On Giving Up
Every year we make a big list. Sometimes we call this list our New Year’s resolutions. Other times we call them goals. It doesn’t matter what we call them, the aim of this list is the same: to set out a path for the next year which will hopefully lead us to a better place in our lives. This list usually includes things like starting a new diet or exercise routine–or both if you’re feeling particularly brave that year–and whatever else we think will make us a better, happier person.
Most of the items on these list are never met. We spend a couple months working on them, sometimes less, and then decide they’re too difficult to accomplish and give up. Many times the problem is with the goals themselves, or our approach to the goals. We pick goals nobody could reasonably be expected to accomplish. We dive right into tasks which could benefit from a slower approach. When we fall short, instead of trying a new approach, we just give up.
Other times life interferes. We get sick. Family emergencies have us traveling across the city–or sometimes out of the city. Friends throw parties distracting us from our work related goals; while they’re at it, they tempt us with the very snacks we’re trying to avoid for our diet plan. On top of all that, we’re overworked and sleep is always in short supply. So we fall behind and eventually give up.
2012 for me has been a year of interruptions. Last semester’s courses involved a much heavier workload than I expected. I managed to keep my writing afloat for most of the year, but my wrist suffered quite a bit. This meant cutting back on writing for a couple weeks at the beginning of the summer.
In spite of my tendonitis and the constant distractions of friends and a romantic relationship, July was a pretty productive month. I blogged regularly, I got halfway through my edit of Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I managed to get a non-fiction article accepted for publication. I sent out my first query to a national magazine. I drafted multiple articles intended for other magazines.
At the beginning of August my computer was hit with a virus and days later I was officially diagnosed with tendonitis and put in a splint. My writing screeched to a halt. It took me an entire week to write a blog post discussing what happened. My editing slowed to a crawl and still isn’t finished. I didn’t start writing or editing any of the short stories I planned to work on. In short, I fell off the bandwagon. My steady plod towards completing my 2012 list of goals became a halfhearted crawl. I avoided work in every imaginable way–which is easy when you have the kind of friends I do.
But did I give up on achieving my goals? No. September rolled around, I stopped wearing the splint during the day and I reassessed my goals. I realized that Moonshadow’s Guardian needed to be my priority above everything else. I calculated how many pages I would have to edit each day to finish this draft and leave some time off before Nanowrimo–and realized it’s not that many. And I got back to work.
I’m doing less than normal, taking more breaks than I’m used to. Not in a bad way though. I’ve always had difficulty remembering that I need regular breaks from my computer, even when I’m on a roll, for my physical health if not my mental health. Now as I’m re-introducing my wrist to writing, I need to be extremely careful so I don’t strain it again. It’s also a good time to teach myself to take the breaks I’ve always needed but forgotten to give myself.
Now then, you ask, what’s the point I’m trying to make? It’s simple: you’ve only really failed when you’ve given up. Slow and steady can win the race. I’m still quite a bit closer to finishing my edits than I was when they put the splint on me, even though in comparison to my usual pace I’ve been crawling. I’ve got a plan for easing back into my regular blogging schedule and a number of non-fiction articles ready to pitch. I’ve even started planning this year’s Nanowrimo novel–and I’m on track to be finished my editing at least a week before November first.
So next time life gets in the way of meeting your goals, or if you’re already behind and about to fold, try reassessing your goals instead. Give yourself more time or make the goal itself smaller. Working slowly towards your goals is better than not working at all. Spend the time you would spend beating yourself up working towards your goals, and you’ll have completed every item on this year’s list before you know it.