For the last few of years, I’ve posted massive lists of goals for the year (such as in 2014), making note of ALL THE THINGS I want to do an accomplish. While I’ve always had fun creating this lists, I’ve noticed that I’ve only ever been able to accomplish a tiny corner of them, if that.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read several articles and posts about eliminating and approaching minimalism in order to be better focused on achieving one’s goals. “It’s not enough to have great ideas. Lots of people have great ideas. The problem is that too many great ideas cancel each other out,” explains Olivere Emberton, noting that trying to focus on too many separate ideas will get you nowhere. He adds, “Monomaniacal focus on a single goal is perhaps the ultimate success stratagem. It’s a pattern found in everyone from Edison to Einstein. When you’re able to focus on a single goal, constantly, your achievements reach their theoretical limit.”
Jan O’Hare talks similarly about the minimalist movement, “a lifestyle in which one aims for a mindful pattern of consumption so that you’re not trading valuable time and energy for possessions you don’t prize.” She talks about how creating minimalism in her life has increased her ability to focus on her writing and how focusing on a single project at a time has allowed her to better achieve her goals.
And Lauren Ayer talks about looking at what to stop doing in the new year. In her post, she quotes Charlie Gilkey, who says, “We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things.”
My initial reaction to reading these posts was to run home and begin removing objects from my closets and shelves in order to clean out and declutter the space in which I live. When my home is clean and clutter free, I feel lighter, clearer, like I can breathe deeper.
As I’ve started working on physical minimalism, I’ve also started looking at minimalism in my creative life as a way of considering what is necessary to my writing and what is not. It’s clear that planning my year with the aim of doing ALL THE THINGS is not helpful. So, I’ve tried to really look at what I need to maintain forward progress and have determined that the following things are important to me:
1. A Big Project – Any meatier work (novel, novella, script, poetry collection), which is to be the main focus until finished.
2. Small Projects – Poems, flash fiction, stories, and other bite-sized projects that fit in between work on the Big Project and remind me that yes, I can finish things and be happy with what I write.
3. Feedback – Comes in many forms, including critique groups, comments on publicly posted stories and poems, or acceptances/rejections from markets.
4. Community – Associated with feedback, this includes the critique group, but also attending and supporting readings and open mics and connecting with other writers and artists online.
5. Running – While not directly a writing related goal, it’s vital to my well being that I never feel the need to sacrifice one for the other.
Knowing this, I feel clear and confident in making a new plan for 2015. The plan is less about what I hope to achieve over the course of the entire year, since that thinking quickly leads me to an ALL THE THINGS approach. So, instead, I’m going to look at it in terms of what can focus on in the here and now.
My present and primary goal? Complete one Big Project.
This means I’m planning to continue on with the novel in poems for now, as it’s really present in my mind. I will create weekly goals with the aim of completing 2-3 chapters (or poems) per week, with the aim of completing the project mid-year.
In addition to work on my primary goal, I plan to provide time and space for writing individual poems or stories (small projects), submitting my work for publication (feedback), writing blog posts (feedback, community), attending open mics (community), running, and other such things that help me to regularly fulfill my list of needs to remain creatively inspired. However, I will try not to stack on too much by limiting how many things I aim for completing during any given week.
I don’t know if this plan will work better than any other plan I’ve had in the past, but it feels good for the moment and has be itching to get to work, so it’s good so far.
What are your goals and plans for the new year?