All of our actions have results, or consequences. That’s not news to anyone. And yet, do we act like we believe that?
Not all that often.
Too many writers (myself included sometimes) believe that if we work our hardest and try our best and keep a good attitude, we’ll end up successfully published. Why? Because we have good intentions. But it’s “direction–not intention–that determines our destination,” says Andy Stanley in his book The Principle of the Path.
Here’s a simple illustration. You may intend to be a great archer. However, if you work hard, shoot arrow after arrow, and lift weights to have stronger biceps–but don’t pay attention to direction–shooting arrows is a waste of your time. Oh, you might luck out and hit your target once in a blue moon, but that’s about it.
Sadly, many writers approach their careers like this.
In every part of your life (health, relationships, writing career) you’re moving in some direction toward a specific destination. We don’t end up at that destination out of luck or sheer hard work or good intentions or because “it all worked out somehow.”
Destination is the end result of the choices you made yesterday, added to the ones you make today, added to the ones you will make tomorrow. Actually, it’s the end result of years of daily choices, compounded with interest.
There are paths we choose that lead us to destinations we never intended, and there are paths we’re on right now that are leading us away from–not toward–our dreams and goals. If we’re headed in the wrong direction, no matter how good our intentions or how hard we work, we won’t reach our goal.
Please NOTE: you may honestly think you’re moving in the right direction, when you’re not. Don’t assume that because you’re working hard, you’re headed in the right direction.
It’s the decisions you make on a daily basis that determine your path and your destination. For example, for many reasons I want to be super healthy the older I get. I want it more than most other things because it affects all areas of my life.
I know a lot about nutrition and exercise and weight loss and what my body needs to run its best. A healthy body is my intention and has been for years.
BUT the daily decisions I made last year to eat candy instead of the hated vegetables, to watch a movie instead of go walking, and skip the weights work-outs have NOT led me to optimum health. My path led in 2012 to higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, much less stamina, and more headaches.
It only took small changes–but changes incorporated at least six days per week–to turn that around. BP is now normal, cholesterol checked this week is finally down to normal, headaches are gone, and stamina is increasing.
Writerly Direction Needed Too
With that principle in mind, I am now making myself accountable for some small DAILY changes in my reading, writing, and Internet schedule. I didn’t like my destination at the end of 2012, so a change of direction was in order.
I see writers doing the same things I was doing. They’ve got their goals written down, they’ve set deadlines for themselves, they intend to finish that novel and submit it, and ultimately they want to be published. They knock themselves out to create websites, network on Facebook and GoodReads and Twitter, write newsletters and blogs–but they never have time to actually do much writing. They spend so little time actually writing that they don’t improve. [I'm not pointing the finger at any of you. I only know this is true because it was my own problem.]
Despite my great intentions, my daily choices last year did not take me in the direction I truly wanted to go.
“I know it’s tempting to believe that our good intentions, aspirations and dreams somehow have the ability to do an end run around the decisions we make on a daily basis,” says Andy. “But at the end of the day, the principle of the path determines the outcome. Simply put, you and I will win or lose in life by the paths we choose.”
Take a look at your DAILY writing habits, those writerly activities you do day after day, week after week, year after year. What direction are you really headed?
Every day, it’s a choice. What path will you choose today? [And if you have trouble deciding which daily habits would move you in the right direction, scroll back up to the top-right, give me your email address, and I'll send you my free e-book on Managing Your Writing Space and Your Writing Time.]