Writing, Reading, and the Watermelon Buffet

MOW BOOK LAUNCH 003 (3)

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Posted by Kathy Waller

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We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room,
drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list,
we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…
not looking for flaws, but for potential.
~Ellen Goodman

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If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.
~ Yogi Berra

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“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
~ (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

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Goals drive me crazy. ~ Kathy Waller

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On last week’s Austin Mystery Writers blog , I said I don’t like goals. I like to set goals, to list them in a nice, neat column in a nice, neat notebook.

But as soon as they’re on paper, claustrophobia sets in. I dig in my heels, I fret, I resist. I have a severe case of the fantods. Out of respect for my sanity, I lose the list. Which means I lose the goals. I achieve some of them, in time, but others drift away, gone with the wind that perpetually sweeps through my mind.

I know it’s crazy, but there’s something about the list that just drives me up the wall.

Several years ago I found a way to list my goals without risking my sanity–A Round of Words in 80 Days: The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.* With ROW80 I don’t feel the (self-inflicted) pressure I feel with the list-them-do-them method.

And the challenge is fun. I meet other bloggers, check out their goals, watch their progress, and see how they achieve their goals–and not just in writing–in a world where life sometimes gets in the way.

A ROW80 friend who blogs at shanjeniah’s Lovely Chaos offered a perspective on goal setting that complements ROW80. “What I do now is set lots of goals – but set them as a buffet,” she writes. “That way, they’re a selection of lovely options I can sample, nibbling or devouring as mood and life allow.”

“A selection of lovely options.” How could anyone not sample lovely options? Chocolate mousse, fried chicken, cheesecake, prime rib, fried oysters, East Side Cafe chicken artichoke soup… Watermelon!

Why does the buffet metaphor work for me? Once again, we look to Shakespeare for the answer:

…there is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so.
                                             ~ Hamlet, II, ii, l. 241-2

Or, if you, too, have the fantods over goal setting and need a stronger statement, then look to John Milton:

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.
~ Paradise Lost, Book 1, lines 254-5

 To wit:

Mind → goal = bad = hell

but

Mind → goal = watermelon = good = heaven

So. I am aiming for heaven.

From now on, I will waltz up to the buffet and load my plate with watermelon.

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Why have I posted a second time about goals?

First, because after writing the earlier goals post, I learned about the buffet method and  thought it worth passing on.

Second, because through another ROW80 friend, The Writerly Reader, I learned about 746 Books and 20 Books of Summer. Some of the titles I’ve chosen for 20 Books appear below. Because I read the first two this summer, I’m counting them. Considering my late start, I probably won’t be able to read them all, and I might subtract some and add others. But then, this is a buffet, and etiquette demands restraint. If I sampled everything, Emily Post would not be amused.

20 Books of Summer Buffet

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My thoughts on Anne Tyler appear here.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Saw it, liked the cover, bought it. Serendipity.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
I’ve read about half. Delightful.

Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning by Sol Steinmetz

White Heat: The Friendship Between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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*For an informal overview of ROW80, see my post at Austin Mystery Writers. Official information can be found at

What Is Row80?;
About (Where ROW80 Came From); and
The ROW80 Blog.

My goals for Round 3, which began July 4th, are posted on Telling the Truth, Mainly. A progress report appears here.

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We spend January 1 … Ellen Goodman

If you don’t know where you are going... Yogi Berra

“Would you tell me, please,… Lewis Carroll

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at the Austin Mystery Writers group blog.
Her stories appear in Mysterical-E and in
Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology,
Murder on Wheels.

MOW cover - amazon pix

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19 Responses to Writing, Reading, and the Watermelon Buffet

  1. wyoauthor1 says:

    Delightful blog post, Kathy! I, too, set goals but don’t seem to have the heart — or time — to achieve them, and therefore, end up discouraged. I’ve been re-inspired by the buffet method! Thank you for an encouraging, informative post! Good luck in your sampling, both of “palatable” goals and new books!

