog posts, but once the new year hits, it will also include my videos and my novel word count. We’re still working out how those punishments will work out; but for the blog, every day that I fail to write a blog post past its deadline, I owe her a dollar. (Right now that’s up to $13. *oops*)

  • Reward yourself for reaching your goals.

Now I have no idea how I’ll do that this coming year yet, but I have a few ideas in mind, given that I have the money. This could be as little as eating a cookie when you reach your weekly word goal or as big as taking a vacation when you finish your novel. But whatever it is, don’t make the goals too small and the rewards too big. Make sure you actually have to work in order to be rewarded; then the victory will taste even sweeter.

What are some techniques you use to help set your writing (or life) goals?
What are some of your favourite reward systems for reaching your goals?
Let me know in the comments!

Lessons from a Drummer

I just finished watching the movie Whiplash for the first time, and I have no words that could fully describe the aftermath of wonder and confusion in which I am sitting. The confusion doesn’t come from the movie in any way, but instead what the movie provoked inside my mind. The thoughts of amazement and desire, inspiration and shame. This dramatic rendition of what it is like to be in one of the world’s best jazz ensembles shows what many people may go through in an attempt to reach their biggest dreams. However, most people are never so committed as Andrew, the main character.

My entire life, I have always wanted to be the best at whatever I do, but I have never put my absolute best effort into anything. In the movie, Andrew moves into his practice room so that he can spend more time dedicated to becoming his absolute best. I have never even dedicated just one entire day to doing something so that I could get better at it. I barely spend fifteen minutes to an hour per day in an attempt to improve. Why am I not willing to dedicate my time to pursuing my deepest desires and biggest dreams? Why am I not willing to work past my fears and inadequacies to become even the smallest bit better?

I need to break the habit of being apathetic or doing just-enough. I need to stop living life as though the things I want will eventually be handed to me because they won’t be; I will need to fight myself and possibly the world to get what I want. I don’t know much of how to begin, so I’ll follow Andrew’s lead and start doing seven things which I observed him doing throughout the film.

1. Know your exact goal.
For me, this is usually a really difficult thing to accomplish. My goals tend to be along the lines of “Learn French,” “Learn to play ukulele,” and “Start a blog.” These are nowhere near precise enough. I’m changing them to “Become fluent in French, enough to read L’Éducation Sentimentale by Flaubert without using a French-English dictionary,” “Learn how to play scales, learn strum patterns, and learn picking patterns for ukulele well enough to write your own songs and create tabs,” and “Write one non-fiction piece, one fiction piece, and one book review for your blog every week.” I know I will likely mess up at times when working to achieve these goals, but I still have something specific that I am aiming for instead of a broad idea.

2. Dedicate your time.
Sometimes spending all my time on one goal-oriented task is easy, but that is only on rare occasions. Usually I loathe spending fifteen straight minutes on one task. However, when a goal to do your absolute best is set, it takes far more than just an hour a week. It takes hours every day. I have improved with this a little lately by spending at least 45 minutes practicing French every day, but I probably wouldn’t be spending so much time practicing if I weren’t going back to France for three months in just a week. I need to spend this much, if not more, time practicing French no matter the circumstances, especially when I know I will not be speaking it regularly for quite some time because the less I practice, the poorer my French will become.

3. Practice even after it starts to hurt.
It can become incredibly painful or frustrating to continually work on one specific task until it’s perfect, but the continual work will help your body and mind find better, easier, more efficient ways to accomplish your goal. I tend to give up pretty quickly when I become frustrated with the task I am working on or when the goal seems too difficult to be achieved. Sometimes pushing through the pain is done by giving yourself rewards at certain intervals or by asking for someone to help you. However you do it, perseverance is difficult, but it is definitely worth it in the end.

