What Makes Us Tick? And Why Does It Matter? by Shan Jeniah Burton

It seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? Maybe even a little pointless?   

Or maybe not. 

ROW80 is, after all, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. And the thing about lives is that no two look just the same. That’s exactly what makes the act of setting personalized goals so empowering. Each of us can decide what we want to accomplish, based on our own vision, our own reality, and our own nature. We can have one goal, or many. We can have goals that, on the surface, have nothing to do with writing. Our goals can be short term, or take an extraordinarily long view, or anywhere in between.

It’s all up to us – each of us. Every time we check in, we have the chance to evaluate those goals, and to decide if they still work for us, if they fit with our vision, our reality, and our nature.

And that’s why knowing how we tick matters.

Take me, for instance. I’ve got a wide-angle mind; I do better with a sweeping variety of projects I can flit between. I’m OK with things taking longer than they would if I did doing one thing at a time. Every thing I’m engaged with feeds others in a symbiotic relationship, forming new connections encouraging plot tribbles and new projects. 

That might be torture to those of you who have laser-focus minds, or just like a more minimalistic, tidy approach that allows you to see big gains, fairly quickly, in return for your effort.

Lots of projects keep me energized, like carrots that luring me to say, “Good enough; let’s get on with other things now,” rather than, “It’ll never ever be good enough, so why do I even bother?”

That’s just part of the way I tick.

Like many of you, I’m a parent, in addition to being a writer. That, of course, puts wrinkles in my plans and my life that wouldn’t be there if I didn’t live with children. Having a spouse and a house adds others, and so do the companion animals who share our lives.

We homeschool, so while we aren’t tied to school schedules, I have paperwork to contend with several times a year. I spend most of my waking hours in close proximity to my kids. I might need to interrupt my writing anytime, because I’m their mom, and that’s part of my job.

For me, with this parenting and educational reality, my many diverse goals mean that there’s always something I can be doing to move me closer to my long-range vision. Shorter, easily stopped, less focus-intensive projects when the kids might need me, or I’ve got things to do or places to go, and longer, more challenging goals for when they’re doing their own thing, and I’m free to devote a stretch of time to my own.

For those who aren’t parents with children at home, or who have older or younger kids, or who pursue other educational paths, there might be a definite schedule that brackets when you can write, and what type of writing projects you can manage. One thing at a time might work best, in those situations, or just a few things that can be cleared from the to-do list fairly quickly.

With many goals, I can adapt to the changeable and free-flowing nature of my life. I need that, to keep ticking along.

Many of my fellow ROWers combine work and writing. I can decide when to write, and for how long, and I don’t have a schedule as much as I do a certain rhythm to my days. When they were little, writing was hit-or-miss, and it may be again, when we enter the ‘old enough to have a job, but not old enough to get a license phase’ next year. 

I’ll need to adapt, then – and that’s part of keeping my writing ticking along, too – the knowledge that life is change.

Each of our lives has a list of particulars far more complex than I’ve touched upon here. No one else can tell you what will make you more or less likely to achieve your goals, or what goals will suit you best, or even how to define whether you’ve succeeded at them. All of these things will depend on your unique situation. If what you’re trying to achieve, and the way you choose to pursue it, matches the way you tick, you’ll be free to focus on your goals, rather than struggling to fight your life or your nature.

So, what makes you tick? How do you like to write, and how does that fit with the rest of your life? How does your mind approach goals and challenges? Learning in general? If you haven’t given it much thought, adding that to your goals might do wonders for your progress, this round and beyond.

~*~

Shan Jeniah Burton

One comment

  1. Knowing and adjusting to the seasons of our lives is so important. You have definitely done that. I am at a phase now when I can devote more time to writing, but many times find other interests, concerns interrupt that6. But I try to write every day. Great post!

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