Writing Reality Check

turtle photo (1)A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post on The Huffington Post that helped me take a step back from my To-Do List (you all know how much I love my to-do lists!) and take a deep breath.

My priorities right now are family (which includes my health and wellbeing as well as my family’s), then coaching, then writing. This is intentional—it’s exactly the way I want it to be.

I continue to work on my writing every day. But the steps I take are sometimes very small–what Martha Beck calls turtle steps. I’ve written about this before but it’s come up again because of this article and my realization (again!) that I’m not going to write 100,000 words this year.

If I write a sentence or a paragraph, I’m happy. I think about writing a lot, and I really enjoy the time I get to sit and write—whether I’m a quiet library as I am now, or I’m in the waiting area of my son’s karate studio.

It’s too soon to say the writing goals I set for myself just last month are unrealistic—you never know what will change—but I’m recalibrating my goals for right now.

So I can continue writing and, more importantly, so I can feel good throughout my day, whether I’m writing or cooking, creating a new worksheet for my clients or going for a run.

Goals turn dreams into reality by putting a due date on them, but I don’t want to sacrifice being present for all the moments of my life in order to achieve one goal, no matter how important.

Slowly but surely I’ll accomplish my writing goals, while feeling good and living my life.

That thought definitely allows me to take a long, deep breath.

How about you?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, family physician, mom, grandmother, and stepmother. I’m feeling overextended this winter but also focused on some small goals that will hopefully lead to bigger goals later in the year.

28 thoughts on “Writing Reality Check

  1. I spend most of my waking hours with my 11 month old son. I think a lot about penning down my thoughts but when I have a chance to sit down, collect my thoughts and type away on my computer, I thrive and find release of pent up thoughts. As you mentioned, I want to be present for all the precious ‘moments’ of life and still yearn for times of solitude when I can dream, think and write.

    • Hi longstoryshort,
      I agree, I have a yearning to write even when I’m in the midst of life’s activity, but I have also cultivated the perspective that there will be time to write–one day, when my son is grown, I’ll have plenty of time to write. Right now he’s still small and I have other family responsibilities, so I write in smaller “bites” as I wait in car pool line or for an hour after he’s asleep and the kitchen is clean and ready for the next day.

      Also, writing this post helped me clarify another way to get my writing goals accomplished: on the 5th week of the month (if there is one) I’m going to give myself a “writing retreat day” at my desk in my home office. Instead of working on my business or anything else, I’m going to schedule the time to write while my son is at school–when I’m awake and full of energy!

      Turtle steps, longstoryshort: they may be small, but they are also progress.

      Happy writing!


  2. Due dates. Something I have, for the most part, left behind. I still get the mortgage and power bill paid but creativity is difficult to fit into rigidly defined slots. What’s left of my brain will just not work that way. It used to. Years of others depending upon and expecting marks to be hit. Required in the career I chose. But now “work” just happens. No schedule and no due dates. I get it done because I want to. Those bits and pieces of stories bubbling about between my ears make their way into my keyboard eventually. Sometimes I even surprise myself and slide back amazed at the word count. Insert deep breath here.

    • Hi Mike Fuller Author,
      Your process sounds wonderful. I can breathe deeper just reading it. When I do have a block of time, no matter how small, if I have the attitude of “let’s just see what happens,” when I start, I seem to get more done.

      Thanks for sharing and happy writing!


  3. Great post Diane and a timely one for me as sometimes I set unrealistic expectations on myself, and not just with writing. And you’re right, we still need to be present and not sacrifice too much of what’s around us in order to achieve one goal that may not be as important. It’s about balance.

    • Hi Miriam,
      Thanks! I’m glad you found the post helpful. Some days balance means 15 minutes of writing, other days it’s none. But those days are rare, now that I’ve reduced my expectations. I used to thing I needed a whole day to write, which of course never happened. Balance and small forward progress. It’s all good!

      Happy writing!


  4. I exhausted myself with CERTAIN MEASURE over 5 years fitting 2 hrs a day in whatever around a job in London and 3 hrs commuting. What was interesting was that I did 2 hrs on Sat and 2 on Sunday too – but I nearly always made more progress during the week.

