As the last quarter of the year approaches, I’ve been thinking about goals; how far I’ve come vs. where I’d hoped to be. . . I have a complicated relationship with goals. The thing is, I’ve never been particularly goal oriented. Whenever I’m asked that question in a job interview, where do you see yourself in five years?, I usually give a bullsh*t answer because I never, ever know.
I do better with the small things. I’m great at making lists of small, short range tasks and crossing them off one-by-one. No problem. It’s the bigger picture things that trip me up. (Why, oh why, couldn’t it be the other way around?)
So I set goals with a bit of trepidation, especially goals that I can’t reach within 12-24 hours, any longer than that and I get all squeamish and squirmy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to think about the possibilities of where my reading adventure will take me, discovering new books and authors, becoming more adept at thinking and writing about what I’ve read. That’s what propels me to set goals and to make lists. But sometimes I feel like it also sets me up for disappointment. I inevitably overshoot.
I look at my Books Read list and I think, “That’s it? 28 books. That’s all I’ve read?” I can’t help but feel a little let down by that number, even though I tell myself all the time that it’s not about numbers. I tell myself that I don’t want to rush through the books on my list without giving them the time and thought that they demand, but at the same time I want to be further along. I want to understand Nabokov’s linguistic tricks, the philosophy in Dostoevsky, the realism of Henry James, the complex characterizations of Balzac. I want to have seen Willa Cather’s American frontier and experienced the adventures of Alexandre Dumas. I know all of that takes time, but . . . .
I get impatient. I start to worry that my life is going to take some complicating turn and that I’ll have to abandon my literary quest for something else. I get reader’s panic.
Now before I turn all “pitty-pat” as my mother says (don’t ask), I have also surprised myself so far this year. Though my list is shorter than I hoped it would be by this point, it’s comprised almost entirely of classic books. I am proud of that. I’m still plugging along through Leaves of Grass, with no doubt that I’ll be able to finish it by the end of the year. I’m proud of that too.
Considering I’m not all that goal oriented and that stick-to-itiveness is not my best feature, I’m pretty darn amazed I’m still churning out posts on this blog. Every Book and Cranny has evolved over the last three quarters of the year, even though it’s still not quite what I would like for it to be. I *think* my writing and my depth of thought about the books I’ve read has improved some too, even though those aren’t where I’d like them to be either.
I do remember that this is a process (perhaps I should remind myself more often). And it’s a process that is better than the alternative – abandonment. At this point I can’t imagine that. The books that I have experienced have meant so much to me. It’s difficult to explain. I often come across posts from bloggers who talk about how much their reading has meant to them. They talk about how books have soothed their souls, made them more complete, more alive, more fully who they are. What does that mean? It all sounds so illusive, doesn’t it? Yet, there’s no easy way to explain how books can wriggle their way into our lives and become something we can’t live without.
But that’s exactly how I feel too.
It would be easier to just put a book back on the shelf and cross it off a list, but would it be as fulfilling? Writing, as I’ve learned (at least for me), is hard work. It’s a process that baffles, confounds, and frustrates me. But even when the results are less than stellar, I feel better off for having put myself through the process. And it gets a teensy weensy bit easier each time I do it.
So, saying “damn it all” to overshooting and fear of disappointment, here are some writing goals I’d like to work on over the remaining months of this year:
1. Interject more personality into my blog : I’ve found that this lends a greater degree of readability to posts, when a writer has a distinctive voice that consistently comes through. I’ve started to explore this with some of my more recent posts, but I’d like to maintain a more personal, conversational style.
I’m Nicki, by the way. Nice to meet you. There’s step one. :) I’ve realized that since my picture is on this blog, it’s a bit silly not to reveal my first name!
2. Post more than my final thoughts about a book : Including things like background information on the book/author as well as the cultural and historical context. A good example is a post that I saw today on Aesop to Oz, where she posted pictures of fashion, homes, maps, and historic events to provide context for reading Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Those are the kind of things that can really help breathe life into a story and an author.
3. Post more often : This could be a toughie. I don’t know what it’s like for the rest of you, but blogging takes me forEVER. I tell myself it’s about quality and not quantity but I often have lots of post ideas rolling around in my head that never actually get published for no other reason than not sitting down to do it. Maybe with more practice, it will take less time. It’s all about practice. Practice, practice, practice.
I’m sure I’ll think of more. That’s what I do. That’s what this is about, isn’t it? Reading, writing, learning, and getting better.
ooh, I already thought of another one -
4. Promote more discussion : How do you feel about setting goals?
To continue with my “Quarterly Retrospective,” over the last week of September I’ll be posting a series of three ”Summer of . . .” posts. It seems that I’ve been consumed by a few things over the past few months. Here’s a preview of the topics . . .
-Summer of My Scandalous Novel
-Summer of My Dorie Greenspan : a cookbook review
-Summer of My Ingmar Bergman (my summer in films)