2019 q4 goals

I don’t know how to set goals.

It seems like a weird thing to say, but I don’t get it.

Sure, I can come up with a list of things I want to do, but I find that there’s a disconnect between what I’m doing day to day and the overarching things I want to accomplish. I either lose sight of the big picture, or I can’t figure out how to break the goals down into things I can do in my daily life.

I’ve been thinking about this more because of Notion and having to write out specific tasks. Applying labels and categories and looking at the accumulation of things I’m working on has helped this take shape for me. I’m starting to feel a little less like I’m wandering aimlessly through a featureless landscape and a little more like maybe there’s a roadmap. But also specifically, that I’m the one creating the roadmap. So, in this metaphor, I guess I’m a cartographer? (For a map that will probably only be useful for me… Let’s go ahead and drop the metaphor here.)

This morning something clicked. I was listening to the first ep of season 3 of Genre Hustle about goal-setting, and everyone was giving AP shit (good-naturedly) for having daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. And I thought, maybe this is where my disconnect is.

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discovering notion, or one system to rule them all

I’m always on the look out for better ways to organize my chaotic brain. But because each application or tool is really good at one thing and then medium or bad at everything else, I end up with a vast collection of tools that I barely use while trying to hold all of my workflow stuff in my head.

This works about as well as you would expect.

And though I know exactly how it’s going to end (i.e. poorly), my system consistently devolves into this state. Entropy, man. It’ll get you in the end.

At the beginning of last week, I had once again reached that threshold where this “system” was untenable. I was only paying attention to my day to day agenda without thinking about how each of my tasks impacted my overall trajectory towards long-term goals. Was I moving in the direction that I wanted to go? Was I prioritizing things correctly? Is it possible to know any of those things without writing them down somewhere? Maybe for some people, but definitely not for me.

So I found myself looking at the vast array of tools I already use to track parts of my life—AirTable for submissions, Excel/Sheets for story outlines, Word/Docs for brainstorming, Pocket (prev Evernote) for interesting articles or resources or inspo, Calendar for tracking appointments and life stuff, a bullet journal for day to day agenda items, Trello for workflow, variably Todoist or Keep or Workflowy or scraps of paper for checklists…—and despairing. I mean, the process of listing all of those things out gave me mild palpitations.

The idea of adding something to this list was daunting. The idea of shoving a writing workflow/goals tracker into one of these systems, having it fail because it doesn’t quite fit right, and then winding up back in this exact same position a handful of months down the line… It’s so demoralizing.

You see, I end up at this place because I am very particular. I have an idea of how I want to track things, of what might be useful to my brain, and of how I want to interact with a program. The problem I have is that nothing seems to work quite the way I want it to. It’s a lot to ask for, one organizational system to rule them all.

Enter Notion.so.

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fears and vp

Tonight, I have a little writing group meeting with a couple of newly-friends I made from the MRK intensive weekend. We are all applying to Viable Paradise this year, so we’ve set up weekly meetings to check in with each other and give critiques with quicker turnaround than our other groups.

And in that vein, I suppose I should tell you I’m applying to Viable Paradise this year.

I’ve hinted at the fact that I was working on an application to something for a little while now. I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to be secretive about it.

Well, scratch that. I felt like I needed to be secretive about it because what if I didn’t get in? Then I would feel a little bit like an idiot, and I would have to deal with hypothetical disappointment. From whom? I don’t know. Most likely from myself, but that I’m projecting onto other people.

None of it makes any sense, but that’s just how my jerkbrain works.

I’m still holding onto a lot of fear in my heart of hearts. Fear of disappointing anyone. Fear of wanting anything too much. So much fear.

Fear of disappointing anyone is somewhat straightforward. I have such a great support system and so many people who believe in what I’m doing, and I don’t want to let them down.

The fear of wanting something too much is a bit of a strange one. As though, if I admit that I want something, the universe will somehow conspire to take that thing away from me. And/or, if I admit that I want something and then don’t get it, I have to admit to myself that I’ve failed. Whereas if I never actually say that I want anything, if I never actually admit it to others or to myself, I can always maintain the illusion that I didn’t want whatever it was to begin with.

