“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
~ E.L. Doctorow in the Paris Review Interview
I’ve always loved that Doctorow quote about writing because it reminds me of something very important. If you look at the big picture, sometimes you can get overwhelmed. But if you keep the focus on what’s right in front of you — this bit of road right here — you can get to where you need to go.
Normally, I’m a big planner. I have my 5-year plan, my bucket list, my daily task lists, my quarterly project sheets, all of it. But when it came time to formulate a plan for 2018, I found myself in the perplexing and unfamiliar position of just not wanting to think about it.
And I know exactly why this is. 2017 was not a good or productive year for me. Many things went wrong. I failed to reach almost every target on my annual goal list, but I can’t say it was from a failure of effort or motivation. Circumstances — everything from serious injury to family stuff — intervened. Sometimes life happens, right?
Even though I believe that I did the best I could — really, the best I could reasonably ask from myself under the circumstances, and I’m not mad or depressed or anything — I’m still having a bad reaction to that list of unmet 2017 goals. I conquer my goals. Always. Except in 2017, and that’s messing up my head a little bit.
So in 2018, I’m taking a different approach. I’m not starting the year with big-picture goals. I’m angling the headlights down, closer to the pavement, and I’m slowing my typical racing speed. I’m creating a daily plan — a vision of sorts for how I want every day to look. I’m not going to worry about how those days will mount up into a year. I’m just going to focus on daily habits and doing the best I can until this bad patch of road is long behind me.
So my resolution is to create a daily plan and execute it to the best of my ability every day. It will include things like working out, writing, work, social and family stuff, and so on. But, for example, I can’t realistically plan to run a half-marathon this year when I still need to do physical therapy for an injury that has basically killed my running mojo. I don’t know how much more therapy I’ll need or what kind of shape I’ll be in when it’s all done. This big-picture plan is beyond my control. And I have to accept that for now.
All I can do is look at the here and now. Do the best I can under these present circumstances. Aim the headlights down, keep the focus tight, and keep moving forward.
Eventually, I’ll get to my destination.
What are you planning for your new year?