Unrealistic Goals

I set a lot of them. If you want to see my take on unrealistic vs. realistic goals and staying sane, skip to the end of the post. There is a point to this. I know because I tripped over it as I was finishing up.

As for why I’m thinking of unrealistic goals today: no, it’s not because of my plan to post here twice a week, thank you very much. That would normally be doable (I think). But this week my words have been going into story, with good reason. I’m trying to finish a novel.

“Didn’t you just finish a novel draft?” you might very reasonably ask. And yes, I did. But it’s usually good to take some time off between drafts, and I’m using that time to work on something else.

It started off innocently enough. The draft was partially done, since it had been a fun “work on it whenever I feel like it” project for a while. All I had to do was tidy it up and add some stuff. (*Cough.* Tens of thousands of words.) I wanted to do this in a week, which was a bit of a stretch, but manageable.

I procrastinated. A lot. Suddenly I was facing the weekend, with my draft maybe slightly over halfway done. “More of a stretch, but still manageable,” I figured. When things are going really well, I can write over 10,000 words a day, so I can finish a novel in a week. But before you hate me, I don’t mean I can blithely knock out 15,000 words a day, sitting at my computer with a glass of wine held lazily in one hand. I mean if I do nothing but type, giggle maniacally, and type some more–if I barricade myself in the house, barely stop to eat, and essentially live in the world of my story, I can write quite a lot.

There is absolutely a degree of burnout from writing that much that quickly, and it’s not as if it produces first drafts perfect enough to make unicorns cry. But I still love those crazy weeks, when I can get them. Every writer is different, and I’m extremely grateful to be the kind of writer I am. Most of the time.

This was not a crazy writing week. Which was fine. I figured I could finish the draft next week instead. There was no rush.

Then something came up, and now all of a sudden my brain is saying, “No. This weekend.”

So here’s my unrealistic goal list for Saturday and Sunday.

  1. Finish novel draft. Never mind that I just drew up a new outline last night/early this morning, and I’m only about 10,000 words into the current version. Some of the stuff from the old draft is still usable. I can totally do this.
  2. Write blog post. (Ha! Take that, goal list.)
  3. Tumblr post. Which probably means drawing something. Or finding something in the sketchbook that I don’t mind posting.
  4. Actually leave the house.

There’s a part of my brain that’s  done some math and determined that there are not enough hours for me to accomplish all these goals. But the odd thing is that even though I can see those calculations, the rest of my brain remains optimistic about my chances. I’m not even worried enough to rush. In fact, I may take a nap.

Now would be the time to say something about the importance of setting realistic goals, I guess. And it is important. Constant failure is extremely depressing. A lot of times, I consciously pare down my goals to a realistic level. But that can be depressing, too–seeing a giant goal turn into something “realistic.” There’s no adrenaline connected to it, no ambition. Maybe because to me, “realistic” means “something I know I can accomplish,” and how much triumph can I really squeeze out of that?

So here’s to the importance of unrealistic goals. I think part of the key to setting unrealistic goals and being happy with the results is just that: knowing they’re unrealistic, and celebrating whatever progress you make toward achieving them. Not fake celebrating, either. Genuinely celebrating that you did something awesome.

And if you reach the goal, so much the better.

With that, I’m off to finish the novel.

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