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Low-Pressure Goals Allow Your Writing Future To Evolve
Written by
Alonna Shaw
August 2015
Written by
Alonna Shaw
August 2015

Set an imperfect goal as your first step.

A strange thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago after reading a short article online. Ever have the experience of reading a health article and thinking to yourself  “but I thought everyone was like this”? I came away understanding my experience of the world is somewhat different than the norm; more like a tuning fork for sound and emotions, and and a heightened noticing of the tiny bits of life. A handy tool when doing critique reads, hypersensitivity and perfectionism undermine launching my projects. My sensitivity level makes it difficult to ignore nuance. At the same time, the voice in my head wants to pursue bigger-picture goals before allowing the building-block steps.

Maybe I could lighten up about some things. We all aren't wired exactly the same. I assumed everybody was a tuning fork like me. We all have a unique personal puzzle that makes up who we are and creates our customized obstacles.

Then there’s life.


And, more life.

The more I engage with other writers, the more I realize many of us have a similar pattern. Those of us who share this pattern are unfocused creative artists who have hit a health or financial speed bump, but came out of it with a manuscript, paintings, or collection of poems. We needed this expressive outlet to keep our spirits up. After years of hardship, we are excited about our new hard-earned creative path. Then life hits again and throws us off course. Our writing screeches to a halt.

This rollercoaster of disruptions happened to me. Over a couple of decades, occasional screenplay critiquing turned into steady opportunities to critique novels. I immersed myself in layers of learning and working; then wrote my debut novel while going through a health speed bump. Yay! Health on the upswing, I rejoined the world, but relocating and buying a fixer-upper house killed my creative spirit and also my circadian rhythm. I stopped reading books and writing stories. During this time I read a blurb somewhere, advice to set a small writing goal about something you know—that’s not overwhelming. I made myself do this with a monthly blog post.

I’ve lived the multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and allergy-prone lifestyle for twenty years. Not exactly the topic I wanted to write about forever, but I could commit to once-a-month blog posts about my fragrance-free journey, which is a slice of this sensitive person’s world. The posts narrowly make my self-imposed deadline. I picked the last week of the month as the deadline. The first week seemed to add psychological pressure. So I was writing, whether I wanted to get in my own way or not.

Freedom comes from writing a low-pressure topic. I’ve found my public voice is changing and becoming more “me”—because I feel not many people are “watching” posts about fragrance-free living.

Watching shouldn’t be such a big deal for me emotionally, but my shy spark has never gone away. I’m an introvert despite having had a past filled with runway modeling, photographers, and acting in TV and film. My outer appearance is no longer that of a twenty-something ingénue. Some fans of my past work engage with my online presence, and while I deeply appreciate them, I have no idea how to merge my old life with my current self.

After reading that online health article and figuring out a personal puzzle piece, my disparate online voices merged in my head. Typically, I split them up. I blog mainly about fragrance-free living and inspiration. Facebook posts are on science and futurism. Tweets deal with health, entertainment, science, and writing. I realized the three outward-facing versions of me could come together. I’d write my next story using a combination of social science fiction, health, and travel.

Thanks to being near the sea, my circadian rhythm is returning. In three weeks, I’ve completed the first draft of my new story’s character and location bibles, and rough outlines of both the A and B storylines. Now the fun begins!

Here's what I learned: Set a goal even if it isn’t a perfect match for what you imagine your future to be. Consider this transitional pursuit as a solid step to place your foot on that will lead up the staircase, and out of your rut into new territory. Face your customized obstacle head on and allow yourself to set it aside—no need for it when taking this small step. We don’t have to cling to the past. Let your future evolve as you do.

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  • Alonna Shaw Writing

    Carol, write what you love--just think of the "research" involved--that you "must" do!

  • Carol Davis Luce

    Hmmm, interesting question. Maybe my next heroine will be a professional poker player (Texas Holdem in particular). That's one of my favorite games. 

  • Alonna Shaw Writing

    Carol, online resources can be used for good and for evil. (I'm being silly) But, yes! I get sucked into the online vortex too easily. Just when I think "I'll do a little research" there's another interesting bit of something! Seriously though, this monthly self-imposed commitment has provided exactly what I needed: some confidence thanks to the constraints of focused and limited blogging.

    Games! I haven't even tried them (yet!). Will your next heroine in the Night Books be a "game player"? ;)

  • Carol Davis Luce

    Very inspiring post. I can so relate. Goals are important. Without a writing goal, I'd spend my days surfing the web and playing computer games. :) 

  • Alonna Shaw Writing

    Thanks so much, Mardith!

  • Mardith Louisell

    Great post.