Gratitude & Goals (and Balloons)

This Thanksgiving will be tough for a lot of people and I am grateful that all my family are safe and healthy and that I get to spend turkey day with my husband, twin teenage boys, and collie Hamish (who is the only one who seems to have enjoyed this year!). I have certainly experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and stress this year so my thoughts go out to any of you struggling during these uncertain times.

This week I will focus on the things I am thankful for (health, family, friends, economic stability…) but will also re-evaluate my original 2020 goals to see if any can be salvaged (ugh!). Actually the metaphor that comes to mind (and my apologies as it’s a pretty crap one) is a bunch of balloons. I started out the year with a handful of promising ones, only to see quite a few fly up into the sky – some are aloft and still in sight, some I fear have blown away for good. The balloons that are now left are a ragtag bunch – goals that I keep trying to cling to, but which are looking rather worse for wear. I did complete a draft YA novel that I’m still waiting for feedback on (I like to think of it as a shiny red balloon which hasn’t been deflated yet!), and I have started a new historical book (at the moment, however, this balloon is barely inflated…). My art/painting goal looks like a balloon animal – oddly shaped and kind of cool but who knows what I’m going to do with it. Finally, there are two stray balloons which I can’t remember ever grabbing: one represents a ‘couch to 5km’ running program which I started a few months ago and actually continued (which is weird because I hate running…); the other is a ‘cooking diva’ balloon which I know I never asked for but which I clung onto when faced with providing 3 meals a day plus snacks to a hungry household of boys:).

This week, when it comes to my 2020 goals, I’m staring at this weird handful of balloons and wondering what to do with them – do I pop them? Try to inflate them a little more? Try to rescue the ones that blew away? (though I guess I should be thankful to be still clinging to some goals at all!)

TKZers, how have you handled your goals this year? Are you, like me, still clinging to some of those balloons? How are you planning to use Thanksgiving this year to help achieve (or maybe re-inflate) your 2020 writing goals?

45 thoughts on “Gratitude & Goals (and Balloons)

  1. Good post, Clare.

    Because of a 4-month fiction-writing slump this year (May 5 to October 21) my monthly and annual goals were completely blown up. I finished my 50th novel on May 5, and somewhere along the line I’d subconsciously attached significance to the number 50. Yet the 50th novel was no more special or important than any other. It, like all the others, was only a few hours’ entertainment for my readers.

    When I finally realized on October 21 what had caused my slump (that attached false significance) I snapped out of my extended hell and started having fun with the writing again, 3000 to 5000 words per day. Since then, I’ve finished my 51st and am 25,000 words into my 52nd. All because I finally remembered stories aren’t special except to reader who think they are.

    As for my goals for this year, I don’t worry about them. No way I can make them now, so I’ve set them for 2021 already. The point of this life, it seems to me, is to keep moving forward.

  2. Actually, Claire, I think the balloon is a great metaphor. Some pop, some fly, and some soar to places you would never expect. There are those that irreparably pop on creation and those which lose air but can be fixed with some breath and attention. Since you asked…I’d sort out the viable ones (your painting, for one) and concentrate on those.

    My own goals this year…I came close on some, failed on others, and hit dead center on the rest. Not bad. I was more or less immune to the panic since I am fairly reclusive anyway. It wasn’t a distraction.

    Thanks for the great post to start the morning and the week off. There is SO much to be thankful for. Anyone who is able to read what you wrote has at least that blessing in their lives, and no doubt many others that they take for granted.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Claire. It sounds like that houseful of boys is lucky to have you.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. My primary goal for 2020 was to not be where I was when the year started—stressed to the max because I was behind on my deadline. I was going to have my next book finished a month before it was due so I could leisurely do a final edit on a cold manuscript.
    Instead Covid hit, freezing my brain for six months and once again I was behind on my deadline, vowing not to be there next time. We’ll see how THAT turns out in June.

