It still reached the moon!
How did that happen?
- Scientists acknowledged the deviations from the expected path.
- They repeatedly made the necessary course corrections.
- They achieved an adequate (though not perfect) trajectory to the moon.
Scientists made a major breakthrough in space exploration by sticking to the mission in spite of numerous setbacks.
How’s Your Trajectory?
What does the moon mission have to do with writing? Well, I was looking at my 2013 yearly goals over the weekend, and like the Apollo mission, my trajectory is off course–and has been most of the year. Earlier I made enough course corrections to help, but over the summer (with the addition of two new grandbabies) my trajectory got way off!
In the past, my strategy for reaching goals has been to first make them, then get waaaay behind or detoured, then either (1) give up on the goal, or (2) make drastic course corrections to force myself back in line.
The drastic course corrections usually happened when I had a deadline with a publisher. For example, the original goal of “hitting the moon” might have been to write five pages per day for four months. Not hard. However, after procrastinating or just dealing with “life issues” for two months, I would panic, course correct my goals, and commit to writing ten pages per day to meet the deadline. That writing schedule worked until Day Four when an interruption kept me from the keyboard.
What’s the Answer?
Now, right there, an Apollo scientist would have re-figured the goal, spreading out that minor missed day of writing over the coming weeks. But I tended instead to let one day of failure slip into two or three. Denial is a great place to live–as long as you can stay there! But eventually panic sets in, and you are forced because of the deadline to re-figure your trajectory. By now, though, you have to write 15-20 pages per day. Every day. No days off.
Panic and adrenaline can manage it, to the detriment of your health and the quality of your writing. How much better off I would be if I followed the successful Apollo mission method instead.
Here is where the idea of a spreadsheet would be a benefit. The very day you fall behind your goal, you could re-figure your daily word counts. One day’s lost writing, spread out over the coming weeks, would barely be noticed. Regaining your trajectory (your deadline) would take very little extra daily effort. And if, every single time you got off course, you re-figured and kept moving, you’d also hit your target.
We need to learn to be resilient. (I have been telling myself this all month.) Every time we have a setback or surprise, we need to recalculate. A setback requiring a course correction might come in the form of being sick yourself, having a child needing extra help, unexpected company arriving, you name it! Life is full of things that cause setbacks for writers. Any number of things can get you off your trajectory.
We may not be flying to the moon, but we can learn a lot from this successful Apollo mission that was off course most of its flight. We need to pay attention to our goals and our progress, be aware when we’re off course, and make those corrections quickly. This skill is a part of the successful–and sane–writer’s life.