At the start of the day, week, year, or decade, it’s tempting to set goals. “I will lose X pounds by my next birthday!” or, “This house WILL be de-cluttered by summer!” “I will read at least forty books by Christmas!” We’re told to make our goals SMART, or better still, FAST.
Except… I don’t do very well with goal-setting. The process feels fake to me. If I want to achieve something, I will do my best to get ‘er done. I might succeed, I might not, but not for lack of trying. If I’m lukewarm about an objective, all the charts, acronyms, refrigerator charts, or schedules aren’t going to make me passionate about it.
But I came across the notion recently of choosing a theme rather than a goal to inspire reflection and growth. I know as an author, when I have a sense of a book’s theme, of the residual message the story tells, then the tale usually has more impact and is easier to write.
I’m finishing up a story for Orion Goddard and Ann Pearson (you’ll meet them in Sycamore’s book, The Last True Gentleman). Ann, who is a dedicated cook, needs to realize that you can starve emotionally while serving up banquets, while Orion has to see that the respect of fools, no matter their rank or consequence, isn’t worth pursuing. Their theme is about the difference between the appearances society values, and the substance that can only be found by listening to the heart. The result, I hope, is a story with an extra layer of depth and weight. (There’s also plenty of smoochin’ too!)
In my horseback riding these days, my theme is, “If you can’t do great things, then do humble things greatly.” That approach is working to shore up the foundation of all good riding–the ability to craft a dialogue with the horse.
In my house work, the theme is, “Micro-tasks.” Wipe a counter as I wait for the tea water to heat, pick the kitty litters between writing scenes, toss the bird seed up behind the barn while the tea bag is steeping. The result is that I never feel oppressed into procrastination by a monumental chore list, and the nest remains habitable.
Are there themes lurking on the edges of your life these days? Are some new themes trying to get your attention along with the new year? To three commenters, I will send e-ARCs of The Last True Gentleman.