I have been working on a book that is much harder than I thought it would be. For some reason I thought it would be a quick diversion, something of a palate cleanser between harder and more involved projects. It is not really turning out that way though.
And I think one of the problems I am having is that I don’t really know what I am trying to accomplish with the book. Or even if I do know, I forget or get confused while I am actually working on it. I’m in the editing stage at the moment, which is usually the stage that takes me the longest, when I try to corral my rough ideas into shape. In this case, I am struggling because I guess to some extent I didn’t really think the book through, and while I am editing I feel like I am constantly fighting something, but I just didn’t know what.
And then it hit me. I couldn’t figure out what the goal was. I think each book or painting or piece of art you work on has a goal. Or rather you have a goal for it. It could be simple - I want to tell this story. Or it could be a grand ambition - I want to win a prestigious award. Or it could be altruistic - I want to help people lose weight, or get a better job, or become happy. You could have multiple goals. Knowing what your goal is makes it easier, you have something you are aiming to, something to work towards.
I am struggling because I didn’t explicitly name this goal. And therefore I defaulted to my usual goal - which is to have a perfect book. And that never works out well of course, because nothing is perfect. This book is a follow-up to one of my previous books, which I wrote with the goal of just putting down everything I learned about study skills, in the hope it would help someone. I approached it with a sense of play and fun, and that is most probably why its my most easy-to-read, accessible, relatable book.
And yet for this book, I complicated it. I was trying to write it quickly. And perfectly. I was trying to do a good job. Instead of trying to simply write a book that hopefully helps those who read it. That hopefully creates some sort of value. And a book that I enjoy writing.
So far, I have to admit, I haven’t really enjoyed writing this book. But I think that’s not really the fault of the book or the subject, but the way I was approaching it. With an impossible tight deadline. With a lot of expectation and stress.
I hope to change all that, now that I realized this. I am planning to write down what my goal for the book is, and to keep it where I can look at it every day till I finish - reminding me that all I want to do is write something that is helpful. The book has already helped me, even though that hadn’t been my intention. I do think it can help others too, but I have to lighten up a bit. Not take myself and it so seriously.
I really think, regardless of what your goal is for a given project or creative endeavor, it will help to clarify it for yourself. In words. Be clear what you’re trying to do, because its far more likely that you will achieve it. And you never know, you might be surprised when you clarify what you were trying to do for yourself, that you were actually going in a completely different direction. Fortunately, it is never too late to turn around, to start afresh or just to tweak your approach. Being creative means being flexible. That’s something I am learning all the time, whether I want to or not.