Goal-setting: let’s be reasonable (and baby friendly)

A baby does similar things to your house and your brain; it gleefully, carelessly, adorably takes over everything. When the Lizard is awake, I’m basically 100% in Mum role, which sometimes gets to involve sitting and reading while she plays happily solo, but anything more serious-writing-business than jotting down a few notes is completely out of the  question. Because of this, when she goes down for her nap and I get two hours of baby-free time, I want to switch immediately into Writer role.

…ok, fine, I want to tidy everything up, grab a bite to eat and then switch into Writer role.

But having your brain shunted from side to side like that multiple times a day tends to shake things loose. To keep everything nailed down, I’ve taken to Habitica (again) with a vengeance, and within that I’ve joined up with the splendid Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ink Slingers guild of spec-fic writers.

Mostly, this has been a great move – I’ve got commonality, I’ve got help with goals, I’ve got accountability. They’re splendid people; I’m having fun and feeling engaged.

But.

This month the guild has been having a challenge about weekly goals. I figured this would be great: when I was ramping myself up into full production mode back in 2014, I got great mileage out of setting and checking against weekly goals. When I set this week’s goal, I felt like it was challenging, but achievable if I pushed – and I wanted to push.

What I forgot is that this is 2016 and I have a baby; I cannot do full production mode; I cannot push. There is simply no room in which to push. There is basically no elasticity in my life, nothing I can give up to make room for getting more writing done.

What’s more, not making the goal this week – watching it slip further and further out of reach – has had a tremendously demoralising effect on me. As the week’s progressed, I’ve had less and less energy and will for writing even during those golden nap times. Last night was really low: I felt useless and grumpy and resentful of everyone and everything, especially myself. Which was amazingly unfair because I’d achieved an amazing amount of non-writing stuff and I’d finished my daily writing target.

Fortunately, I woke up this morning realising (with a little help from awesome Twitter friends) that I was being too hard on myself. I simply cannot achieve what I used to achieve pre-baby. One day – probably sooner than I realise – I will be able to. But until then, I really need to be kinder to myself, because failing is very unhelpful.

So I’m making a goal for next week that is better suited to what I can and cannot achieve. Since I can’t control how much time I can give to writing, having an output based goal (“revise 10 scenes”) is asking for panic. Instead, I think I’ll just aim to work on the book – actually on the book, not just those note-jottings – six days out of seven.

After all, baby steps.

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