    • Hey simonjkyte,
      That is interesting! Martha Beck, my mentor and teacher, set a goal of writing 15 minutes a day on her first book, a memoir. She had three small children at the time and the book got written. I’m trying to do the same thing now. I like to think I’d get a ton written with a whole day, but I think I’d find, like you, that I make more progress with more limited time.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Happy writing!


  5. It’s hard to find a balance that honours one’s quality of life too. Rather than set unattainable – and therefore stressful down the line – goals, I’m still working on understanding how much writing I can reasonably put in, considering my present circumstances, job commitments, driving time, studying time etc. I refuse to put it in numbers until it feels right.

    • Hi Bea dM,
      That sounds like a sensible way to figure things out. I tend to set the goal, then start to stress. Luckily, I’ve learned to reassess before I torture myself too much!

      Good luck figuring out what feels right for you!


  6. Oddly enough, it’s when I’m working that things start coming to me. I’m not always able to stop and jot the things down, so I try to hold onto them as long as possible.
    On another note, I’m just starting to get back into writing. It is what I really feel passionate about, but the confidence to do it is the hard thing. I’m trying to get into a pattern of reading and writing every day, but it’s hard. So far, so good though, I did write two posts this week and a synopsis for a fan-fic piece. So, yay!

    • Hi badgamer83,
      I get my best ideas when I’m in the shower or when I’m running outside. Since I carry my phone, I can record notes as I run (Siri is very cooperative that way!) but when I’m in the shower, I try to repeat the thought in the hope that I’ll remember it. It doesn’t always work. I’m reading a book right now called Creative Confidence, and one of the tips in it is to have a white board marker in the shower so you can write down notes (if you happen to be in a glass-enclosed shower stall, as I usually am.) Come to think of it, that might be a good book for you to pick up. I’ve found it inspiring.

      Congratulations on getting two posts done in one week, plus a synopsis. Sounds like you are gaining confidence, one piece of writing at a time.

      Happy writing!


  7. It’s always good to keep your priorities in order. Re-calibrating – perfect use of the word. I tend to think when I re-calibrate that I’m being lazy and trying to find excuses not to write. Recognizing what is important at the time is honorable.

    • Hi Marjorie Witt,
      Thank you for your kind comments. I agree, recalibration and all that implies feels a lot better than calling myself lazy. That would only lead to feeling like a failure, which does not inspire action in me! I’m still moving forward, slowly but surely. Hope you are, too.

      Happy writing!


  8. Great post.

    Of course there’s the story of Lydia Sigourney, (1791-1865) otherwise known as the “Sweet Singer of Hartford” who if I remember the story right supposedly wrote poetry in between balancing baby in one arm and cooking the supper stew over a wood stove with the other! Whoa!

    While I’m greatly impressed by that muti-tasker, I’m more with you Diane.

    I find the time to write and do what I can, but I will stop, and with my wife watch a couple of wonderful thirty minute Japanese shows on restaurants in Japan which gives us both a wonderful chance to laugh and enjoy an evening together and then off for a good night’s sleep.

    Tomorrow the ol turtle can swim a bit more in that endless sea of words.

    • Hi Paula,
      I, too, admire people who can multi-task like that but that ain’t me. 🙂 When I worked as a life coach and a physician I called my days “medicine days” or “coaching days.” I didn’t do anything other than medicine on a medicine day, and I didn’t do anything other than coaching on a coaching day. Now I’ve learned to break up the time a little more, but I still focus on one thing at a time. I get more done that way and feel good doing it.

      Happy turtle steps and happy writing!


  9. Amazed, again, at the timeliness of a post. I recently decided to be a turtle, albeit in a different area of my life. I, too, realized that my family needed to be moved way up on my priority list. I have been absent from my life for far too long. It’s weird how it seems to creep up on you until you have this explosive realization that something has to change. Thank you for a wonderful post!

  10. Hi JustMe,
    You are welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I had a similar realization, except I noticed that I kept choosing my family over my writing so I decided to honor that instead of continue to wonder why I wasn’t getting more writing done. Thanks for commenting and happy writing!


  11. Pingback: Goals and Accomplishments 2016 | Live to Write – Write to Live

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