Are you stationary on your highway?

My friend and I headed out of town. It was a beautiful day: blue sky above, grey bitumen under the wheels and dense forests on both sides.

We knew where we were headed and we had a pretty good idea of how to get there, so we unplugged from our phones and navigational systems, pausing our chit-chat at intervals to note the signs along the highway. These signs report, at regular intervals, how many kilometres we were from landmarks and exits.

When you are moving from Place A to Place B you need to put in the work. You need to actively do something. We need very special (magical?) skills to travel anywhere whilst standing in place in our living rooms.

If you know your destination, it’s simple. You work backward by measuring the shrinking distance between you and your target.

It is exactly the same in our creative world, working toward a creative target. My ambitious and enthusiastic “Four in Eight” plan was exactly this. I knew my destination (four of my mostly-finished novel-length pieces yanked into completion by the end of 2020). I plotted a route backward listing the landmarks/exits between where I was and where I wanted to be, setting a timeline so I could monitor progress.

This doesn’t always work however, because we don’t always know our destination.

The fitness tracker on my wrist counts steps. With a desk job, a sedentary hobby and a lot of car travel I won’t reach 10 000 steps a day. Instead, I watch how many steps I have taken, seeing if I can push it into a higher thousand by going to the post office on my lunch break or parking further away from the shops.

In my writing world, I count forward by setting goals I want to achieve each month. These could be a new pieces created, new pieces submitted, hours spent studying, number of new words produced or hours invested in my creative world.

If you’re on a highway and you’re not counting down toward your target or noting the distance you’ve travelled, you run a very real risk of not realising you are, in fact, stationary. Stationary is great… if that is where you want to be.

Is it?

How do you track the ebb and flow of progress in your creative world? Do you have goals you are moving toward? If so, what landmarks, exits or signposts are on your route and how often do you check your progress against these?

If you’re going with the flow, riding the wave of creative energy to see where it takes you or working on a lot of early projects, how do you measure your progress? Are you counting projects, hours, steps… journaling feelings about your work?

Knowing where you are at (Place A) and where you are headed (Place B) is important. Checking in to see where you are at in intervals between the two is also important. It helps you reflect on the ebb and flow of your energy. It helps you identify if you are, in fact, stationary or stalled.

What does the landscape of your creative world look like? Have you plotted your journey? Are you tracking your progress?

First published on my website 27 August 2020

Nicole writes short stories and novel length speculative fiction and a weekly blog or