December 21st, 2011

Writing and Hershey Kisses

by Laura Drake

Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m riding my bicycle.  I had an epiphany during a gorgeous Southern California ride yesterday.  Several pieces fell in place at once; a major “Aha” moment.

I love it when that happens!

Piece 1:

For anyone who is not familiar with Maslow, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

In the 1930’s Abraham Maslow put forward his “Hierarchy of Needs” concept to explain behavior. His theory was that you strive to move toward the top of the list you see to the left. You can’t move up the ladder until the lower need is met, as anyone who’s been on the lowest rung can attest to (been there, Ain’t going back.)

Piece 2:

My husband and I were watching one of those obnoxious “Weight Loss Breakthrough” ads on TV the other day. He didn’t understand why people couldn’t lose weight and keep it off (he has more drive than most – he lost 50 lbs 5 years ago.) I’m a Weight Watchers member, and the talk this week was about creating goals to achieve weight loss.

Okay, stay with me here, because my theory works for anything you want to achieve, not just weight loss.

Goal-setting advice tells you to break a large goal into small steps and you’ll finally get to your ultimate goal/need.  That’s great.  On paper.

But what if your goal is majorly BIG — like writing a novel?

You picture your ultimate goal – let’s say it’s standing on stage, holding up a RITA. The spotlights are flashing off your sequined ball gown.  All your friends are there, cheering you on. You get the picture.

Okay, you set smaller goals, but ultimately your focus is on that stage, and your acceptance speech.  Next to that, the smaller goals just aren’t doing it for you.  Yeah, you’re making progress, but all those little steps only remind you of how far you have to go. Makes your feet hurt, just looking at them.

I think this is why we fail.  After awhile, you just burn out.  The effort just doesn’t seem worth it, so you move on to the next thing you want.  But there are two problems with that:

  • First, the goal you’ve abandoned is the one you wanted most, or it wouldn’t have been first, right?
  • Secondly, in spite of excuses you make, deep down, you know you’ve failed, and it hurts.  You feel guilty, which lowers your self-esteem and makes the next goal harder to achieve, because you don’t really trust yourself to do it. After all, you let yourself down before, right?

You’re moving down Maslow’s pyramid!

So what do you do?

Back to my bike analogy. One of my goals is to get stronger on the bike.  I’m on a ride, working hard, pushing through sweat and pain.

Suddenly, I’m distracted by a mockingbird’s song.  I notice that the temperature is perfect.  The rolling hills have changed since I was last on this route; tawny grass stretches away forever.

I’m so absorbed by the joy of being alive and being out in nature that I don’t even realize I’ve toiled up a major hill – it didn’t hurt at all!

That’s the Hershey Kiss part.  Is it the high you’ll get, accepting your RITA?  Not even close.

But it’s a Hershey Kiss – a moment’s sweetness on the tongue.  Okay, I’m mixing metaphors, but– it’s about focus.  You need to take the time to revel in the small goals.  Wallow in them.

Just ask an actor with an Oscar on their mantel — they’ll tell you the evening was great, but what mattered to them was the journey, getting there.

Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

The Hershey Kisses are the joy of life!  Savor them; I wish you many.

What gives you YOUR Hershey’s kisses? Are there people or activities that help you keep going on this writing journey, especially on those days when you really want to quit?

No comments yet to Writing and Hershey Kisses

  • What a good post, and what a good analogy–made me think. My husband’s one of those 50-pounders, too, and I’m with you in Weight Watchers. I didn’t like this week’s meeting much because I already felt as though I was working hard and now it sounds like not hard enough!

  • I loved your post today. Our leader in LA-CFW gives kisses to any member who has had good news or achieved some goal since the last meeting. I plan to talk about your blog at our next meeting. ;o)

  • I feel as if I’m stalking you this morning, Laura. I just posted a “what Laura said” on another blog.

    I recently had a similar epiphany. It happened ten minutes after I read a Kristen Lamb post about editing killing our creativity (wherein she made a compelling case for first drafts). I stood in the foyer decorating one of our trees. I’ve named the trees this year. One for each of Santa’s reindeer. While I wandered around the tree searching for “JUST the right spot” for a gold ornament, Dog One whined from the study-turned-ACL-recovery-zone. Dog Two barked and whined from her separate gated community. I remained intent on creating a picture-perfect tree, thinking about “themes” for seven small trees. It was NOT a holly-jolly deck-the-halls moment.

    That’s when it hit me. I will tweak (edit) this tree every time I walk past it. My creativity (augmented by the plethora of ornaments and ribbons and my nifty bow-maker) will kick in IF I PERMIT MYSELF TO LET GO OF THIS SELF-EDITING on every aspect of life and home and writing.

    That’s when I decided to LIVE LIFE IN FIRST DRAFT MODE*. Enjoy the journey. Pet the dogs. Tweak and edit and plan themes on-the-fly.

    My apologies for the long response, Laura, but your brain is zinging my brain’s buttons today.

    *Article title for future blog.

    • Oh, no, Gloria, thanks so much for the long post! I just love epiphanies! Can’t get enough of them! I’m so excited for you – this is going to make such a difference, not only in your writing, but your mental health.

      Please stop back in a week or so, and let me know how it’s going for you!

  • Laura, you have a twin in my actual world. I have designated you her twin in my cyber space world because you both seem to “know” me and (1) like me anyway and (2) never fail to encourage me to be better than I think I am. She is H … my kindred spirit, friend, best reader, work out coach and all around “kick me in the pants” type of great gal. Forget for a moment if you will that riding is a passion I have loved (and miss at this moment in my life) or that I get those moments when I let my higher power take me to another place … even forget that I had a wonderful ah-ha moment only last week that untangled the threads of my new mystery.

