On Writing in a Year without Big Goals

Each of the last couple years I’ve started January with big ideas for what I wanted to accomplish for that year. My goals tend to be ambitious, but still within the realm of possibility. Still, I’ve learned that it’s difficult for me to project progress on any long-term project more than a few months out–or sometimes more than a few weeks out.

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

Looking at my annual goals posts from 2020 and 2021 may give the impression of a writer who overshoots and under-delivers, and that’s not inaccurate. I have had some big goals in mind over the last couple of years, notably the publishing of my still-in-progress novellas in The Herb Witch Tales series. I just also know that there have been other factors at play. The usual suspects come to mind: family, work, existential dread, a global pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough for me to project my progress on something more than a few months out. Projecting how much I can write in a year is a murky endeavor. Trying to throw the entire editing, revising, proofreading, and publishing process on top of that is basically insane.

At least, that’s what I’ve learned over the last couple years.

I’ve also learned that I am not the publish-something-every-year-or-two type of writer. My last meaningful publication was my 12-part short story, “The Grand Mythos of Úr’Dan“, which I ran as an experimental monthly serial throughout 2019. It’s probably more like every “few” years, depending on when I click Publish next. Basically, I’m closer to Patrick Rothfuss than Brandon Sanderson–in publishing cycles, not skill level!

The Year without Goals

That all is to say that I will not be posting an ambitious book marketing/publishing post this year. I definitely have goals, and I will detail them through my monthly Write Day posts. What has changed for me recently is that those monthly goals are enough for me at this moment in my life.

My long-term goals have necessarily and totally predictably shifted to bigger things: navigating the whole *waves arms emphatically* world right now; raising two boys, one of whom has learned the f-word from daycare (yea!); beginning the house-hunting process in the next year; family and friends and holidays, which all require a lot of extra planning and consideration and fuckin’ caution than they used to.

It’s a lot, and it means that thinking about where I might be in the publishing process in autumn 2022 is just not a concern for me today.

Writing Rhythm

However, that all doesn’t mean I haven’t picked up on a few of my writing habits…

  • I know that I can be a productive writer by writing immediately after work, or right after getting the toddler to bed.
  • I know that writing a couple days in a row or more than three times per week motivates me to continue, regardless of how much or how little progress I make in those sessions.
  • I know that once a character is embedded in my brain I find it easier to write them, which just takes practice and patience–not trying to churn out an entire novella in a month.
  • I know that motivating myself to write regularly helps my self-confidence, my self-worth, and my overall mental wellbeing.
  • And I know that writing 10,000 words each month is very doable if I stick to each of the above points.

That’s really my only writing goal this year–not to write 120,000 words on the dot, but to aim for 10,000 words each month, to build consistently and steadily until, come December 31, 2022, I will have written a whole hell of a lot.

I’m currently on pace for about 9,000 words in January, so maybe in February or March I aim for 11,000. The point is, it doesn’t matter much right now.

I’m moving forward. I know what the ultimate goal is, but I also know I need to focus on the day-to-day first.

Steve D

Leaning on the Small Things

Have you ever started writing something without knowing at all where it was going? That’s what this post is.

Today (Tuesday) was my first day back at work after a 5-day vacation to a family lakehouse. Five days doesn’t seem that long, especially over an extended weekend, but it was a strange return anyway.

I’ve found it more and more difficult to let go of work. Difficult is not the right word. I look forward to letting go of work things at the end of the day. But I feel more and more guilty about it. I don’t think anyone is placing that guilt upon me, except myself.

Our lakehouse vacation was supposed to be an escape from work, from our recent spate of home improvement projects, and from the occasional monotony of semi-quarantined life.

It was all of those things, for the most part. I just had one afternoon where I selfishly decided not to spend a lot of time with my son, and it’s been bugging me. I don’t think anyone else felt I was ignoring my family, but that’s how it felt to me.

All this is adding up to the notion that I am often too hard on myself, and I have trouble letting go of little things that have more to do with my perception of myself than with my interactions with other real people.

So I spent much of today (again, Tuesday) trying not to stress over things that are either done and in the past, or completely out of my control.

Fortunately, a few things made me feel better over the course of the day:

  • a solid yoga session, which is really the only reason I can be productive for 8-10 hours a day
  • reading and chatting with my son before his bedtime
  • This song, by an incredible singer/songwriter from somewhere near DC:

I’m going to listen to this for the third or fourth time tonight and then go to bed.

Steve D

August Write Day: Trying to Get over the Wall

July flew by. We were out of town a couple of weekends, and I went to Chicago for about 36 hours for work. It seems like that type of quick business trip for conferences and such will be a new normal for me. I’m going back to Chicago next week for not very long.