    Like

    • Kathy Waller says:

      I’m glad you found the buffet method inspiring. It’s certainly superior to my old way of dealing with goals. I ended up both discouraged and grouchy.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  2. Wranglers says:

    Love this Kathy, I looked up fantods, and I probably wouldn’t have if you hadn’t used it twice, so thanks. I enjoyed finding out more about what fantods meant. I like delightful words, and I loved your exchange between Alice and the Cat. My delectation of your blog should be obvious to everyone who reads my comments. You have made wonderful use of quotes to add to your blog post. Cher’ley

    Like

  3. The Watermelon looks delicious.
    The post is very interesting, the problem is at the age of 73 I do not make resolutions, but I do have a list. It is a bucket list. I put all sorts of crazy things on it. Join the Red Hat Society, ( which I quit after about five or six months, it was boring),have cocktails with this one or that one at 5:oopm, meet the girls (yes we still consider ourselves girls) at the pool, write a book, which I did and it is published, get a poker game going, wear two different socks and a bunch of other fun things including travel as much as I can for as long as I can. Write poetry, short stories and memoirs of which some have been published. The list goes on but, not all at once, it all depends on If I will be here next year. :o)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kathy Waller says:

      A bucket list sounds better than even a buffet. At 64, I still consider myself a girl, and I recently decided to whatever socks I want, matching or not, which is convenient because I can rarely find two socks that match. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mike Staton says:

    Fun post. I kind of go with the flow nowadays… not set-in-stone goals, except to get my Civil War novel done before the end of the year. Thinking about goals reminded of how much I hated job reviews back before I retired. Seemed like my supervisor always wanted me to set goals with the company. Where do you expect to be in a year? Five years? Actually, I just wanted to do my job competently, not strive to advance up the ‘kiss-your-butt’ leadership ladder. I’d done that before, back in my late 30s. I became a city editor at a newspaper and was the boss over around 15 reporters. Hated it. Too much stress… a good way to live a shortened life.

    Like

    • Kathy Waller says:

      Your comment about job reviews interests me. I don’t understand why people are expected to want to climb career ladders–like you, I wanted do my job well and to enjoy doing it. It seems to me an employer should be happy with that. I’d like to go with the flow, but since I’ve found some neat, mindless video games that delight my addictive personality, I have to lay out some kind of goals to get anything done. Sad but true. I really admire what you’re doing with your novel.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  5. Joe Stephens says:

    That sounds like an interesting idea. I’ll have to check it out. I set goals, but don’t generally stress about them. I had a goal to finish my last book that moved back no less than four times, but I decided that the deadlines were arbitrary ones that I had set for myself, so I wasn’t going to worry about it if I didn’t meet them as long as I continued working toward it. So I guess my actual unstated goal was just to get the book the way I wanted it. Sometime.

    Like

  6. I’m not a goal-setter, either. I guess I’m still used to being a caregiver when plans I made went awry because my husband’s needs came first. Now I have some idea of what I want to achieve in a year, but if it doesn’t happen, that’s life.

    Like

  7. Loved the post, Kathy. I’m a goal setter who writes them down, finishes one or two, and conveniently “loses” the list and forgets all about them. This buffet method could really work for me, I think! Like Joe mentioned, I have had to set the writing and publishing of my third book several times and I’m now okay with it. Goals are good, but I’m being careful not to worry about too many (only the really important ones) and not to obsess over any of them. I have to admit this comes from the therapy I’ve been doing, but I’ve learned a lot. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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  9. Doris says:

    Delightful. Yogi’s quote has always been favorite. I’ve always thought life was better experienced in a flow.

    What wonderful links. Thank you. Doris

    Like

  10. Nancy Jardine says:

    ‘Telling the truth…’ I’m not good goal setter now because I can never make a realist list that even I think will be practical and achievable. Heaping stress of failure onto myself doesn’t sound too nice so I avoid it. Though I will say that after I stopped teaching, I did set goals and achieved some aspects of them. Achieving goals seems more probable when your life is fairly predictable and presently mine isn’t.

    Like

  11. I like this “buffet” approach to goals. It sounds much more manageable that way. I too am not a big goal setter. I am a huge lister though (I love crossing things off that I accomplish!). But this is more like listing tasks that need to get done rather than overall writing goals. I think, like Joe, as long as I’m working my way toward it somehow, I’m OK with it. I don’t stress over the deadline. I had the goal of finishing my novel this year but then many short story deadlines popped up so I figured as long as I was doing some type of writing, I felt OK. I also learned a new word thanks to your post: fantod!

    Like

  12. S J Brown says:

    Interesting post. I try to set goals but more often than not life gets in the way. I generally accomplish my goals just not in the timeframe I would prefer. I do like the buffet idea and sampling different things. I could work on part of a goal one day and part of another one the next day. Yes most of my goals are large ones. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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