When everything feels out of reach
First, a huge thank you to everyone who’s been reading, reviewing, and recommending Endpapers! Since the book published in February, it’s been an incredible journey connecting with readers, writers, students, librarians, and teachers. I appreciate this community more than words can say.
Second, speaking of connecting, here’s where to find me next:
Joint reading / conversation with Vanessa Cuti, author of The Tip Line
Monday, April 24, 7:00 p.m.
The Next Chapter, Huntington, NY
Early this week I finished a revision of a novel-in-progress, and I’ve been thinking about where to turn my attention next. I’ve needed a breather from working on big projects, so I’m taking the rest of the week to catch up on promotion for Endpapers and look ahead with intention. Which is basically to say I’m setting goals.
Except I’m not setting goals. At least not in the usual way, by making a list in my notebook. As I sat down to write this week’s newsletter, I thought about why that is. The easy answer is that I’ve been too busy. But I’ve found plenty of time to doom-scroll Twitter and play Spelling Bee, so.
I think the real answer is that I’m afraid. Before I published a book, it was my final goal post for success. Did I believe writers could be successful without publishing a book? Absolutely. But no matter what I told myself, I felt in my bones that once I published a book, I would have “made it.” Whatever that meant, I wasn’t exactly sure.
Now, here I am. I’ve published a book. But the world hasn’t changed. I still get up every morning before the sun so that I can write before my day job. I still cross my fingers as I submit short stories to journals and apply for grants and residencies—and I still get a regular flow of rejections.
Don’t get me wrong. I love these things—even the rejections, because they remind me I’m putting myself out there. But I’m finding it hard to set goals when so much feels like it did before The Book. The things I want to accomplish seem just as far out of reach, and my insecurities haven’t gone anywhere.
So what to do? This feels a little basic, but sometimes I need the reminder. I’m making myself a promise this week to forget about outcomes. When I first decided I wanted to write and publish my work, it felt too big to imagine, so I didn’t set it as a single goal. Instead, my list looked more like this:
Read a ton of short stories
Write a short story
Solicit feedback from writer friends and improve
Take a writing workshop
Research lit mags
Submit to lit mags
When I look at this list, the first thing I notice is that every one of these goals is attainable, because each one is a manageable size and none relies on external factors (notice I say “solicit feedback” and “submit to lit mags,” not “get feedback” and “get published in lit mags”). They are simply the concrete steps I could take as I worked toward the goal of publishing my work. The rest would be up to other folks to decide.
As I think ahead to the things I want to accomplish now, I plan to keep this energy in the forefront: What things can I do, that are within my control, to keep moving toward my bigger goals?
What are your goals? And how do you keep them in view? If you’ve got advice for us, I’d love to see it in the comments.
Meanwhile, I look forward to next time.
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