Direction, not Intention

directionAll 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.

Good Intentions

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.

Lacking Direction

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.

Personally Speaking

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 weightswrong-direction 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.]

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8 Responses to Direction, not Intention

  1. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    I am guilty of doing all kinds of tasks about writing…but not enough actual writing. It is a bad habit that I have let myself fall into. That positive thing is that I am aware of it and know that I need to change the direction of this behavior. I have decided that I am not someone who can just write when the proverbial “spirit moves me”. I need to write regularly whether I feel like it or not! There, I have said it out loud…now, I need to figure out the best way to accomplish this. I’m going to think about this, and I’ll get back to you for some much needed accountability. Thanks for sharing your thoughts that somehow always seem able to access mine!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Audrey, I think my thoughts access yours because we’re all in this together. For example, I managed to write four days this week, for 30 min to 2 hours per day. One day I loved it! One day was passable. One day was like pulling teeth. This morning I had to bribe myself big time to get moving because NOTHING in me wanted to write or even liked my story today! Very few writers can only write when the spirit moves them. And even those writers have discovered that the spirit usually moves them AFTER they’ve been writing about twenty minutes FIRST. :-)

  2. Deanna says:

    Thanks for the reminders today. This week has been a slippery slope for me. I have struggled to stick with my writing schedule. Next week will be better!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Deanna, it was that way with me too. I am doing an accountability thing with two other writers about writing at least 30 minutes per day, or I wouldn’t have written at all this past week. I think maybe I will blog about that again next week, now that I’ve been doing it for six weeks. It has made a big difference. Maybe there’s a way I could start one through the blog…an accountability group, I mean. I will think about it! :-)

  3. Maria says:

    Another great post! I love the idea of an accountability group via the blog. I have had several people who were supposed to fill that role, but because they know me they have a hard time holding me accountable. They understand the difficulties with family, work, etc. and don’t hold me to task. But I need it!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Accountability is worth its weight in gold, I’m finding. I will have to look into how to set up a group thing. I’ll keep people posted!

  4. Latanya West says:

    Kristi – Thanks again for such a great post. I saw it yesterday but didn’t finish reading it until this morning. So what I needed as I start to plan the upcoming week. I just finished an author platform course and, after learning all about everything you mentioned above, I was starting to feel so disconnected from what I’m really trying to accomplish. Which is simply to write, and keep on writing until I get published consistently and build my writing career on solid ground. I don’t doubt all the platforming is essential these days (big sigh), but it’s not why I’m a writer.

    An accountability group sounds really awesome. If you do happen to get something like that together, I’d certainly join. I have two wonderful ladies I meet with regularly, but, like Maria, lovingly holding each other to task just hasn’t happened and I really crave that.

    Anyway, thanks for hitting home, once again!

    - Tanya
    p.s. still working on my writer blog/website so the website above is for my day job…

    • kwpadmin says:

      Latanya, thank you for your comment. To be honest, I’m awfully glad I’m not starting a writing career in the present “platform” era. I find that it gets out of hand and overwhelms me from time to time and my priorities get out of whack. I am now being sure I write FIRST, and if that means there’s no time for marketing/online presence building, well, then, so be it for that day. I try to put in some marketing time each week, but it comes second and its “slice of the pie” is kept smaller. But it’s a challenge! :-)

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