Like many people, I’m at a place in my life where things are confusing and often overwhelming. I’m caring for aging relatives and worrying about their health, finances, legal issues, and long term care. More and more often, I’m venturing into topics I know nothing about and making decisions I don’t feel prepared to make. (When did I become an adult? Wasn’t I in 5th grade just yesterday?)
At the same time, I’m not getting any younger, either. There are my own financial and health concerns to deal with. Not to mention the everyday concerns of life: Maintaining a house, cooking, a job and, oh yeah, a budding novel writing career.
Some days it’s all I can do to hold everything together. Just thinking about the long term gives me hives. Especially when it comes to my writing.
There is a series to finish. More books to write. Marketing to do. Giveaways to set up. Editing, query letters, a website and social media to manage, and on and on. Sometimes it scares the crap out of me to look ahead at a whole week, month, or year. It’s not only a little scary, it brings my anxiety to the forefront, making it harder to get anything done. I get like a squirrel in traffic: Afraid to pick a direction and just spazzing out all over the place, accomplishing nothing. My fear of failure is so strong that if I get overwhelmed, I simply tend to do nothing. (Which, I know, is completely counterproductive.)
While having long terms goals is important (mine include landing a bigger publisher and eventually making a full-time income from fiction), sometimes it’s all you can do to manage the here and now. Thinking about the long term can drive you to the couch to binge watch every single show on Netflix. There are periods of time (and I’m in one right now) where taking things literally one day at time is the only way to remain productive and sane. Sometimes, the best you can hope for is simply not to go backward.
This is why I’m such a fan of my writing calendar. It allows me to see what has to be done on any given day, and to add/delete accordingly.
It gives me focus when everything seems overwhelming. I can see at a glance what has to be done today, and what can wait. If I’m having a good day, I can look ahead and maybe knock out a few things extra. If it’s a bad day, well, I know what the minimum is.
When nothing is pressing, I can ask myself, “What’s the one thing I can do today to move my career forward?” and then work on that one thing. It may be something big, like starting a new novel, or it may be something tiny, like making a couple of social media posts just to remind people that I’m alive. Whatever it is, it’s something that gains ground and makes me feel like at least I’m not losing the ground I’ve already fought so hard to gain.
I’m learning that I can’t do everything, at least not in one day or week. There are so many other demands on my time that managing a writing career months in advance sometimes seems impossible. Couple that with a bit of anxiety and a paralyzing fear that I’m going to blow this opportunity to be “an author,” and it’s all I can do to manage just one day. But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with working one day at a time.
Everything you do in that one day pushes you a little further down the path toward your long term goals. It may not be like traveling down the interstate; more like winding down a pig trail in the woods. All you can do is all you can do. And if that’s just getting one writing related task done a day, then that’s okay. It’s better than many people manage.
(Photo courtesy of tigerlily713)