A Year of Lessons from ROW by Gene Lempp

After a year in ROW, much of it as a sponsor, I’ve had time to see what works and what doesn’t. What tends to generate struggle. What tends to generate success. Here are a few of keys I’ve learned.

The moment a goal is set, Resistance will try to defeat it. Suddenly, there are more demands on our time. Kids become clingy. The job wants more time and energy. The goal that seemed reachable now appears as easy as climbing the Matterhorn without a rope. Or maybe, we find ourselves making excuses as to why it can’t be attained – there is still research to do, I have to wait for x to happen, I have to do x and y and z or…you see the point. These things are Resistance and it is the number 1 enemy of every creative. And. It lives right inside your own mind. If you want to learn about this opponent and how to overcome it I’d recommend Steven Pressfields “The War of Art”. This is a short, powerful read that exposes Resistance and provides tools and strategies for dealing with it. I recommend nothing that I haven’t read and used myself.

Goals must be realistic to our individual lives. Never set goals based on what any other person is doing – sure it may sound great or make you think, “hey, why the heck am I not doing this”, but that is a sure way to overwhelm. Only you know your schedule and how much you are able to do. Only you know what your priorities are (you do know them, right?). Jobs, children, medical conditions, known travel plans and time commitments should all be considered in setting functional goals. The point is not to drive yourself to burn out trying to be a “super writer”, the point is to accomplish something that moves you toward your ultimate goals in a way that you will be proud of and satisfied by.

Adjust. Adjust. Adjust. I want to write 3000 words a day for the entire round. Okay, and by week two – 2600 words behind. Not a good feeling. There is no failure here, simply adjust. Four hundred words got done, so I bet 500 a day would work – because it’s not a goal if it’s a given, there has to be at least a bit of stretch.

The second adjust is when we are slamming away at a goal and life throws us an unavoidable curve ball that grabs time. Simply adjust to your new circumstances, but never stop and never let yourself be overwhelmed trying to keep up with a goal that doesn’t match with your new reality.

The third adjust is due to changing needs. I needed to complete x. It’s done. Now I need to do y next. Don’t wait, make the change without hesitation to be sure the momentum carries forward. I’ve watched quite a few people blaze their way to achieving a goal only to wander aimlessly afterward. Always stay in motion.

Layered Goals. Now I am going to share a technique I’ve used the past two rounds. My stated goals are not my “true” goals, they are my “minimum” goals. Here is what I mean and do in reality. Say I have a word count goal of 500 a day. That is a minimum. My real goal is going to be 750 words a day and my true goal, or stretch goal is going to be 1000 a day.

The minimum is what I can be satisfied with, the real goal is what I’d be happy with, and the true goal is what I’d be thrilled by. Now let’s try a harder example, I want to publish a novella this round. Too big. Split it up. “This week, I will do x”, say, do a final read through. Next week, I’ll put together the .epub version. Next week, .mobi. Then Smashwords. Then a double check. Or an edit. Or make a final cover choice. Etc. There is nothing that says the goal stated at the beginning of the round is set in stone. ROW is a dynamic system and its greatest power lies in flexibility. What do you need to do this week? State it, let us encourage you or offer useful advice or give assistance.

The final key. Community. ROW is a group of creatives traveling along a similar path to a similar destination. Imagine 100 people hiking a road together. No cell phones, no ear buds, no distractions – the way people traveled in ancient times. You’d talk to the people near you. You’d look across the crowd for others you knew. Or that were dressed in a similar style or that just looked interesting. You’d interconnect. And support. And be supported in return. If you really want to attain your goals and find the encouragement to make it through the struggles, then travel about the crowd, make friends, offer support, and encouragement and you’ll find that it will be paid back tenfold. It always has been for me.

All the best for your journey.

Gene Lempp

13 comments

    1. ROW has definitely helped me find focus and learn to be clear in both how I state my goals and the reasons I choose the goals to begin with. Not to mention all the fantastic friends I’ve met along the road🙂

    1. Great post, Gene. I like that we can back off and alter our goals, rather than flog ourselves about the head if we don’t quite reach some unattainable. It’s nice to admit we’re human. I am able to reach my goals, one step at a time.

    2. That is exactly what makes layering so effective – discouragement is the fast road to failure, but layering and being realistic about our ever-changing lives, we create a failsafe against this horrid force. Thanks🙂

  1. This post is perfect for a ROW newbie like me. Thanks, Gene. I especially appreciate the concept of layering my goals and your analogy of the kind of community this group can provide. I’ve been so focused on meeting my goals, that I’ve neglected supporting others as much as I’d like. Thanks for the reminder, and good luck with your goals this round!🙂

    1. Welcome to ROW, Jolyse! Think of ROW like being at a conference – getting out to schmooze or check in with a few people, known and not, is networking, a chance to learn new info, a chance to find opportunities you didn’t know were out there. But – the writing is always first – balance is the eternal key🙂

  2. Great post, Gene. I’m in my third round and can already see the reality of your observations in action. Thanks for sharing. Success!

  3. As usual from you, fabulous advice! I have noted several of these principles at work myself; however, the layered goals is something I hadn’t really tried with my writing. Thanks so much for the post!

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