Let me back-track and tell you a little bit about myself (I have a crazy hunch many of you super-motivated and disciplined writers will be able to relate, at least in part ...) Let's go all the way back to my college days. My first year of school, I got very mediocre grades. My social life was great, but I hadn't found my academic groove yet (although, looking back, I recall spending most of my time in the library and computer lab.) The problem was that I still didn't know myself very well, and I certainly didn't know my optimum study habits ... whatever had worked in high school just wasn't cutting it with higher education.
Fast forward to my senior year of college. I had watched my grades steadily rise from Bs to straight As. I was like a well-oiled machine, and could spend even more time with my friends because I knew how to get the most out of my study time. My secret was simple - I did everything linearly. I absolutely never worked on two papers or projects or test preps at once. I would start one as soon as it was assigned (even if the due date was months away), finish it, and move onto the next. This system was perfectly orderly and efficient, allowing me to maximize the results of my efforts.
But there was a residual problem: the habit stuck and now that's how I live my entire life. Looking back over my 20s, I structured my existence around this principle. I did everything one-step-at-a-time. Grad school, get job ("no time for creative writing - must build serious TV career"), more grad school ("no time for relationships or writing - must build even more serious legal career"), true love found, marriage, great job ("now I can write"), lose job ("now I can write even more"), only work part-time b/c must focus on writing ("can't think about furthering my legal career or starting a family 'til I finish this book.")
That is actually the way my mind works. Many of you are probably thinking, "Whoa, that's scary." Reading it on the screen before me now for the first time, I'm thinking the same thing. I have allowed my goal of becoming a published author to become more of an obsession than a passionate hobby. Somewhere along the way, I got it in my mind that, like a college research paper, I have to neatly tie off my writing dream before I can move on to the next project.
The other day, my mom emailed me saying that her high school crush just published his first novel. He's 74. This got me to thinking about how incredibly lucky we writers are. Of all the "dream careers" (becoming a movie star, professional athlete, rock star, etc.), ours is the only one that doesn't have a shelf life. You could be 300 pounds with a smoker's cough, living in a Florida retirement community, but your pen name may bring to mind visions of gorgeous 20 year-old heroines travelling the world, being pursued by dashing men. Our shelves stay open as long as our minds are working.
So where does that leave me for 2010? Well, I'm going to make a conscious effort to just chill with all my writing goals. That's not to say that I'm going to become slack, but I plan to focus less on "getting it done" and more on enjoying the ride. And most importantly, I'm going to embrace the fact that this "ride" may well last a lifetime, and it would be an awful shame to speed past all the wonderful stops along the way.