4. Let people inspire you.
The people around us may not be the people we admire or up look to in our field, but listening to the encouragement and advice of others can sometimes be the only thing that gives us the last bit of hope, strength, or belief to take us through the last steps of reaching our goals. These words can sometimes be directly related to the work we are doing, but sometimes they are completely unrelated and still incredibly inspiring. Allow the people around you to speak hope into your life, and believe what they tell you, especially when it is someone that you admire in the field in which you are working..

5. Don’t let people tear you down.
Sometimes the people around us, and even our mentors/heroes, will tell us that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t capable of doing something. However, we cannot let that stop us from pursuing our dreams. It’s often difficult to believe in yourself, but there are times that you may be the only one who does. When that happens, do not let the people around you or the people you look up to stop you from reaching the goal. Keep pushing through and prove to them (and yourself) that you are more than good enough, that you are more than capable, and that you will succeed.

6. Take the final step and achieve your objective.
Often times taking the last step towards achieving a goal is the most difficult. Maybe it’s because you don’t want the journey to end, maybe it’s because you’re scared, or maybe it’s because it is the most advanced task you have to accomplish. Whatever the reason, we cannot let ourselves stop so close to achieving what we have spent countless hours and unimaginable energy and focus working towards. We must take that final step and welcome the reward of satisfying success.

7. Keeping working after the goal is accomplished.
Even after we have reached our goals, we need to continue to work on what we have accomplished and learned so that we can continue becoming the best we can be. This usually means setting a new goal to reach and going through the same gruelling process again. But life will never be as satisfying as when a goal is met, so we must strive to become better still.

For those of you who may be interested in watching the movie Whiplash, be warned that it may be a trigger for those who have experienced verbal, mental, emotional, or physical abuse. Even without experiencing any of these, it was difficult to watch at times. The physical abuse is fairly minimal; however, the verbal, mental, and emotional abuse is a theme seen throughout the entire film. If you can make it past these triggers, the movie may still be difficult to watch for some because there is a lot of language. The dialogue, soundtrack, and cinematography are all amazing in quality and strength. It is definitely a powerful film and is incredibly artistic, and I am very glad I took the time to watch it.

No Idea

I have no idea what I am doing.
I never really have; I’m just one of those people that kind of goes with the flow and has far too many interests and can’t make up her mind.

All of this terrifies me. I’m graduating from college in less than six months, and I have no idea what I’m going to do. I want to continue on to graduate school, but I also want to work as an editor, move to France, move to England, crochet, write, play music, become a blogger/Youtuber, go to culinary school, be an artist, and design menswear, and those things are only half of what pops into my mind when I think about my desires for my future for a couple of seconds.
I’ve always had so many interests that I can’t count them, but as I approach the real world, the shocking reality that I cannot do every single one of these things becomes clearer and clearer. I need to make some rather drastic changes in my life, including deciding what desires I want more than others. However, I hate stopping to think about it all because it becomes incredibly overwhelming quite quickly.

I’ve been feeling rather inspired lately, but I don’t know what to do. I know I want to create, but I never know what to make or write or play when I’m feeling more inspired and become overwhelmed with the wonderful sense of awe that inspiration brings and with the dread that fills my mind upon realising that I have no idea what work on.

Today, I could tell that my inspiration was leaning most toward languages, so I spent about two hours studying, half an hour reading aloud in, and half an hour listening to a book in French. Even though, sometimes, I can feel overwhelmed by languages, I’ve never found myself actually being tired of learning them or about them, which is brilliant. However, I don’t know enough about any language to pursue a career in it. My goal for languages throughout my life is to become fluent in French and learn at least basic Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, and Portuguese. Aside from this goal and longing to live in France for a spell and the UK for most of my life, I don’t have any clue what I’m going to do, or where I’m going to do it. I know after this semester I will probably have a much better understanding of some of the things which I am interested in doing and my capabilities in those areas, but I wish I knew more about my life now. Since I only know certain areas of interest and desires, I will try to focus on those and try to hone my skills so that, when January comes, I will enter the real world and be unstoppable. Well, at least I’ll be unstoppable from pursuing my dreams and making several mistakes and a few remarkable discoveries about myself along the way.