  4. Goals in 2020: Balloons and a mixed bag. The virus and response to it with isolation has created a general sense of malaise. Closing down a practice of 40+ years was supposed to get me excited about time for new projects, yet there is a sadness of something good coming to an end. Writing goals have been pushed back as I deal with “fires to put out” with the business. Then, the opportunity to blog here at TKZ has fired up the excitement for writing again. I got out the bum glue (as you’ve called it) and put my seat back into the chair, getting back into my old routine.

    I plan to use the time off and the excitement of family at Thanksgiving to reignite the joy and determination to move forward.

    I hope you are able to capture those balloons and reinflate them. Have a joyous Thanksgiving!

  5. I can relate, Clare. I far exceeded some writing goals this year; hit a dead-end with others. With two books and a new book proposal complete (one released; one scheduled to release in 2021, and the proposal on submission), I’ve been concentrating on the nitty-gritty website/blog stuff that I put off for far too long. I started blogging long before I knew anything about SEO. Adding SEO to those old posts helps to increase website/blog traffic. I’m also rewriting my “sizzle” for all my books (thank you, Ruth Harris!), which is already impacting sales. None of it is work I enjoy, necessarily, but it feels great to check items off the to-do list.

    Wishing you and yours a nice Thanksgiving!

  6. Every year I tell myself to be logical and realistic in setting my goals, and every year I inflate them beyond possibility (but when you’re planning those goals in November & December of the previous year, EVERYTHING seems so doggone possible! LOL!)

    Your post struck a chord because my big problem is multiple interests. ALL of which require heavy time investments. Some interests I’ve just had to shelve for a while because they are literally impossible at the moment (mastering bluegrass banjo, for one), but still I rotate through three: writing, art, and fitness studies.

    In addition to all the ideas for historical novels, ideas for non-fic, I’m dying to start putting in the time investment into art that I have been putting in over the years on writing. In particular, I’m captivated by the moose and want to master the art of drawing and painting the majestic moose & then later, when I am a better artist, master drawing/painting Labrador Retrievers (among other projects). Plus it’s been a long time goal to help people maintain physical mobility for life, so I am slowly chipping away studying for that. To say these goals move exceedingly slowly is the understatement of the year.

    However, your post prompted me to check–I have written almost 55K words this year (well short of the stated goal of 216K). But still, a big deal for me. But that 55k is over 2-3 different projects. And all my books ideas require heavy research, particularly since one of my projects is in a time period I hadn’t studied before. So while I won’t hit my goals for 2020, I’m happy that I’ve made some progress, especially despite what 2020 has been like for all of us.

    BTW: Is it new to anybody besides me that in 1917 (at least in Arizona) the place where ladies went to have their hair done or facials was called a “Ladies’ Toilet Parlor”? When I first saw that, I was thinking “I don’t think I want to go to a toilet parlor.” LOL!

    • 55k is a huge deal! I definitely think this year made me realize that trying to hold onto so many balloons at once is probably crazy anyway but that won’t stop me setting some unrealistic goals for next year I’m sure! I guess I should be thankful that I have such wide interests…but then again…

      • We just need to be patient with ourselves in the multiple interests. What it all boils down to for me is that I end up cycling through those 3 main interests. But the advantage writing has over visual art is that with writing, you don’t have to “set up” for it like you would for painting or drawing. So I guess in the grand scheme of things, I’ll always have more time in on writing then I do art, but I will never give up the pursuit.

  7. I must be the over-inflated balloon, Clare, because 2020 has been the best writing year I’ve had – exceeding goals that I never set (if that makes any sense). I’m giving thanks to great health, wonderful friends, and a super family. My two kids, 30 & 32, put their day careers on hold and went back to university just when the bug hit, but they’ve continued online with no real issues. We’ve been cut off from the mainstream up here on “The Island” so the CV19 incidents have been sparse and well-controlled.

    On the good side, it forced me to stay in and write more which accounts for the production. But, I do really feel for those who have experienced the worst of this pandemic which I’m afraid is with us for some time yet. Happy Thanksgiving to you and those hungry male creatures and don’t neglect to inflate some floaters for 2021.

    • Garry – so glad you’ve been so productive this year! I will definitely be inflating some unrealistic balloons for the new year and don’t worry my hungry horde are being well looked after?

