A fellow writer friend once told me:
“When I finish and publish my novel [a long-standing project of hers that’s faced many setbacks along the way], my life will be complete.”
“You mean, that portion of your life will be complete,” I clarified.
“No,” she persisted, “I mean I’ll have achieved my life’s greatest goal.”
“Until you come up with the next great goal, that is, right?”
My friend, after all, is only 37 – a bit early to peak in life, if you ask me.
For many writers, the writing and publishing of a novel – whether traditionally or via self-publishing – can take years: years spent finding the time, finding the motivation, finding one’s voice and message, and, of course, finding the skill to effectively convey it all.
Such has certainly has been the case with me: for my WIP, in the time since I conceived of its earliest iteration until now, a full decade has passed.
Admittedly, this includes a six-year hiatus during which I did no writing at all, as well as the expansion of a projected single novel into a trilogy. But I’m still not done yet.
I can sort of sympathize with my friend.
The long and longer of it
An inherent danger with any long-term projects or protracted plans is that their fulfillment, in taking so very long, can come to assume epic significance – that the day it finally happens is the day one’s life finally becomes of consequence.
Until that conversation with my friend – until I actually heard such thinking it spoken aloud – it never occurred to me how big, long goals can come to eclipse a lot of other ambitions, both the pursuit of them and the recognition of any progress all along being made.
Until the instant of that conversation with her, subconsciously, I thought much the same way she did: that once my book is published, I’ll be not just a writer, but an author, and everyone will know it, and my life will take on a newly-forged shine by which countless past upsets pale and crumble into dust.
All of this as if the completion of a goal I’ve been seriously pursuing for some fourteen years and counting mightn’t leave me feeling a bit lost and empty and lacking in identity.
This assuming the goal is indeed ever accomplished. Shit happens, after all.
Do I need a bucket list? I’m now fairly certain I do. Having other goals waiting in the wings is important, for there is indeed life after a lifelong pursuit. My six-year hiatus from writing – the time well wasted that it was – was key in teaching me that, as well as that a life goal can end in an instant, whether by choice or circumstance, whether to a positive, negative, or neither-positive-nor-negative outcome.
Life is a whole progression of ambitions that are dreamed up, achieved or abandoned, and then exchanged for new objectives.
My conversation with my friend reminded me that despite how single-minded I am about writing and getting published and being read right now, I have non-writing life goals as well.
My bucket list, which I’d never really put much thought into before, is now literally an ongoing list:
- Publish at least six books (two trilogies)
- Make a meaningful visit to every Canadian province (I’m currently 7 for 10)
- Visit at least one Canadian territory (I’m currently 0 for 3)
- Live abroad for a little while
- Own my own home
- Drive a muscle car (e.g. a Mustang GT or a Camaro) on a long-distance trip (I had the chance to do this two years ago in Arizona but I cheaped out on the car rental cost and am still kicking myself over it!)
- Sing in a gospel choir
- Get my black belt (I made it as far as green in Goju Ryu Karate, but god knows how much I actually remember)
- Learn staff fighting (I have watching Xena Warrior Princess to thank for this one)
- Get my motorcycle license ride a bike on the open road
- Visit Australia (happening this year!)
- Visit Africa
- Visit the Sahara or the Arabian Desert (I am seriously fascinated by deserts; they are like spiritual places to me)
- Fly first class (ideally for free)
- Stay in a 5-star hotel
- Go to a rave and dance all night (sans drugs)
- Fly in a hot air balloon
- Learn another language spoken by a large portion of the world (either Mandarin, Hindi, or Spanish)
- Speak before a large audience on an important topic
- Get better at tennis
- Get better at orienteering
- Learn to fold an origami rose
Most of these things aren’t aren’t mutually exclusive to writing. They do, however, require I remain vigilant for opportunities that may present themselves unexpectedly.
And keep in mind that actual plans of attainment are necessary to elevate a bucket list into one of genuine goals rather than just fun and fanciful wishes.
Do you have a bucket list? What’s on your bucket list? What’s the most recent thing you’ve been able to check off it? Tell me about it in the comments.