The problem with goals, even though I love them, is I tend to see them as “have to’s” rather than “want to’s,” even when the goal comes from my deepest self.
When I didn’t succeed at my goal of winning NaNo last month, I had a really hard time with it. I had a good reason not to get my 50,000 words done (read my blog post about it here) but I still had to deal with that little voice in my head that told me my “reason” was just another word for “excuse.”
I think I’ve come by this way of thinking honestly, as a part of my medical training, but I don’t think it serves me any longer.
When I was a third year medical student, I was doing my pediatrics rotation at a big hospital. My team was rounding on our patients at a certain time and my intern (who was my supervisor) told me to get all the x-ray films for all the patients we would be seeing that day.
I went down to x-ray to sign out the films and was told that the x-ray machines were down and no films could be developed (This was before the days of digital images.) The technician I spoke to said she had no idea when x-rays would be available.
I arrived at rounds at the appointed time and my intern asked if I’d gotten the films. I explained the problem and that no x-ray films were available.
“So, you didn’t complete your task, did you?” he asked.
“No,” I answered, “I didn’t.”
No excuses were acceptable. I learned that lesson many times during medical school and I stopped making excuses, even when the excuses were things like “I have a fever of 103,” or “I just had a baby 10 days ago.”
So, when I didn’t complete my NaNo goal, I had to do a lot of self-coaching to feel okay with the fact that I didn’t achieve my goal—even though it was a conscious decision not to finish—one I made over and over as the end of November loomed. I could have pulled a couple of all-nighters on the last weekend of November but I chose not to—and then I beat myself up about it.
My friend Julie just decided to do NaNo in January. Why didn’t I think of that?
I was too busy thinking negative thoughts about my lack of achievement to come up with something as creative as changing the month I did NaNo in.
Negative thoughts = stressful thoughts = narrow focus = lack of creativity (among other things.)
Right now, the best way I know how to be creative is to continue to examine my thoughts and decide which ones are true and which ones are just unquestioned.
Once I clean up my thinking, I can get back to my real work, which is writing.
Are negative thoughts interfering with your writing? Can you let them go?
Diane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I didn’t succeed at my NaNo goal, but now that it’s occurred to me, I think I’ll try again in January! In the meantime, I’m still plugging away at my novel. And blogging, of course!