I fell into a bit of a trap this week. It’s a familiar one for me, one I seem to stumble into every time I want to make a big change, whether it’s with writing, or photography, or getting organized, or (this time) setting goals.
I start to think that other people have the answers, and that if I just read enough books or articles or blog posts, I’ll eventually stumble onto the right one, the one that brings everything into focus.
It never happens.
Don’t get me wrong: advice is good. Learning from those who’ve gone before? Awesome. And if I’m dealing with a specific technical issue, like how to edit infrared photos or how to incorporate backstory in a way that doesn’t drag a story down… the research is worth it. But in general? There’s too much noise, too much useless information to wade through. (And, because it’s the internet, let’s be honest: too many people who call themselves experts without bringing any new insights.)
I don’t need to read another article on S.M.A.R.T. goals, or whether it’s more valuable to build habits than to set goals.
I just need to do the work and find my own path. I’ll get there eventually.
Aside from saving a whole bunch of articles and blog posts, then deleting them unread, how have I been doing?
Clarify my long-term goals, in writing, photography, and in general.
Progress! Sort of.
I’m still drawing a bit of a blank on my actual ‘long-term’ goals: anything more than a year or two out. However, I have settled on some very good creative goals for the next year, so… that’s something? They’re clear enough that I can actually work toward them, but they’ve also got enough flexibility that, when I do figure out what I want to be when I grow up (ahem), I’ll be able to make adjustments and they’ll still move me forward.
Right now, that’s all I need.
Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
So… NaNoWriMo (and trying to catch up before the end of the month) is starting to get in the way. I’ve been sacrificing other things in order to close the distance, and I’m not happy about it.
But this is good! There’s only a week left to go (plus a couple of days), and then I’ll be able to scale things back to something more manageable. And I know what that means now—I’ve finally landed on a daily writing routine that works for me, and what to do with the rest of my time, so I’m not risking burnout or just sitting around staring at a screen.
(I’ve also learned that I need to give myself one afternoon a week to just sit around and stare at a screen, with no intention of doing or learning anything of significance. If I don’t, it’ll happen regardless, and I’ll feel guilty, and then I’ll push myself too hard in order to regain the ground I feel like I’ve lost. I’m still working on giving myself that permission, but knowing that my brain works this way is a good step in the right direction.)
Develop workflows for writing and photography.
I’m definitely starting to settle into a good writing workflow. It’s a challenge (again: NaNo is sucking up most of my time and energy right now), I’m still figuring it out, and I probably won’t be able to fine-tune it until the new year (yay for the holiday disruptions!), but… I’m getting there.
Photography… relies a lot on figuring out those long-term goals.
Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
After weeks of experiments and finally settling on something that clicked… I decided to try something new this week.
It didn’t work. It really did not work.
Again, I’m trying to see the bright side. I know what works for me right now, and while I still want to fine-tune it, I don’t need to keep second-guessing things.
Finish the work on the office.
On the weekend, I bought a tiny fake Christmas tree for the office. I haven’t put it up yet (and I won’t put it up until at least December 15, because I have rules about this sort of thing), but I bought it.
This is a small thing, but it feels significant. I honestly like the office—I want to spend time here, and when the holidays roll around, I want it to feel at least a little bit festive. (It’s still me, so ‘a little bit festive’ means a minimalist bit of evergreen, but it counts.) Given the state this room was in this time last year… that’s huge.
That said, the decluttering is still progressing, however slowly.