Goals

“Keep a diary, but don’t just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and an end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It’s great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary” (John Berendt at Writer’s Write <www.writerswrite.co.za>).

I’ve tried writing every day many times, but each time I stop for two reasons: because my writing time is VERY limited, so I want to make very word count, and because these attempts consistently felt like the daily list mentioned above. However, I firmly believe that writing is like mining—you have to dig through a lot of dirt to find anything of value. I need a way to practice writing without consequence in order to mine the nuggets worthy of public notice, so I’m resolving to try again with practice on the level of the above quote. (Thank you John Berendt.)

With that in mind, I sat down to write about today and realized that I had no vignette, brief or otherwise. May 14, 2015 was just like every other day of walking half-asleep through my usual routine. I had no way of differentiating this day from most others.

Ruminating about how to approach this deficit of significance let me to thinking about writing scenes. Conventional wisdom states that each scene has to have a goal. If it doesn’t, how will you know what should happen or when the scene is over? If I’m going to write my day as a vignette, then shouldn’t I identify my goal first?

This question flowed into an examination of how I spent my day, which boiled down to proctoring finals for my high school literature classes. During the other 179 days of the school year, however, I am teaching. In order to plan what to teach, I have to begin by considering my objectives, or goals: What do I want students to learn or master in each particular lesson, and how will I know if my goal was achieved? My thoughts circled back on themselves at this point (a frustratingly common occurrence) to ask again what my goal for the day was.

That’s when I realized that I’ve lived each day mostly goal-less. I have overarching life-goals, of course: to live a peaceful life; to have a happy marriage; to be a good mom, a good writer, a good teacher. But what does that look like on a daily basis? If I don’t have small, micro-goals to achieve each day, then how do I know when I’ve attained my life-goals?

Henry David Thoreau wrote that he wished to live deliberately “and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived” (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods). This has been one of my driving desires since my high school years, but how will I know if I’ve achieved it. I’m beginning to think the answer lies in setting small goals.

What about you? Do you think that setting and keeping track of daily goals is important? Why or why not? If you do, what goals do you aspire to on a regular basis?

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/98943100@N00/3082163605″>e1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Seo wordpress plugin by www.seowizard.org.