There’s something highly satisfying about accomplishing whatever it is you set out to do. Today it was a load of dishes and a load of laundry, and getting those done felt so good that I went ahead and weeded the yard, picked up the dry cleaning, and started writing my query letter. Somehow just getting to point A makes point B (the next task) look so much more doable and appealing.
On Monday, we set out with ten adults and five small children to Tonto Natural Bridge to do a fifteen-minute hike. We’d read the descriptions of the trails ahead of time and decided that the shortest one would be best with small legs and a pregnant woman involved.
But then we got to the lookout above the bridge (notice the landing with the railing to the right of the bridge in the photo) and looked down and thought, “Hey, it looks pretty cool down there. We could just hike down and then back up. We’ll help the kids. No problem.”
It was a little bit strenuous, but we all survived. And point B, right at the mouth of it under the bridge, did turn out to be much cooler than point A.
Point C, actually hiking through the thing, was a different story. Without children (including the unborn) it would have been much more possible, but the slippery rocks and other obstacles made it a bit difficult to get very far. So we basically turned around again within a few minutes.
And, predictably, I’ve been thinking about how this relates to writing. Last night I sent off my fourth draft to some writing friends for more feedback, and I found myself apologizing for not making it to point C — all the details inserted that the manuscript still needs.
What I had to step back and realize was that my goal for this draft, my point A, was to solidify the scenes according to the plotlines and character arcs that needed to be furthered by each scene. When I began to read through the manuscript again remembering that goal, I felt so impressed with myself! The plotlines and character arcs are so much stronger now, and along the way I went a step further, to point B, in lots of places, fixing up language and descriptions, etc.
So I’ve decided not to berate myself for not reaching point C, just yet. It’s okay if I have to do another round or two of polishing before I send it off to agents.
On our hike, we felt pretty satisfied, too. We took photos at point B (the deck at the bottom), climbed back up to the top, and then even did another short little trail leading to a vine-laden waterfall. All in all, a very enjoyable hike, especially considering the size of the kiddos in tow.
Maybe it’s a stretch comparing the two, but it helped me feel better about my draft today. The hike was a success because we did what we came to do (A), pushed ourselves a little further when inspired (B), and respected our limitations (C). My fourth draft, likewise, accomplished what I needed it to, went beyond that where I’d felt inspired, and now I just have to accept that pregnant women can’t hike or revise for too many hours at a time — which is what it would have taken to reach that next step.
It’s such a balance, isn’t it? Accomplishing goals, pushing yourself further, but trying not to get down on yourself for what you couldn’t manage this time around.
Luckily Tonto Natural Bridge isn’t going anywhere. Maybe next cabin visit we’ll bring better shoes for the boys and make it a little farther. Similarly, there’s nothing saying I have to send to agents right now. I’ll make it a little further into my revisions on the next round.
How do you make goals work for you, pushing yourself without getting discouraged?