Here’s the dilemma:  if I don’t set writing goals, I tend to putter and play and make very slow progress.  However, if I do set goals, then life persists in lobbing stink bombs over the fence into my back yard, and I get frustrated and irritated because I’m so busy trying to see through the smoke and clean up the mess that I fall behind.

I know I’m not the only one who is working to achieve this balance between writing and all of the other aspects of life.

The thing is, I believe in living mindfully, in accepting what IS instead of beating my head against the wall to make my reality something different.  I believe that what is sent into our lives is sent for a reason, as some sort of cosmic learning curve.  And I also believe, that to a certain extent, we create our own Destiny, and that if we want to change anything or achieve anything, we need to set goals and work toward them.

While I’m perfectly capable of holding a number of incompatible beliefs in my head at the same time, this particular conundrum is causing me some difficulty at the moment.  I need to set goals and work faithfully toward achieving them, but at the same time I need to be able to accept detours and setbacks and even roadblocks with a certain level of grace.

Maybe the best analogy is the road trip.  You have a destination in mind, let’s just randomly say the Grand Canyon, because I’ve never been there and would like to see it.  So, anyway, you’re enjoying the drive. You’ve got tunes and munchies and you enjoy driving.   You might be the organized individual with the whole trip mapped out and know exactly where you’re staying every night (you know who you are).  Or you might be a more adventurous type with an approximate date of arrival and a general idea of which highways will get you where you’re going.  Either way, planner or improviser,  – you face the possibility of construction, detours, mechanical breakdowns, blizzards, avalanches, or mud slides.  As weird as my reality has been lately, you might even find a beached whale blocking a highway in the middle of North Dakota. 

We won’t get into any reasons why I might be driving through North Dakota on my way to the Grand Canyon, or where the whale came from, or exactly how bizarrely twisted things have been around here lately, the point is that when your plans are interrupted, you have a choice in how you’re going to act.  

Possible options that occur to me are the following:

  1. Give up.  Turn your car around and head back home, muttering things like, “I knew this was a stupid idea in the first place.  What was I thinking?  I’m not capable of driving all the way to the Grand Canyon.  And with my luck, I’d probably fall right over the edge and die, anyway.”
  2. Get out of your car and throw a tantrum.  Yell, scream, kick unoffending stones around, and blame everybody, from the construction worker to the police officer to the weatherman, and yes, even the guy that takes care of whales at the aquarium.
  3. Endure.  Sit in your car, tap your fingers, take deep breaths, and wait for the obstacle to be cleared.
  4. Embrace the moment.  Accept the fact that your plans have been changed.  Alter your route, take the scenic side trip, or just resign yourself to being late.  Call it an adventure, and get down all the details so you can tell all your friends about it later.

So, writer friends, I think the analogy is clear.  What’s your response when life gets in the way of your writing?  I’ve reacted in all of the above ways at different times.  Today, I am making the choice to go with the flow.  My goals need to be revised, but that’s okay.  On Monday, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll check back in and clearly state my goals for the coming week.  For now?  Let’s just say that on one project the word count is about to go backwards, and on the other I have made steady progress but nowhere near the goal I’d set for myself.

So be it.  I will get there, eventually.  Still moving, even though I feel like I’ve exchanged my car for a donkey cart, with a unicycle circling around me piloted by a clown beeping his nose, police cars in the distance with sirens blaring and that beached whale still lying in the middle of the road.