Milestones ~ How do we know when we've reached one?
Milestone (noun) 1. A stone shows the distance to a place. 2. a critical event. (synonyms: landmark, highlight, high point, sign, signpost)
With this definition, almost anything we choose can be considered a milestone.
I've always thought a milestone had to be not just important but momentous.
Not just a high point but a pinnacle, rare and out of reach.
For me, celebrating is a raison d'etre. It's more than just a pastime. But what I hadn't fully realized until recently is that although I am prone to celebrating events, holidays, and such, as well as other people's accomplishments and victories, large or small, my own I tend to gloss over and quickly press on to the next thing, whatever it might be.
I've had inklings of this awareness before, but coming upon it again didn't seem surprising or important. I noted it and quickly moved on. What did surprise me and grabbed my attention was my emotional state surrounding this concept. I felt emotions that didn’t seem correctly placed, strong feelings more suitable to something monumental.
For some time, I’ve had a heck of a time getting down to the business of completing my novel. I'm a published short story writer who decided to challenge herself to craft a novel. I've been at least halfway there for over a year. Every time I work on my project, ironically, the effort only lasts a short time. The passion and time required to finish writing this book elude me, and months have gone by without a single new thought added. Perhaps I could congratulate myself on the editing and revisions that have preoccupied my efforts, but I'd hardly call that necessary effort a milestone.
So I conducted a reality check into why I felt so emotional about something that certainly wasn't tragic. That check-in revealed something surprisingly honing and edifying. The reality is that I'm great at starting things. I can get quite excited when I see the beginning, the middle, and, most notably, realize: the end of a project. It was great fun to start my book. I was inspired and consumed by the story. I thought about it all the time. But now I'm in the middle and running out of steam and ideas. Getting to the finish feels daunting and requires a discipline I lack. That feels like failure. Maybe I won't be able to complete a novel. Perhaps I only have the attention span to write short pieces. Maybe I don't have what it takes. That I'm bothering to spend my precious time on this blog post instead of my novel is a smashing example of what fuels my writer's angst.
But what made this reality check so gripping was realizing I've neglected to celebrate anything about my writing. Coming up with the idea in the first place, attempting something I've never done before, and pursuing it for over 50,000 words, could be cause for celebration. I didn't celebrate, though, which made this awareness so tangy. Coming to this awareness may be a more significant and far-reaching milestone for my life than completing my book.
I realize milestones are only as monumental as we decide to make them. Since I am a Celebrationist by nature, I've decided to focus on acknowledging all the little milestones that have propelled me to where I am now. If I have stories to tell and want to write them, I will. The timing is all mine. No one is standing over me as I write, pushing a deadline. I'm celebrating a place in my writer's heart that has not become stagnant. My heart beats with the desire to express itself, and though my mind often gets discouraged, though it has thoughts of giving up, my heart leaps back in again. Just knowing this may be monumental.
Since finding the ending to my tale has been the hang-up, I've decided to begin at the end and work backward to incorporate and expand on the story. This changes its current format and trajectory. But if I think of the finish as a starting point, I may be able to trick myself into completion. I know that other writers have tricks they use to transcend blocks and stagnation, even though when we read their stories, they've made it look so easy. I wish. Writing can be hard work, fun, and often frustrating, but I'm compelled to pursue it. Even if the most I can accomplish today is another blog post, I will celebrate this tiny milestone and this sunny day with a lovely glass of Italian Prosecco Rosé in the last surviving Murano flute from our move the minute I push the publish button.
And I will finish that book. I think it's worth it. And when I do, I'll dance with joy. Of course, then there is the next hurdle to master, which is all the rest: professional editing, cover design, deciding how to publish and when, and of course, the worst - promoting it.
But I'm not there yet.
I'll have that glass of bubbly now.