I’m not against it. It just means I need to take those trips into consideration when I’m thinking about my writing goals. Writing while traveling is hard. Writing on business trips and basically being “on” for work for the duration of the trip is nigh impossible.

So, July was a good writing month, but not a great one. Continue reading “August Write Day: Trying to Get over the Wall”

Religion, Belief, and Parenting according to a Non-Practicing Parent

Today is my second consecutive day of stay-at-home parenting with Nugget. He’s been amazing. I have no idea what I’ve been doing for the last 36 hours. It feels like I’ve mostly been soothing him and then rushing to throw laundry in the dryer before he flips out.

Currently, we’re listening to the World of Warcraft soundtrack as he lays on his play mat and babbles at toys he clearly doesn’t quite know are there yet. He seems to like the music, though.

Continue reading “Religion, Belief, and Parenting according to a Non-Practicing Parent”

Friday Write-Day: Finally Home

Per my Tuesday post, Dad-Life burst onto the scene this week. We spent four days in the hospital for Mom to recover from her cesarean and new baby Nugget to get on a decent feeding/pooping schedule and get rid of his jaundice.

Fortunately, we were discharged yesterday, and Nugget is finally home. Continue reading “Friday Write-Day: Finally Home”

That Time When Dad-Life Kicked Down My Door

This has been a whirlwind few days in the best possible way.

My wife’s water broke on Sunday evening, a full three weeks (and more) before her projected due date of 9/27. Because she was technically pre-term (by four days), we had to report to the hospital rather than the midwifery where we wanted to give birth. Continue reading “That Time When Dad-Life Kicked Down My Door”

For Grandpa D’Adamo

My grandfather passed away on August 17. Before driving with my wife and my dad to the funeral on August 22, I asked my aunt if I could read a speech. The wake came, and I didn’t feel comfortable reading the speech. Then the mass came, and I had to stick to the traditional biblical reading. Then the repast came, and my aunt finally encouraged me to at least give a toast, which was basically a brief version of what follows.

Grandpa bottle-feeding me.

I am one of Grandpa’s four grandchildren, and I felt compelled to say a few words about him.

Grandpa was hard of hearing for most of his life. He started having hearing troubles at age three, and it only worsened as he aged. Because of this, I think, he was a generally quiet and reserved man. I think he enjoyed the everyday chatter of life, but years of having trouble holding a  typical conversation taught him to only pay attention when he had to, or when people spoke loudly enough for him to understand. So when he spoke up, you listened.

At least, I did. He would sit with us at the table and just stay quiet four hours, sometimes. But every now and then, unprompted, he would start talking about something from his past. His mother, his cousins, his friends from Brooklyn, or maybe one of the numerous jobs he worked.

You could tell by the way he spoke about people and places that he was naturally curious about the world around him. I always wondered if that was innate, or if he learned to be observant because that was how he could most easily engage with the world. Maybe both.

My cousin and me “wrestling” with Grandpa.

When my sister, our two cousins, and I were younger, he seemed to love nothing more than to spend time with us. We would stroll up and down the boardwalk in Cape May on lovely summer nights, and he never hesitated to pay for dinner, buy us ice cream, or give us a $20 to go play the arcade for a bit. He was happy to buy us gifts from the shops, even when our parents said no. We might have taken advantage of that kindness a time or two, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

He also crafted plenty of gifts for us in his basement workshop. After working as a machinist well into his seventies, he finally retired when my grandmother became sick. After she passed, he dove headfirst into his woodworking hobby. I think we all have several decorations or pieces of furniture that he made.

An eagle that he carved. He later used the same design to adorn shot glass racks he made for my collection.

No matter how beautiful the pieces were, Grandpa never believed they came out right. “Ah, it’s too short,” he’d say, or “I couldn’t get this piece here right.”

But more than anything, I think he just enjoyed sitting around the dinner table or a good card game with us. He would just watch us talk, laugh, and grow together — enjoying each other’s company as a family. The rarer times we saw him laugh — and I mean really laugh — he’d lean back in his chair, lay his hands on his belly, and shake until his face burned red.

And if we were lucky, he’d surprise us with a witty line or a story, like a fleeting memory that nearly passed over him.

Grandpa helping me in his workshop.

Grandpa was always one of my biggest role models, and I’ve thought recently about what that has meant to me, what it will mean to me.

So these are the lessons I will try to carry forward, in tribute to Grandpa, as we grow our family:

Speak and act thoughtfully. Others will value your words and your heart all the more.

Give generously, even if it’s just to put a smile on someone else’s face.

Work diligently and be proud of your accomplishments, even when your creations didn’t quite meet your own expectations.

Make time for those you love. Be present in those moments, and cherish them.

He was 96 years old, and his second and third cousins still referred to him as Brother Ralph. I love you, Grandpa.

Ralph D’Adamo

July 8, 1922 – August 17, 2018