Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Goal Line

It's a dictum I've tried to live by since I was twelve years old.  That is:  A writer must have goals.

I first said this to myself when I was a seventh grade student while taking a creative writing class with Mrs. McGee.  I says to myself:  "Self!  You must have goals!"  My goal that semester was to ask my parents for a typewriter (manual, Smith Corona) and then to write science fiction stories for the class.  I achieved both, perhaps much to the chagrin of my parents and teachers.  But I was on my way.

One thing I do each year is set writing goals in January for the year ahead.  This past January, one goal I had set for myself was to strive for 100 published essays/articles this year.  (Not 100 written, but published.  I can write 100 essays every year in my sleep, but to have 100 published, some of which actually pay cold hard cash . . . well, that's a different story entirely, Aunt Bertha.)

Now, as I approach mid-November, I've begun to calculate my efforts toward this one goal and, by golly Miss Molly, I might just achieve it.  I'm having a tough time accounting for every one of my published pieces (after all, I forget essays, and even entire books, as soon as I've written them), but as I use the touch pad on my handy-dandy pocket calculator and try to use the basic math I learned from Mrs. Allison in second grade, I'm gonna come pretty darn close to the goal if I don't surpass it.

I'm including in this calculation all of my various columns and regular pieces for magazines, my book reviews, magazine and journal articles, published commentary, and a few devotions.  The 100 essays would include subject matter ranging from theology to antique lure collecting, from personal memoir, to humor, to poetical comment, to the wild and wacky world of the bent synapses in my demented mind.  I'm also including my published fiction . . . and now that I think about that fiction . . . I'm sure I reached my goal of 100.  I surpassed it.

Well, but what about 2014?  Shall I do it again?  Or shall I up the ante to 150?  

I gotta have a goal. Mrs. McGee taught me that. And I write by mathematics.  It's all about how many words I can produce each day, multiplied by weeks, multiplied by twelve months . . . and that tells me how far and how fast I have to stretch to get to the goal line. The goal tells me how early I have to rise.  And how late I have to work into the night.  The goal dictates if I have to write while I'm on vacation, or while I'm driving. The goal also tells me how many pounds of coffee and black licorice I'll have to budget for and how many pots I gotta drink.  Somewhere in the mix, I'll also account for the twenty-five minutes of conversation I can give to my wife, and I dole out these minutes to her by the week via a conversation chart I have tacked to the refrigerator door.  She's a good sport, and it's amazing how quickly she can talk in 15-second increments so as to allow me time to get back to the keyboard.

But I've never had 100 published essays in a single year before.  That's a milestone for me.  And you know what, it doesn't feel heavy at all.  Feels rather freeing, actually.  I like 100.  It's a good ROUND number.


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