It's what we all want, but very few can stand to wait for.
It's why America has, in some ways, become what it has become: a society built on instant feedback. From a fast food chain on every corner to "Next Day Shipping" on Amazon Prime, we are told we can get what we want in a very little time.
And then, just as we get comfortable with that formula, life throws us a curveball.
Teachers start telling you it's a process. Be patient. Your time will come. Bosses tell you to start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder, just like everyone else has before you. You want that brand new Apple Watch, but it costs too much quiche. "Save up for it," they say. "Be patient." And pretty soon, you're feeling pretty bogged down with this newfound patience talk. The idea of instant gratification is no longer something that can fill the void you seek in adult life, but instead, only offers a temporary relief...and one that you will most likely regret down the road if left unattended for too long.
So the most difficult part of growing up is in this culture shift of growing up. It comes down to one simple lesson: You must shed away the idea of instant gratification and think long-term.
Yes, as in goal setting.
I'm not a perfect human being when it comes to goal setting. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is true. I can be the laziest person you've ever seen. BUT, I am constantly working to build my goals. I write a daily goal every morning at the start of the day. I write two weekly goals to hold myself accountable, whether I reach them or not. I even write down annual goals in the form of 5 and 10-year plans. My success rate? At the daily level, almost 100%. Weekly? Same. But my 5 and 10-year goals have yet to come to fruition.
And I'm not even close to succeeding in those just yet.
It's difficult. Let me tell you why.
Here's a story about a college kid who felt an urge. And it wasn't any ordinary urge. It was a feeling inside of him that just wouldn't go away - more of an annoyance than anything. He put pen to paper and wrote. Every word felt right, powerful, as if some Muse within him was directing his fingers, telling him what to say. He wrote and wrote until he physically could not write anymore.
And then I put the story away for years. I haven't looked at the manuscript since.
I know what you're thinking. No, that story was not Walls. It was another story that I have yet to publish. It wasn't that I didn't like it. In fact, the story itself was near perfection (in my humble opinion, of course). But in hindsight, there was something missing in my venture, something incredibly important.
So I abandoned it. And in my locked vault of stories it shall stay until I muster the bravery to pull it out once again.
But in that crisis came an awakening within me. I thought to myself: Hey! You just wasted years of your life writing a novel that you have no intention of publishing...at least not yet. What are you doing?! The whole idea is to get published, right? Then why aren't you doing that?!
The voice in my head was speaking truth. And out of those thoughts, I, indeed, set myself a goal:
I, R.T. Donlon, will complete a novel into publication in no more than five years from this moment.
Yes, you read that correctly. Five years. Think about how much time that is. Think about how much you've done over the course of 1,825 days. I told myself that I would not drop the novel idea that I chose next. I would work on it, edit it, slave over it, and put my blood, sweat, and tears into it.
And I would finish it.
Thus begins the story of Walls.
The book took me 4 years, not 5, but let me tell you, the hardest thing for an author to do is to set aside those 'ah-hah!' moments of a new book idea because you are already working on one. I remember writing down dozens of ideas as they came to me (in as descriptive of a way as possible), then hesitantly setting them aside for a rainy day in the distant future.
And when that day came when Walls was published, I took a giant sigh filled with relief and pride. I remember it like it was yesterday. The sky cleared, the clouds parted, and the intense feeling of euphoric accomplishment washed over me like a tidal wave.
No instant gratification with this one - just pure hard work, an impeccable work ethic, and the idea that some day, I would relish in my success.
It was a tremendous feeling to know that I had accomplished what I had set out to do. There were so many times I felt that I should've just given up, surrendered to the writing gods and threw away my pen and paper. But I didn't. I stuck with it. And you know what? I created a damn good story...and a monster within me...apparently.
When you accomplish something, what happens next? Well, let me tell you:
The next rung in the ladder of goals happens. For me, that was The Reaper Trials. I had spent so much time writing and editing Walls that I had almost forgotten what true inspiration was. And then, as if by coincidence, an "ah-hah!" moment rang true somewhere in the depths of my brain.
