Tuesday, 1 May 2012

If you want to plan a route you need a map

There seem to be very few areas of modern life that remain untouched by goal-setting.

It is with some fondness that I remember the displeasure of the lawyers in one of my first workplaces, when told they had to attend a “love-in” to set organisational and personal goals.  They were suffering the indignity of professionals who feel like they’ve been accused of not knowing what they're doing, and they were acting like a bunch of petulant teenagers.  It would have been cute if they hadn't wasted so much billable time bitching about it.

How things have changed.  These days almost everyone in an office job is compelled to participate in annual performance planning cycles, and while it can be regarded as time-wasting corporate arse-clownery, few now feel that the process calls their expertise into question.  There are also a lot of executives whose mentors attend to personal as well as professional matters.  It’s possible, and acceptable, to set very structured objectives for pretty much anything in your life.

I bring this up because I think the blog has been somewhat adrift over the past week or so, and my problem has to do with planning.

The more attentive among you may have noticed my posting pace has dropped.  I started out with the goal of posting to the blog every second day or so.  That went fairly well for as long as I could find things I wanted to write about.  Then it started getting harder to begin, and when I did begin it took me longer to draft, and I thought the quality was getting variable.  At about that point I became guilty about spending the evening in front of the computer instead of with the family.  Who’s in charge here, anyway?  Who says I have to write a post every second day?  So the last week or two has been light on posting while I worked through all of that.

This morning I got up early to take my youngest minion to school.  His class was going on an all-day bus excursion to Queenscliff, and they needed to leave at 7.30.  The bus arrived with the destination displayed as follows: 

Really, truly, not photo-shopped!
Talk about a bolt from the blue!  I couldn't invent a better metaphor for what was preoccupying me!

I realised my problem was that I’d forgotten where I was going - indeed, why I was blogging.  My goal had become meeting a deadline instead of a producing a good read.  That might be acceptable if writing is your job but, when you're writing in your own time, that makes no sense.

Incidentally, I had planned to be a journalist, a writing profession dominated by deadlines.  Straight after high school I began a journalism cadetship at the old Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial (yes, I’ve worked for Rupert Murdoch!).  I gave that up to go to university, with vague thoughts that I could go back to the papers later.  Clearly, I never did.  Life took over: different jobs, many months spent in dark theatres rehearsing and performing, and somewhere, amongst all that, a marriage and a family.  Life truly is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, as John Lennon observed.

While it wouldn’t be fair to say I stopped writing, it would be fair to say that I stopped writing for myself.  At university I learned to write academically.  In government I learned to write precisely and bureaucratically.  All useful skills, but apart from the odd burst of pastiche lyric-writing for humorous purposes, nothing much to feed the soul.

But the writing niggle never went away.  It would surface every so often to point out that I still hadn’t written that book, or whatever it was I thought I would eventually do.  So, about a year and a half ago, I resolved to begin writing again.  I would work through a series of writing projects with the objective of producing a manuscript of substance.  Though I was unclear on what exactly that would be, I had a plan and a goal.  I was inspired by a number of people around me who were getting their writing published, including Mrs G.  This plan of mine would stretch my atrophied writing muscles, remind me how to use my vocabulary, and help me to find a voice and an audience.  Then life intervened again, ending up with the family relocating to Victoria, and those ideas were derailed for a while longer.

Earlier this year I decided that if I kept letting life get in the way it would never happen.  So I began the blog as a means to kick off the plan.

And here I am, only a few months later, having to remind myself why I’m doing this!  Formalised goal-setting is called for.

The fact that goal-setting is so prevalent these days is a boon.  There are a lot of resources available to get one focused and effective in quite a short amount of time.  The one ingredient those resources can’t give you, though, is motivation.  Thankfully, by realising the problem, I can also identify the motivation to get back on track.

Why am I writing?  Because I love it.  I love turning out new phrases like I love turning a freshly baked banana bread out of its tin.  I love forming a pleasing article, finding an unexpected yet genuine path through a topic to a satisfying end.  It's the best motivation ever.

It’ll take me a while longer to pinpoint that major project, but now I have a better map.


  1. good use of the word arse-clownery

    1. Thanks! I've always preferred "arse-hat", but the popular kids use the clown variant, and needs must ...

  2. Replies
    1. We're getting there, getting there ...


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