But the terrible, insidious thing about this fear is that it presumes failure on my part to begin with, doesn’t it? My jerkbrain has already decided that I’m not going to be able to accomplish whatever it is that I want to accomplish. It’s already decided that I’m not enough. This is one of the bits of self-sabotage that I have the most trouble getting over.

So. I guess that’s why I’ve decided to tell you. I don’t want to be held hostage to this fear.

I am applying to Viable Paradise this year. I’m nervous and excited, and I want to get in so, so much. That part is out of my hands, but I’m working hard to put together a good application. And I’m trying to get a handle on this fear. I don’t want to let it stop me from doing the things that I want.

so let’s start

Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.

When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant, defensive hostility: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes… the same age you will be if you don’t.

So let’s start.

– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

this bit makes me laugh out loud

“Rules” about keeping paragraphs and sentences short often come from the kind of writer who boasts, “If I write a sentence that sounds literary, I throw it out,” but who writes his mysteries or thrillers in the stripped-down, tight-lipped, macho style — a self-consciously literary mannerism if there ever was one.

– Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft

resisting procrastination

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.

This second, we can sit down and do our work.

– Steven Pressfield, War of Art

resistance is infallible

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

disengaging from social media

One of my goals this year is to disengage from my phone more. Late last year, my phone completely broke down and black-screened, falling into an inescapable boot-reboot cycle. Customer service quickly threw (okay, diligently packaged and carefully sent) a phone in the mail for me (incidentally, Project Fi is awesome – that’s my referral link if you’re interested), but there was still a weekend’s worth of lag time. I didn’t realize how tethered my habits had become to my phone until I didn’t have it anymore. I couldn’t roll over in the morning and silence my alarm and then immediately check email or my RSS feed. I couldn’t watch Netflix while I was cooking or listen to podcasts while I was getting ready. I couldn’t text people throughout the day. It was jarring to realize how often I reached for a phone that wasn’t there. And then it quickly became liberating because I was actually able to focus on what I was doing without buzzy notifications diverting my attention. It was a pretty great weekend actually.

Now, to be clear, I’m not planning to divorce my phone. But I’ve realized that I’m in a pretty unhealthy co-dependent relationship with it. I feed it electricity (and personal information, let’s be honest), and it gives me the internet and dopamine drips. Overall, I think carrying a computer around that has all the information is amazing. BUT. The pattern of my phone use needed changing. So I uninstalled Facebook and Twitter, I turned off most of my notifications, and I set up specific silence times where my phone doesn’t transmit ANY notifications so that I can have regular uninterrupted stretches of time.

Even then, I was still surfing reddit before bed. I was still watching YouTube videos to fill the silence. I was still reading Twitter (via browser now, of course) for the outrage and righteous indignation as much as for any useful info. It was a visit to my childhood home that prompted me to go even further. During that visit, instead of having face to face conversations and reconnecting as, you know, people, my family mostly sat around on devices (sometimes two devices at once) and ignored each other. It was baffling. Then it quickly became frustrating and infuriating. Sure, sometimes they were reading news or responding to urgent emails. But most of the time, it seemed like they were surfing Facebook or scrolling through various text convos instead of having actual conversations with the people sitting in front of them. (This is apparently called “phubbing,” which is a word I hate almost as much as the act itself.)

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nanowrimo week three

Week three check-in time!

This week has gone by with much more ease than the previous one. Which is not to say that it is easy. It’s still definitely work. But I’ve managed to put some systems into place that have been helpful in making it not feel so much like a struggle.

The main change-up that I did for my workflow is implementing a modified Pomodoro Technique to break down how I was writing. This was something that was suggested under the “Week Three Tips” section of No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty as a way to put in some 6,000 word days to make up for any word deficit that was accumulated by the end of week two. Instead of doing that, I worked the system into my usual writing routine.

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