Well here we are, in the second half of November, and I’ve set two goals this year that I’m not going to finish. But I think it’s okay. And if you’ve set goals that you don’t end up finishing, that’s fine too! There are so many opportunities for us to feel like we’re not good enough. None of us need more guilt added to the pile, and beating ourselves up for not finishing goals is just going to teach us that it’s easier not to try. So be easy on yourself. Finishing part of a goal is better than not trying at all.
Here are the two goals that I’m being flexible with this year:
The Popsugar Reading Challenge
This is an annual reading challenge with a list of fifty prompts. You can take the base challenge by reading books that fit the first forty prompts, or do the advanced challenge by reading those forty plus ten more. I’d heard about the Popsugar Challenge before, but 2019 was my first time attempting it. I had high hopes at the beginning of the year and decided I would tackle all 50 prompts. I made lists and moved my books around, and I really liked planning my reading for the year. Usually, I search the library website and put anything that sounds good on hold, and sometimes find myself without a book and frantically scroll through the “Available Audiobooks” for something new. I didn’t have the problem of running out of books to read this year, because I always had plans for my next book. I was also a lot more intentional about the books that I read. I wanted to see how many of the challenges I could fill with queer authors and authors of color.
In the end, I’ve done 40 of the 50 Popsugar prompts, and I’m in the middle of a book that will cover one more prompt. I mixed up the list and did some of the main 40 prompts and some of the advanced ten, so technically, I didn’t even finish the base challenge. But I still feel pretty good about what I’ve done. I read books I wouldn’t have otherwise, which I think is the point of the challenge. Some of them were great (like Crimson Lake by Candice Fox – “A book with no chapters, unusual chapter headings, or unconventionally numbered chapters” and The Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds - “A book that takes place in a single day”) and some of them were terrible, but overall, I read a lot of good books this year. And I look forward to being more intentional about my reading in the future. I like that I read more queer books this year than I have in recent years. I’m glad I tried the challenge, and I feel fine about giving up.
My other goal is a little bigger. National Novel Writing Month sets one goal – write 50,000 words during the month of November. This breaks down to approximately 1,670 words per day. When I was working on my first novel, I worked really hard. I would go to my job all day, then come home and be pretty antisocial from my partner and friends because I had to write. It wasn’t sustainable. And I don’t think NaNo is supposed to be a sustainable way to work – it’s supposed to kick your butt into gear and force you to get a lot of words onto the page. I’m doing that, but I’m not going to make it to 50,000 words this month. We recently added a puppy named Lewis to our family, and he doesn’t care if I want to write – he wants to play and go on walks and have quality time. He’s not old enough that I can just write and expect him to curl up next to me like our cats do – he needs active attention. Even if my partner tries to take Lewis duty while I’m writing, he wants to know why I’m in a different room and come see what I’m doing and get into things in my studio.
Maybe I’m using Lewis as an excuse. I like hanging out with him, I like hanging out with my partner and friends, I like going to events. I don’t want writing to be a chore, I don’t want it to be something I have to do in order to write an amount that someone else decided was enough. In the couple of months leading up to NaNo, I hardly wrote at all. So going from that to writing almost every day, finding time to write in a way that actually feels kind of sustainable – like I’m not missing out on my life, but I’m still writing – that’s awesome. So far I’ve written a little over 18,000 words for NaNo. I have less than 10 days left in the month, so maybe I’ll get halfway.
Learning to rest, not to quit.
I think the risk of an ambitious goal is that it’s so easy to give up in order to avoid failing. On my second or third day of NaNo, I was so far behind already, I thought “there’s no way I’m going to get to 50,000 words. I should just stop.” But I recognized that writing a little is better than writing nothing. The best part of a flexible goal is that it can become attainable.
You have to define success for yourself. We’re each on our own path, and there are always going to be people who seem to be farther along than you. At the same time, you’re further along than other people, and there are going to be people who think your progress is intimidating.
Completing half of a goal is better than not trying at all, and it's okay to adjust your goals as you go along.
I like cats, feminism, queers, making things and writing, apparently.