Finish Line

Image by jayneandd via Flickr

Today I’m snark-free. Today I’m completely vulnerable as I admit how much I’ve stood in the way of my career goals.

My goal is to publish a novel. Some of my activities suggest I’ll get there, some don’t. I’ll start with the things I’m doing well.

If the first step towards reaching a goal is to say it aloud, then I’m on the right path. I’ve certainlyΒ  let my friends and family know how much I want to publish a book. I’ve shared my published stories with them. I’d say I get major points for completing stories, sending them to literary journals, and finding editors who want to publish them.

But I want to be a novelist,Β  not someone who talks about wanting to be a novelist.

Back to the positive: I’ve written two novels in the past four years. They’re not manuscripts I want released to the world.Β  But I’m proud of myself for finishing them, for revising them a gazillion times, for having a few agents show interest in the second one, and for knowing when it was time to move on. All that’s great. But I put the second book away in December 2009. When I consider what I’ve done in 2010 to achieve my main goal, I’m not feeling so proud.

2010: I tweeted; I guest blogged; I started a blog. To be fair, I’ve made valuable connections with writers on Twitter who give me a sense of camaraderie in an otherwise solitary career path. Several of those connections led to guest blogging gigs, which led to having this blog–a venue that’s forced me to produce words for public eyes at least once a week.

But writing posts and essays comes with relative ease compared to working on the short stories and novels. Ultimately, the fiction is more grueling, but it’s more satisfying, too.

And that is how I know I’ve been sabotaging myself. I’m afraid to fail at something I want, at something that takes so much out of me. I’m afraid to work my butt off and not succeed. I hear the stories of writers who write ten books before landing an agent. Worse, I hear about the people who get agents, but no book deals. Despite that reality, my goal hasn’t changed. And if my goal hasn’t changed, I have to ask myself what I’m doing to get there.

The answer is: NOT ENOUGH.

Aside from building relationships with other writers and blogging, I spent most of 2010 writing outlines for novels. Again, outlining relates to my goal,Β  HOWEVER, outlining is not writing–it’s planning to write. I’m two pages into the manuscript that I intended to work on daily starting in 2011. It’s the end of January. I’ll never reach the finish line unless I make some changes.

That was the confession part. Here’s the manifesto: I will write at least 2 pages every day until the first draft is finished. Two pages (about 500 words) probably doesn’t sound like a lot to non-writers, but if you’re a writer who hasn’t produced pages in a while, then you know 2 pages is significant. (Not to mention I have 3 kids 6 and under and a husband).

I know myself–once I have words on the page I’ll work furiously on revisions. It’s the blank pages that make me want to outline for months. The blank pages kill me, but I can’t let them stand in the way of my goals anymore.

I’d love to hear how other people with goals–writing, weight loss, budgeting, or otherwise–keep themselves on task.

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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, a writing workshop leader at ModernWell in Minneapolis, ModernWell's book club host, and the friendship columnist at The HerStories Project. She reviews 50 books a year on her blog and writes essays, short stories, and articles for other sites and print magazines. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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