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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Writing & Other Goals for 2008

Yep, the same thing is on my mind that is usually on everyone else’s at the beginning of a New Year – the chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. The chance to set new goals.

But I have always had a bad habit of letting eagerness over the New Year’s possibilities overtake my sensibility in setting goals and as a result have made a long list of goals every year that were usually impossible to achieve, either in total or in bulk.

I admit, to me 2007 was an abysmal year to me in many ways. But I identified two things that I wanted to change for 2008:

1. Change my attitude toward God and my relationship with God.
2. Stop setting a list of writing goals as long and wide as my arm and come up with a few concise and manageable goals instead.

In my relationship with God, I felt the close walk I had with God in early 2007 erode and that wonderful, intimate closeness I had with Him seemed to fade – not because of God, but because of my wavering faith and lack of trust in Him. The death of my beloved lab Cody, my ongoing health problems – problems I have prayed for healing from constantly but seemingly falling on deaf ears, the brutal murder of a friend’s two young sons, and many other setbacks eroded my once intimate walk with God to a very ugly form of bitterness that I despise in myself.

But on New Year’s day, uplifting words came to me on this subject from a movie. The movie version of the Janette Oke book, “Love Comes Softly.”

Late in the movie, Marty is speaking with her husband-of-convenience, Clark, asking him how he can continue to pray to a God who would do such rotten things - He allowed Clark’s wife to die, his daughter to become motherless, and his barn to burn to the ground. In essence, Marty in that movie portrayed the bitterness I felt myself.

But Clark has been my favorite character in these movies based on the Janette Oke books because he does appeal to me – his steadfastness, his calmness, his resolve to keep trusting the Lord. In response to Marty’s bitter outpouring, he takes her “to church” – to his favorite spot on his land to spend time alone with the Lord and Clark explains to Marty that the truth of God’s love is not that He allows bad things to happen, but that He has promised to walk beside us when they do happen.

Though I’ve seen that movie before, yesterday, New Year’s day 2008, I felt that it was a message specifically for me.

So my first and foremost goal is this:

Trust God for all my needs. Not lip service, but real trust.

And as always, I have a continual problem balancing all the different aspects of my life, which have become even further complicated by bringing a wildly active puppy into my home, my little girl Aztec.

So my next goal I set simply:

Make sure Aztec has a well balanced life, and that will ensure that I have a well balanced life as well.

And last but most certainly not least, I tackled the writing goals. This year, instead of giving myself a list of 25 long, convoluted, nearly impossible to achieve goals, I am using the K.I.S.S. Method (keep it simple, stupid!) and adopting only 2 writing specific goals:

WRITE 30 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week. This does not count editing, researching, or anything else – just straight novel writing time.

I had to be this specific because I will often “hide” from a tough point in the story by copping out and opting to do some research or editing instead. Fine once in a while, but very bad if overused, and sure puts a screeching halt on forward progress of the novel.

And -

I give myself permission to “chase rabbits” throughout the novel writing process so I can craft the best novel possible.

I would love dearly to be one of those people who meticulously plots every detail so that the actual writing goes smoothly and quickly when it comes. I firmly believe this is the best method, particularly for writers who have very little time to write.

But alas, I seem unable, despite my best intentions, to become a meticulous plotter. And I’ve found the only way to write my novel is to chase any and all rabbits that enter my brain. That means writing bunches of scenes that I may have to throw out, just so that I can work through the scenes and the characters on paper, the only way I seem to be able to function. This is NOT a method conducive to finishing a novel any time soon. But it is the way I currently must work. I just feel so guilty all the time that I am not a more organized writer – especially when I look around at other people who seem to have it all in line – plot, arcs, and fast writing turnaround times.

But I can’t write like someone else writes. And while I admit to the sin of envy at how much time others may get in their schedules to write, that is not the time God has given to me, whatever the reasons. At least at this point in my life. He is preparing me for my novel writing journey in the way He sees fit. But as in many areas of my life, I kick and fuss and figure I must know better then God how to handle this writing life.

Then I have to sit back and remind myself that God is the author of the single greatest selling book of all time, and that its popularity has been unmatched and will be unmatched for CENTURIES.

When I think of it in those terms, I find myself sufficiently chastened and go about carving out the time He grants in the here and now. He may see fit to change my progress and my writing time down the road, but I must learn to be content where He puts me right now, or I will miss the blessings He has in store, and more importantly, I will miss the ways He has in mind for me to serve Him and do His will. And that is what we are here for.

So, despite past disappointments and learning about my significant shortcomings in 2007, I eagerly look forward to 2008, trusting even more in my steadfast God, who always keeps his promises.

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