I was walking down a quiet road, listening to some Green River Ordinance, thinking to myself: It's about time I start writing again. Remember those big ideas I set aside from before? Well, none of them truly called to me in these waning moments. I was in a writing rut. Then, a billow of smoke rose from a hill in the distant landscape. Yes, something as simple as that caught my eyes, and I thought: Looks like War. I don't know why. I don't even know how. But the word war sent me into a cataclysm of world-scapes, twisted characters, and a crazy storyline filled with curves, illusions, and suspense.
And just like that, The Reaper Trials was born.
I remember it vividly. It was then that I realized, from this point forward, my life would forever consist of three things: 1) My wife, family, and friends, 2) Authorship, and 3) Teaching. I would never surrender to a life without these things, even if I look like this half the time:
I vowed to work as hard as I needed to. I vowed to get the job done. I vowed to make my wife happy, to see her smile often, and to make sure I do everything I can to make our lives comfortable and safe. I vowed to write the novels I wanted to write, to always put myself in the tone and style of these strings of words we call stories, to never lose myself in the corporate ways of publishing and editing, even when it's tempting. I vowed to be the best educator I can be, to instill my practices into what I preach so the kids will know exactly who I am and why these things are so important to their future.
And with those vows, I began to realize the importance of true goal-setting. If you write them down, you're holding yourself accountable to get shit done. The most successful people in this world set themselves achievable, but challenging goals, then strive to reach them. Why wouldn't I do the same?
So, as I sit here writing this, I would like to share with you the most current chapter of the R.T. Donlon life. If you've read this far, you deserve a little sneak peak into its makings. So here it is:
You may have seen the posters for The Edge of a New Beginning, Book 1 of The City of Shadow & Dust Series, but it's only one piece of this massive project.
First, set yourself a reasonable writing goal:
Finish The Edge of a New Beginning in July 2015, using Camp NaNoWriMo as your gauge.
CHECK. 78,000 words later.
Next, set yourself editing and marketing goals:
Hire a team. Make sure they know what they're doing. Slowly, let the world know of your ideas. Not too quickly as to spoil the suspense. Not too slowly as to keep people waiting. Make sure it's the perfect timing. Pick a tentative release date to keep you on track. SO FAR? CHECK.
Lastly, know where you're heading.
Where are you headed? What do you expect from this series? How long will it be? What will it cost? How long will it take to complete? Answer all of the necessary questions.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, The City of Shadow & Dust is long. It has to be because of its dense characters and complicated storylines. It's an ambitious project for me because it is purely fantasy. I've never attempted to world-build as much as I have with this one and, for that reason alone, I am both incredibly nervous and excited to share it with you.
But I will take my time. I will make sure that it crawls as close to perfection as it can get before releasing it like a baby bird to the winds of the world of reading eyes. The good news for all of you is that it will be dangerously cheap. Electronically, you can purchase it for $0.99. Paperback will be something like $4. Not bad, right?
I'm not in the business of making money just yet. That will come. I just need enough to reinvest, so I can keep writing. Right now, all I'm focused on is pushing my message...because it's an important one. I love my craft. I love what I do and, because of that, it's not fair to myself to tie my dreams to finances. Yes, it's a necessary part of life, but it doesn't have to chain my writing to a prison cell. And it won't.
So, after all that, let me ask you one question:
Do you see any instant gratification in my goals? Didn't think so. You see, life is so much more than that. It's about working for something that seemed, to you, previously unattainable. If you have the will power and the commitment to finish something - good. Do it. But if you have to work at it like the rest of us - even better.
Get frustrated. Pull your hair out. Strain your eyes. Learn. Adapt.
And when you're done, I guarantee you, you'll relish in the warmth of success.
And you will enjoy it. Because you deserve it.
Until next time,