So the math homework that is due tomorrow is done. I have Physics to work on, and since tomorrow I am finishing up a lab experiment, I need to do that today.
In today’s post, Brad Torgersen at the Mad Genius Club talks about writerly maxims, but one of them applies to my schoolwork.
Know the difference between a dream, and a goal. This can be confusing, because many times the language of the advice being given, conflates them. A goal is something that is measurable and achievable according to X amount of work applied over Y amount of hours. In other words, a set number of words each day, or pages each day, or so many chapters a week, or a month, or two completed books a year, a dozen completed pieces of short fiction every year, and so on and so forth. You know your schedule, and you know yourself. You know what you can accomplish, or maintain, as far as production is concerned. The end result of your production will tell you if you’ve met your goal(s) or not. A dream? A dream is hitting the New York Times bestseller list, or getting to have a six-figure advance for a new book, or having a book turned into a blockbuster movie. You can certainly work with a dream in mind — for inspiration. But confusing inspiration, with what is actually achievable according to factors under your own control, can lead to severe heartbreak. Bitterness. A sense that you were meant for certain things, but you’ve somehow been denied. And that’s not how you want to be spending your quiet time: pondering the ways in which your career has fallen short, because you mistook a goal for a dream.
I have a goal: a Bachelor’s of Science. It’s not a dream, it is a tangible goal that draws nearer with every homework assignment, every exam, every passing semester. The dream is to be able to support my family when I am needed. I don’t know yet what form that will take, so it is an intangible. But the tangible goal will assist the intangible dream.
And perhaps in time I can take the time for what I want, too. But the goal, first. Then another goal. In the meantime, there is pleasure in working hard. I rest when I can, read when I can, write when I can. I’ve never been one to live in the fantasies of get-rich-quick schemes. I know what it will take, and it might be more than I have. I also know there’s not going to be a quick way out – buy this one weird trick and… No. The trick is persistence. When you fall down, get back up. When you finish one task, don’t get derailed. Take a measured break, and get back to the work at hand.
When you’re still a teenager with the world as your oyster, you don’t understand that a failure isn’t the end of the dream. It might mean that goal isn’t achievable. But growing up means knowing that life will take sharp left turns, and unless you are willing to go with it, you’re going to wind up out in the woods taking a long time to get back on your path. Life is rarely going to present you with a wide, straight highway to meet the goals you have. It’s going to be foggy driving, in the dark, with just enough rain to make the road slick. Some days all you can do is hold onto the steering wheel tight with both hands.
Don’t let go. Just keep driving forward. If you fall down, pick yourself back up and find the path again. You can’t turn around and go back, so don’t dwell on what was and might-have-been. Just keep going on to the next thing. In the end, it’s all about endurance.