Last week, I talked about an important writing skill—focus, as the mental discipline needed to keep yourself writing and to stay on track with your story. If focus is the practice or technique, determination is the fuel. Focus helps you stay on the path. Determination keeps you moving. I’m always thinking in terms of writing, but this can apply to any goal or dream you have.
I think the most important question to ask yourself when pursuing any dream or goal is: how bad do you want it? Whatever your dream is, what are you willing to give to make it a reality?
The answer will be different for everyone, but it will give you a clue about how much you want to accomplish your goal.
I want to be fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I worked on that goal for years, teaching myself enough to maybe be able to have a conversation with a toddler. It was progress, but I still have a ways to go. In order to accomplish this goal, I would need to spend time and effort. A lot of it. I’d need to find study groups, people willing to help me practice with them. Some day, I’m going to do this. But not today. I don’t want it enough right now.
Today, the energy I have left after taking care of my basic needs, my commitments, and my other priorities all goes into my writing. I’ve put tons of resources toward this goal—and I call it a goal on purpose.
Goals are what we set when we’re working to make our dreams reality. Goals are (mostly) in my power. Goals are something I can work to achieve, because I’m determined to accomplish them. It’s the emotional side of focus. It’s my heart, my soul, my entire being’s way of saying, “I want this.”
Sometimes I’ll push myself too hard and have to stop. I’ll play a video game for an entire weekend, bury myself in other people’s books, or just lay on the couch with a pillow over my head and tell my stories to go away for a while. But only a little while.
Because these goals—this dream—isn’t something I can walk away from. I will keep on this path. I will accomplish my goals. I can’t control the timeline, but I can keep myself going back to that writer’s chair. I can type out one word, and then another and another. I can put my stories out in the world, then always, always press on to the next one.
Building a writing career—working toward any dream—is hard work. Often it’s fun and amazing and rewarding, but there are times of doubt. I think everyone has them. Whenever those thoughts rise up in me, it doesn’t take long for a countering force to knock them down, a force I’ve cultivated and that I feed every day with my thoughts and my choices. Determination.