The value of Alternative Goals

It’s been almost a week since they pinned my Warrant Officer bars on my shoulders. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to come down off the high of achieving this goal, but am pleased to say it hasn’t happened yet. Making WO1 was the culmination of years of planning, preparation, and execution. It was neither quick, nor easy, which perhaps explains why it feels so terrifically satisfying having achieved what I have achieved.

It’s also gotten me to thinking, as a wannabe writer, about the value of concurrent or alternative objectives. So often, we aspirants spend every waking moment running around fretting about our writing goals. We get wrapped up in this obsession — because that’s what it means to be an aspirant, right? — thus the rejections and the slow progress can often be maddening, depressing, angering, and so forth.

It can be enormously beneficial having other projects going on in life — at work, at home, in the military, etc. — towards which you apply yourself at the same time you’re working on your writing. So that while the writing might be a drag — and as aspirants, can we all please admit that it is, very often, a drag? — things don’t suck quite so much if you’re able to make progress on some other, also meaningful endeavor.

I’ve noted elsewhere on the InterToob that I’d never considered — seriously — being in the military, prior to 9/11. Since I joined in 2002 I’ve found that my Army Reserve career has presented a whole host of daunting challenges which have pushed me — often far — beyond my comfort zone. Sometimes I’ve dreaded these trials, other times I’ve gone into them with positive anticipation. In each case, I’ve always found a way to make it through; to succeed. And I’ve been thankful, after the fact, that I stuck it out and did the hard work and put in the time and the sweat and the blood and the pain. Because the rewards — on a personal level — are indeed satisfying.

This satisfaction is difficult to quantify or qualify, suffice to say I feel as if I have become a larger person, at the end of each new military challenge. I feel as if I’ve been driven beyond my usual self, and been forced to grow in some subtle yet important way.

I believe this growth not only illuminates my writing, but provides an additional buoy if ever I let the rejection slips and the eternal waiting game get me down. My military success is a reminder that tough challenges are just part life, that nothing worth doing is ever done quickly or easily, and that while I’m still a nobody in the publishing world, I’m becoming a Somebody in the military world. And with that knowledge comes a certain satisfaction and surety that I’m not sure I’d otherwise enjoy.

I’ve had a lot of disappointments this year, regarding my writing. But now that I’m back from WOCS and relishing my victory, I feel pumped up about the writing like never before. I want to keep the mojo flowing! I’m on a roll! I want to follow up my success at WOCS with increased production, more submissions — capitalize, man! And why not? I’ve gotten three personalized rejections in the last 45 days. A record, for me. I can’t see the end of the aspirant tunnel, but then there were times in the midst of WOCS — and other Army schools before that — where I couldn’t see the end of the tunnel. Only solution was to set small, incremental goals, take it a day or a week at a time, and muscle through. So I look at the writing wall — which I’ve spoken of before — square the straps of my proverbial ruck on my proverbial back — and keep climbing.

Anyone else have concurrent or tangential goals which fire them up, outside of or beyond their writing? What sorts of things are you doing — or have done — which make you proud and make you feel good about yourself? I’d like to know.

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  1. Pingback: Beyond Exhaustion « Cuban Nomad

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