I write as a daily practice. I write whether or not I have a particular reader in mind.
And yet, it helps to have an external impetus to keep me going. I would write anyway, but it is more gratifying to fulfill the other purpose (for me) of writing, which is connection. That means getting out of myself, looking out, looking ahead.
Goals help me do that. Journals, guest blogging, contests, conferences, workshops, even mini-challenges with friends (“Villanelle throw-down, anyone!”): they all push me on to the next thing, the next way of communicating and making connection. The important thing is to put a mark on the calendar and shoot for it.
Goals are grappling hooks cast out into the unknown future. I grasp onto the rope between them and my current self, and start pulling myself up into the me I’d like to be. Each cast and each pull paints more of the map.
But how to know where to cast? This takes some degree of self-awareness. I look at what I’ve accomplished already. I reflect on my strengths and my dreams. I think about where I need to get stronger, what aspects of my ideal self I need to shore up, what resources I am lacking. I research where others who I admire are publishing, being heard. I ask them questions. I listen to their answers, adapting them to my particular situation.
And I pray. I’m one of those that talks regularly to God, and I believe it’s Him talking back, not just the crazy voices in my head. (Yeah, they talk back, too, but never in that still space of quiet that means “listen”.) I believe He is interested in my goals and can help me in making good choices, if I listen. I may be casting with a blindfold over my eyes, but if I take heed of my Ever Present Comfort, I can be fairly certain of which direction to point.
That said, it is impossible to completely chart a path ahead of time, as the outcome of any particular endeavor can’t be fully known, and the future always brings surprises. For example, I set a goal for myself in early 2012 to blog weekly about poetry. I had no way of knowing that a mini-community would form around this focus, that a steady group of guests, regular “Muses”, and friends would contribute to All Nine in a way that would mark my life.
My book came first out of a goal to learn all I could about Twitter and second to enter a writing competition – which I didn’t win. Huh. Go figure. The point is, though, I wouldn’t have a book to talk about if I hadn’t started exploring haiku on Twitter and if I hadn’t entered that competition, whatever the final decision of the judges.
As important as a goal is, it is equally important for me to stay sufficiently detached from it that I am open to such unexpected outcomes. I can’t know from which direction the Muse may approach. But I do know she will only meet me half way.
I have to be the one to start walking.
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