the magic of modest goals and intentions

Revisiting the oft-underestimated power of setting modest goals as well as daily intentions to reach them consistently

the magic of modest goals and intentions
Photo by Johnny Africa on Unsplash

This morning was slightly challenging for me.

I needed KrA to take a photo of me that I could send over to the lovely folks at Kobo as they gear up to publish my author interview on their blog as part of the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer's Prize 2023.

In 20 days from now, we'll know if Dying Wishes emerges as the winner in the Speculative Fiction category! I hope it does. I hope it does. Universe, knock knock, hello, are you listening?

Now, to get back to the subject on hand.

A photo shoot brings up a lot of insecurities for me. Growing up, ever since I became aware of these things, I've always felt terribly bad about my dark complexion.

It didn't help that I grew up in a culture obsessed with fair skin and complexion. Not to mention that the first comment I'd often receive from my late well-meaning grandparents when we'd turn up at their place for the summer was how dark or how fair I had grown in the year gone past.

There have only been a few occasions over the past three decades on which I've been happy at the sight of my own photos.

Back in the day, before phone cameras or even mobile phones for that matter were a thing, Dad used to load Kodak camera films into a camera, take pictures of us, and then drop them off at a photo studio for developing.

This was an exercise we indulged in on special occasions, such as family outings or celebrations, which were quite rare to begin with.

Weeks later, he'd go and collect the album of photos that the photographer at the studio would have developed for us from the film rolls.

At some point in life, the childhood joy of seeing a picture of me quickly gave way to embarassment, sadness too, that my photos did not show the real me.
They showed someone too plain, too dark, with a head tilted too much to one side, with a smile — if there was one in the first place — that didn't look anything like a supermodel's or a superstar's. Which is what I'd think I was, until a photo came along to prove me wrong.

This feeling has continued to haunt me well into adulthood. Although I'm quick to flash a smile when someone asks me to pose for a photo without warning, it's a different ballgame altogether when I have to stand and pose and smile for something like an author photo to be featured on a blog post, on a KWL blog, that too.

I can barely manage to keep a smile frozen in place for as long as it takes KrA's DSLR to whine, wheeze, flash, and click. And I'm rarely ever happy with the end result.

This morning, after dropping D off at school, I wanted to have the photo taken before I sat down to write. I had already received a reminder from the lovely people at KWL, and I didn't want to keep this pending any further.

Besides, we're hosting D's birthday party this evening, so we've got a busy afternoon ahead of us.

It was a bit of a disheartening experience to begin with, given my biases and past angst pertaining to photo shoots. We tried an outdoors setting, then an indoors one. We tried with KrA's DSLR, and then with his iPhone.

I kept moaning all the time, while simultaneously wishing I wouldn't moan and cast all this negative energy on the whole process.

But with each photograph that I discarded, KrA kept reminding me, "It's OK. This one didn't work out. We'll try the next one."

Eventually, we managed to click one that I liked enough to be able to send over to the KWL team, even though I couldn't help wishing I looked ... smarter? chicer? prettier? Well, basically like anything other than what I looked.

After sending that email, I was in half a mind to not open the manuscript but to come here and blog instead.

But thanks to the intention I had set yesterday to write after doing the photo-thing this morning, and thanks to the challenge I've set myself of writing at least 500 words of fiction everyday, I was able to sit down and write.

The words came slowly. I gave in to a number of interruptions in between. But I've written a little more than my target word count for the day, and I can't wait to get back to the rest of the story tomorrow.

Need I tell you how glad I am that I started writing? After that initial resistance, I easily slipped into the joy of seeing images in my mind and describing them in words on the screen.

I'm done for the day because, as I said, I have a busy afternoon and evening to look forward to. And I'd much rather build my writing muscles slowly, and focus on developing this daily writing habit despite the mental and emotional challenges like the one I faced this morning.

This is the way I am honouring Creative Voice and not giving in to the nagging comments of Critical Voice. Some days, it is hard. On days like that, the goal of 500 words does not seem insurmountable. On days like that, I can still override Critical Voice and continue writing the story, without burning out. And that sets me up for success in the days to follow.

Until the next life challenge comes along, and I get more practice in facing Critical Voice and overcoming it to get back to the fun and joy of writing.

So, what kind of modest goal d'you reckon will work for you?

I arrived at my number after years of trial and error. Additionally, I had to convince myself that 500 words/day is not a small goal in the long run because the words add up. Trial and error endeavours give us a lot of data to substantiate that fact.

On 'bad' days, I write at least 500 words. On 'good' days, I write more than double that.

Small steps, taken consistently, add up to a lot more in the long run than we could possibly imagine. Writing every day makes it that much easier to return to the story the following day.

I am so grateful to have finally arrived at this point in my writing journey where I can leave all the doubts and angst aside and lap up the simple delights of writing and living a full life.

And in case you're wondering, here is the photo I sent to the KWL team. Don't I look simply amazing?! ❤️

Image of myself against green foliage in the background