“Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the
second. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting,
for only practice will make you perfect.”
Our gal Annie was a savvy sharpshooter who knew plenty about hitting a target — and her advice to “keep on aiming and keep on shooting” is certainly sound. But sometimes, we can get so caught up in the end result we want that it seems almost overwhelming and unattainable. When that happens, these feelings can sap our energy for the work at hand.
Whether we’re aiming to find an agent or get our novel published or finally crack the magazine market, being too focused on our goal can sometimes become a distraction in itself. Yes, we want to keep our eye on the prize, but it’s worth remembering that most of the time, we don’t reach our goals in one huge leap, but by steadily moving toward them, day by day. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch, but mile by mile, it’s a trial. There’s some truth to that old saying, isn’t there?
Let’s keep moving in the direction that we want to go and not give ourselves a hard time because we’re not moving fast enough or because someone else seems to be making more progress than we are. If we focus on getting better, on improving our writing, on finding new ways to stretch ourselves and grow, then we’ll be cultivating the kind of relaxed, patient attitude toward our progress that will enable us to put down deep roots and flourish in ways we can’t even imagine.
Just recently, I read one of Willa Cather’s first short stories and one written some thirty years later. What a huge difference — a chasm of creativity — there was between them! The early short story was labored and self-conscious; the later story seemed to float off the page and into my heart. And in between the two were oceans of ink and many hours of dedicated writing and slowly gathered power and mastery. Let’s go for the slow burn — and enjoy the ride. Write on!