  8. Clare, I’m with you about over-inflated balloons. I retired at fifty eight after thirty-two years working for Oregon’s largest public library system last December, raring to go full time at last as a fiction writer. When I was hired in 1987 I told myself it would be just for a few years until I “made it” as a novelist. So, I was full of energy and grand plans. I’d published six novels from 2017 to 2019, and was working on two more when I retired on December 20th, 2019.

    Two months later the Covid-19 pandemic was engulfing the world. Less than a month later we were in personal lockdown here, and have remained in that ever since.

    My goal for this year had been to write the fifth and final book in my first urban fantasy series, two books in my second UF series, and begin my third UF series. A few weeks after lockdown commenced I developed a severely infected tooth (back lower rear molar) which was extremely painful and had to be extracted. Luckily, this qualified as emergency dental surgery here. While that was going on, I began reading mystery novels again at a furious rate.

    I’d wanted to write one forever, having always read mysteries, but had never felt ready. I’d had an idea for a library mystery for nearly as long. Suddenly it felt very relevant, as the library system I’d left a few months earlier was abruptly transformed by the pandemic.

    I did write and publish the fifth and final book in my first urban fantasy series, but, after trying to rewrite the 26K words I’d written on the next book in my second series, then blank drafting another start of 20K words, I decided it was time to go all in on the library mystery. That was at the end of August.

    Two weeks later, we were smothered by intense wildfire smoke here in Oregon (Unbelievably bad AQI levels, from 300 to 500 or more) which slowed me down, but I kept at it, brainstorming and outlining, and finally began the draft on November 1st. I’m at 20K this morning. Not nearly as fast as I’d like, but it’s the first time I’ve written a mystery novel (after writing a dozen books–the first five trunked).

    I’m also enjoying the heck out of it. The novel is set in 1988, and the humor (at least my attempts at it 😉 are keeping me smiling even as the bodies begin to pile up.

    Definitely planning new balloons for 2021, even as we continue to the play the long waiting game here, with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally starting to show. Thanksgiving will just be my wife and I, with our cat Mittens, for the first time in a very long time. Next year will be different–a new normal will set in. I look forward to all of us pursuing our new goals.

  9. Clare, balloons are a great analogy. They start out floating high then shrivel and sink…if they don’t pop in your face.

    Like Garry, I exceeded goals I hadn’t actually set. The third book in my thriller series, Eyes in the Sky, published in January; #4 Dead Man’s Bluff in June; #5 Crowded Hearts (novella) in September. I just sent #6 Flight to Forever out to beta readers and expect that will be ready for January 2021 release.

    Plus I wrote a number of articles, one of which won first place from a newspaper publishing association. Not a Pulitzer but still very nice.

    Balloons that shriveled were my goal of marketing/advertising, keeping up my personal blog, and scheduled book club appearances that were canceled. Now trying to revive book talks through Zoom. Marketing/advertising? Well, it’s still a goal that needs a LOT of heavy breathing.

    Gratitude? My cornucopia overflows. A wonderful husband; a close, supportive writing community; being a member of TKZ which resulted in connections and opportunities that I would never have had otherwise; and (here’s the lemonade squeezed out of COVID)–after the initial slump of depression, my muse became a busy little bee with lots of uninterrupted writing time.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    • Happy Thanksgiving to you too Debbie! -You’ve been mighty productive in my view! Good point about trying to squeeze some lemonade out of this year – I certainly need a reminder to do that as I get a bit sour some days:)

  10. The real world, with or without Covid, has a nasty habit of laughing at your goals and your life and laying waste to them. (Insert image of Pennywise and his red balloons here.) All we can do is figure out what is most important and keep moving in that direction. Most of the time, writing isn’t remotely in the that direction, and that’s okay.

    Currently, I’m the balloon, drifting with the wind, and I’m working hard to enjoy the journey and to give what little pleasure I can to those socially distanced around me. In that note, here’s a YouTube song for Hamish about how awesome it is to have his family at home all the time.

    There’s a cat video by the same singer called “Get Out of My Chair.” The link is below the video.

  11. 2020 has been an upper and a downer for me.

