Writing and Hershey Kisses

by Laura Drake

Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m riding my bicycle.  I had an epiphany during a gorgeous Southern California ride yesterday.  Several pieces fell in place at once; a major “Aha” moment.

I love it when that happens!

Piece 1:

For anyone who is not familiar with Maslow, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

In the 1930’s Abraham Maslow put forward his “Hierarchy of Needs” concept to explain behavior. His theory was that you strive to move toward the top of the list you see to the left. You can’t move up the ladder until the lower need is met, as anyone who’s been on the lowest rung can attest to (been there, Ain’t going back.)

Piece 2:

My husband and I were watching one of those obnoxious “Weight Loss Breakthrough” ads on TV the other day. He didn’t understand why people couldn’t lose weight and keep it off (he has more drive than most – he lost 50 lbs 5 years ago.) I’m a Weight Watchers member, and the talk this week was about creating goals to achieve weight loss.

Okay, stay with me here, because my theory works for anything you want to achieve, not just weight loss.

Goal-setting advice tells you to break a large goal into small steps and you’ll finally get to your ultimate goal/need.  That’s great.  On paper.

But what if your goal is majorly BIG — like writing a novel?

You picture your ultimate goal – let’s say it’s standing on stage, holding up a RITA. The spotlights are flashing off your sequined ball gown.  All your friends are there, cheering you on. You get the picture.

Okay, you set smaller goals, but ultimately your focus is on that stage, and your acceptance speech.  Next to that, the smaller goals just aren’t doing it for you.  Yeah, you’re making progress, but all those little steps only remind you of how far you have to go. Makes your feet hurt, just looking at them.

I think this is why we fail.  After awhile, you just burn out.  The effort just doesn’t seem worth it, so you move on to the next thing you want.  But there are two problems with that:

  • First, the goal you’ve abandoned is the one you wanted most, or it wouldn’t have been first, right?
  • Secondly, in spite of excuses you make, deep down, you know you’ve failed, and it hurts.  You feel guilty, which lowers your self-esteem and makes the next goal harder to achieve, because you don’t really trust yourself to do it. After all, you let yourself down before, right?

You’re moving down Maslow’s pyramid!

So what do you do?

Back to my bike analogy. One of my goals is to get stronger on the bike.  I’m on a ride, working hard, pushing through sweat and pain.

Suddenly, I’m distracted by a mockingbird’s song.  I notice that the temperature is perfect.  The rolling hills have changed since I was last on this route; tawny grass stretches away forever.

I’m so absorbed by the joy of being alive and being out in nature that I don’t even realize I’ve toiled up a major hill – it didn’t hurt at all!

That’s the Hershey Kiss part.  Is it the high you’ll get, accepting your RITA?  Not even close.

But it’s a Hershey Kiss – a moment’s sweetness on the tongue.  Okay, I’m mixing metaphors, but– it’s about focus.  You need to take the time to revel in the small goals.  Wallow in them.

Just ask an actor with an Oscar on their mantel — they’ll tell you the evening was great, but what mattered to them was the journey, getting there.

Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

The Hershey Kisses are the joy of life!  Savor them; I wish you many.

What gives you YOUR Hershey’s kisses? Are there people or activities that help you keep going on this writing journey, especially on those days when you really want to quit?

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