    This is what H thinks of how you negotiate Maslow or the upward, seemingly, never-ending quest for excellence. “Stop planning a year from now and do what you have to do today.” Her theory, and a sound one, is that when we give too much attention to the goal (the RITA) we don’t have to bother with what accomplishes that goal. We can live the fantasy and never know the reality of how each single day, each page of a book, each work-out, or each lost pound, is the real joy of life, and becomes lost because we’re having so much fun “pretending.”

    Thanks for you support and inspiration and most of all for that occassional “kick in the pants.” I did send the PRO app, I did get the query ready for January and I started a new book. I’d like to believe that you and H are two of the reasons I no longer lose today in daydreams about a possible tomorrow. Living in the now this year I have done more and accomplished more than I had ever dared to dream before and like a reformed drunk … I can do it one day, one workout, one pound and one page at a time 🙂 Happy Holidays biker gal … keep rolling!

    • Oh Florence, I’d love your friend, “H” –
      “Stop planning a year from now and do what you have to do today.”

      That’s my new mantra!

      Happy Holidays to you too, New York – and here’s to a happy, healthy and amazing writerly 2012!

  • Laura, how true. When we’re busy enjoying the route we’ve taken to reach our goal, it doesn’t seem like work at all. But when every step is a chore, we’re more likely quit before we get too far along that path. This is such a timely post. I’m currently writing up my 2012 goals and I will now include some Hershey Kisses for inspiration and encouragement. Thank you for a wonderful post! All the best to you and yours through the holidays and into 2012!

  • What a lovely reminder that we should wallow in the now of our success of today! I love that. I’m happy that I wrote part of my book then I’m happy that I wrote the next portion until I’m thrilled to death that I completed it. But, I feel good along the way. Loved this post.
    Thank you.
    Patti

  • Happy Holidays, Patti (love your blog, by the way)

    Lots of Hershey Kisses to you!

  • You know that sometimes, when it comes to my own life, I can’t see the forest for the trees so it’s good that I have you to remind me with posts like this. Thanks, my friend!

  • Kathleen Harrington

    Laura, I know exactly what you meant by the “aha moment” for your story coming when you’re biking. For me it comes when I’m walking or gardening. Two things I love to do. I think your brain is high on happiness, or adrenalin, or —- the scientists could probably explain it. Whatever the cause, it’s amazing how ideas seem to flow when we’re happy and content.

  • […] Drake over at WITS recently posted about Writing and Hershey Kisses, my two favorite […]

  • Boy did I needed this one Laura. I tend to give up way too easily. My New Years resolution is to get off my tush and submit my book! It’s done for cryin’ out loud.

  • I love this post, and the Hershey’s Kisses moments. And I especially love “ramblingsfromtheleft” comments. Thank you both!

  • Thank you for your post. I have been looking at the end of the goal and not realizing I have accomplished so much so far. I also want to thank Forence for her words, “Stop planning a year from now and do what you have to do today.” I will read these words over and over. I will be passing this on to friends and family to read. I think we all needed this. Thanks again and have a very happy Merry Christmas.

  • Great post! I always pace my goals in small bites, like completing a plot outline, finishing a first draft and on until the novel is finished. I also celebrate smaller goals like completing and submitting a short story. This way I always feel like I’ve accomplished something.

  • What keeps me writing is my 19 year old daughter. She asks me every day how much I’ve written, cause I read to her at night what I wrote that day. Helps with the flow, and in picking up mistakes, repetitive words, etc. Since I know she’ll ask me when am I going to read to her, it keeps me writing.

  • What a great way to look at things. It’s much easier to walk up a small hill than face climbing a mountain everyday. Thanks for giving me a fresh perspective with which to start the new year.

    • Ally – go now, and start jotting – not the huge goals – just the signposts along the way.
      And next to it, put a Hershey Kiss — nothing big, just a reward, for reaching that goal. Say a spa treatment, or going to get your nails done….It’ll keep you moving!

      • Laura–what a great post. Timely too. We’re all out there – submitting and boy, it gets tough. Gotta dig deep to keep going. I like envisioning wearing a sequence outfit and accepting the Rita! But the smaller ones–and the achievement of those keep us going, too. This makes me look forward to working on goals! Thanks Laura!

        • Marian — I think as long as you don’t get fixated on the RITA (something I struggle with, I’ll admit) you can enjoy the Kisses. It’s all about focus, right?

          Focus, Laura, Focus.

          MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  • So good! I like this idea. Often, there are times when we work so hard, we don’t realize that our toiling don’t matter if we don’t enjoy life’s simple pleasures we get to experience along the way. 🙂 Definitely worth sharing.

  • […] Emlyn Chand shares 10 things she wished she had known before writing her first novel; Rachelle Gardner explains how obstacles are really a way to know if you truly want something; and Laura Drake explores why we fail to attain our goals. […]

  • […] Drake encourages writers to savor the moment and break large goals (like your novel) down into small, manageable […]

  • […] critique buddy, Laura Drake, did a post on celebrating the process just last week called Writing and Hershey’s Kisses. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re having the holiday/New Year’s writing […]

  • Elaine

    Very good read Laura and at very good time. I love the way you make things clear in your aha moments and share them. Never have made new year’s resolutions so this might be a first for me. hugs.

  • Amen! I do get freaked out by the enormity of my over all goals sometimes. Thinking of it in the little steps helps but it’s hard to be patient. Thanks for reminding us to savor the moment and little triumphs.

  • […] journey to that mini-finish line can be broken down into mini-mini-finish lines (scenes and pages), each one a success to celebrate once it’s reached. All of those mini-finish lines and mini-mini-finish lines kinda get me […]