    I finished a MS (as in, I’m done with it, my editor has it for the final polish) and hope to release it next year. Finished another first draft, revising and editing now. And working on finishing a first draft of the second in the series of the first MS above. (Kind of a windy sentence…) I feel pretty good about the writing part of 2020. I’ve also attended online conferences, and connected with some craft/business mentors.

    Aside from the writerly goals, I’ve managed to meet and exceed a weight loss goal by incorporating intermittent fasting into my lifestyle. Basically, I fast for 22 hours every day and eat for 2. During that 2 hour eating window, I can eat whatever I want. No food taboos, no counting calories or carbs…just sensible portions. During the 22 hours, I can have black coffee (thank you, God!) and water. I’ve lost about 32 pounds, and I plan to eat this way for the rest of my life.

    But, 2020 has also brought a hard circumstance into my life. Someone very dear to me (as in immediate family dear) is awaiting a procedure in December which will reveal if she has cancer or not. As you all can imagine, at times I’m paralyzed over it, and at other times, I’m journaling my feelings.

    The waiting to know is harder than the knowing…

    But, I have much to be thankful for this season, and to that I cling. 🙂

  12. Clare, What a great metaphor: balloons as goals.

    The pandemic worked in my favor since the traveling we usually do (writers conferences, athletic competitions, family visits) didn’t happen. Staying home for the entire year was sort of a vacation for me, and I had more time to write.

    I do make an annual list of goals and post them on the back of the door to my office (aka guest room). I just checked my list, and I hit all the writing goals. (Maybe that’s because my goals were not as lofty as some.) Audio of my first novel was produced and released, got a Bookbub Featured Deal for the first book, exceeded sales target for the first book, published the second novel, started the third novel (thankfully, I didn’t put a word goal on that one).

    If there was a goal for gratitude, I would have far exceeded it. I am thankful every day for this wonderful new world of creating new worlds. And I am so grateful for the relationships formed in the writing community this year. The generosity and kindness of so many people I have never met in person are overwhelming. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  13. Bravo/Brava to everyone who’s meeting goals and dealing with challenges. Like Joe, my life has been one of semi-isolation for years, so very little has changed along those lines. But I confess I don’t set many goals anymore, other than wordcounts, especially since as an indie author, I don’t have many deadlines until I’m ready to deal with an editorial schedule. I published 2 books in 2020, and am 65K into the next one.
    I suppose I could consider “lose 5 pounds” as a goal, but since I’ve been setting that same one for the last 5+ years, it’s obvious I don’t take it seriously.

    What has interfered with this year, goals or no goals, is all the stress from covidiots, the election, and most importantly, because of those two factors, I’ve been unable to travel safely and my 94-year-old mother has been in the hands of caregivers through ER visits, hospital stays, and a stint in a rehab center. FaceTime (via her caregivers’ cell phones, since Mom refuses to use one), is the only viable option for visiting.
    Goals have to be realistic, and things you can control, and that’s where the real challenge comes.

    • Terry – you make a good point that goals have to be realistic and within our control – this year so much of the stress came from things beyond our control so we do need to be kinder to ourselves (even though I have spent many sleepless nights berating myself for all the things I haven’t done!)

  14. It feels I’ve barely scratched the surface of the goals I set myself for 2020. I dread my weekly accountability calls with a buddy. When I end up carrying the same task over from one week to the next to the next, it’s depressing. In years past, I’ve been able to motivate myself (even if that meant setting rewards for milestones).

    This year motivation was scarce on the ground. Rewards didn’t work because most of mine revolve around calling friends to meet for lunch. And we couldn’t do that in 2020 because several of us have ongoing health issues. I’m so looking forward to a new year and fresh creativity flowing through my life!

    • I’m definitely looking forward to a new year where we can find fresh motivation! I have a good friend who is my biggest cheerleader. She lives in England so even in normal times we usually meet via Skype but I am definitely planning on visiting her when life gets back to normal – I need to raise a glass to the support she’s shown for me and my writing.

  15. Still hanging in there, Clare, and trying to finish my latest Angela Richman mystery in January 2021. It’s been a tough year for writing. I’ve really had to fight apathy.

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