On June 30 of last year, as my contract at an I.T. firm was ending, I decided to start writing in a more focused way, and not return to my job behind a desk. I wanted to return to my roots and career as a photographer and writer. So, I promised myself to write for 15 minutes every day before breakfast, starting on July 1. I began with one single sentence as a writing prompt.
By July 15, I attended a writer’s conference, and heard that I could present my book idea to the editors present; someone told me to tell them my book was 50,000 words, an average novel’s length, and I decided right then I’d complete those 50,000 by the end of that month. I had written only about 1,300 words by the day I “pitched” to the editors, and to my astonishment, they loved my book idea. When I told them I guessed it would be 50,000 words, they told me to aim for 80,000. By July 31 I had written 80,000 words – a few hundred pages of a book.
By September I had a rich relationship with the characters in my book. I felt more than a little astonished and frankly a little freaked out by how much this had taken over my life, this creative process, freaked out and in love with writing a book. I put the book to sleep for the winter in January to focus on photography, and have begun to turn my attention to integrating the two together now.
I just found this note yesterday, at a time when I find myself frightened again, still, to leap into my own greatest dreams. My main character, Georgia, told me this, when I had hit a wall in September:
“I think you frightened yourself with your speed and alacrity. Frighten yourself again. How can you do that? Make a goal to frighten yourself every day with your powerful progress, creation, and mastery. Yes, I said it… mastery. What would a goal of mastery in writing look like? What do you want to master in 5 years?”
Noun: Brisk and cheerful readiness.
Synonyms: readiness – willingness – eagerness
In building a business and a life as a photographer and writer, or as any artist, or anyone with the dream to truly live the life they dream to live, focusing on projects and business planning is one important way to approach the future. But this is another. What do you want to truly master? What will blind you with amazement at your own “speed, alacrity, and mastery” in five years? One year? After dinner tonight?
And by the way, I want to have loved mastering it by that date, not just plodded through.
Today I leave for 4 quiet days in the forest, on my own, to deeply reflect on my future self, and figure that out. When you are an artist, you yourself are the business. Starting with your own mind and heart is the beginning of the deepest kind of business planning.
What do you want to master in five years? I hope whatever you decide, you find the deepest joy in getting there. I’d love to hear what you dream of being and doing!