Friday, January 6, 2012

How to Eat a Whale (AKA This is Jon Acuff's Fault!)

I had decided that I was NOT going to make any goals for this year.  2011 wasn't bad at all, but somewhere near September I got frustrated with myself because I didn't feel like I'd accomplished anything.  I hadn't completed any large writing project (the only one I attempted started out weak and just completely fizzled out near the end).  I think I only sent out ONE query letter for the whole year, and that was to a literary agent who I already knew would probably not be interested.  Last year, I had set goals for sending out a query letter EVERY WEEK.  I had goals of possibly landing an agent, of getting lots of writing projects done, of being a published writer. 

Instead, I fizzled out like that story I tried to write, and I stopped writing almost altogether.  I went to edit some previous work and was so discouraged by the perceived lameness of my work that I abruptly stopped trying.  The task before me just seemed too great, so I gave up.

And when New Year's Eve/Day came around, I said to myself, "Self, you're not going to make any goals for this year.  That doesn't mean you're not going to try to accomplish things, but why set goals if you're not even going to follow through with them?" 

Then, a few days ago, I read Jon Acuff's blog, and well, I was convicted.  In the blog, he challenged his readers to write down their goals for 2012 on a piece of paper, take a picture of that piece of paper, and then post it online.  My first thought was to reject the idea.  I was NOT going to make goals for this year.  I wasn't.  I wasn't going to do it, and no one was going to make me. 

But then I started reading some of the goals for 2012 that other people had posted, and I realized that I really did need to make a tangible list of attainable goals for this year.  What I mean by attainable is, "within my power to complete."  I can't make a goal of getting published this year; that's not entirely in my control (unless I self-publish, and right now I don't want to go that route).  I can't make a goal of finding a literary agent this year; that's not entirely in my control.  I can still work towards these things, but I can't set a time limit on it--but more about that later. 

Here's my list of attainable goals for 2012:

That's my list.  Of course, since one of my New Year's Resolutions (which are different from goals--usually) was to get more sleep, I'm not really sure how all of these goals are going to work out.  But I think that writing them down is the first step to getting them completed, and that first step is pretty important.  The first step leads to other steps, but again, getting ahead of myself.

I've recently begun the arduous process of cleaning my room.  I'm a hopeless slob.  Long have I abandoned any ideas of staying organized.  I'm bad at maintenance, so every few months, I have to do a major clean-up of my bedroom.  Well, due to Christmas and all of that, my room was a bigger disaster than it usually is, and I found myself returning from my brief Christmas vacation to a pig sty.  The floor of my bedroom?  Nowhere in sight.  In fact, there were places in which my clutter rose more than a foot high.  I'm not exaggerating. 

I couldn't figure out how I was going to even begin cleaning the mess in my room, but I came up with an idea.  I realized I was going to have to do one thing at a time.  So I wrote down a list of the things I would clean on different days.  First, I'd pick up my clothes; second, I'd pick up the trash; third, I'd organize the closet; fourth, I'd organize my dresser, etc.

Writing this plan down actually helped me move past the overwhelming feeling that I'd NEVER accomplish the task of cleaning my room.  And I think that writing down my goals are going to help me do the same thing.  Making a list is only the beginning....

I've discovered I do really well if I have a chart to fill out.  If I have a spreadsheet where I can write down how much I've exercised or how many calories I've eaten, I manage to lose weight.  If I have a spreadsheet where I can write down the Scripture passages I've read, I do a good job of keeping up with my Bible reading.  I think that if I have a progress chart for my editing projects, my half-marathon training, etc., then I'll do a better job of completing my goals.  

You see, when I have a goal to accomplish, I sometimes approach it as if I'm trying to eat a whale.  Eating a whale seems absolutely impossible.  But there's this great poem by Shel Silverstein that explains how one should go about the task of eating a whale:

"Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,

Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.
And everyone said,"You're much too small,"
But that didn't bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she shewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should...
...and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale
Because she said she would!!!"

If you try to eat the whole whale all at once, it's easy to get discouraged.  The best way to eat a whale, and perhaps the only way to eat a whale, is to eat it slowly, one little bite at a time, and at a reasonable pace.  It might take a while, but eventually, the whale will be eaten--and I'll bet that last bite will taste really good...
...unless, of course, the whale has been sitting out in the sun for 89 years, but I digress....

1 comment:

  1. I'm not interested in eating whale, but you make some excellent points. I love that you differentiated between NYResolutions and goals. I've set some *goals* for myself too. I just happened to begin working toward them at the beginning of the year. May you have the strength and discipline to complete your goals!