Years ago, I read an interview with comedian and actor Drew Carey in which he talked about how he'd achieved success in his career. The world is full of talented would-be comedians and actors, after all. How did Drew manage, after years of struggle, finally to rise to the top of his profession?
His secret was simple: He decided exactly what he wanted to achieve - his goal - and he wrote it down. Then he pinned his goal somewhere where he would see it each each day - on the fridge or the bathroom mirror. His reasoning? "If it's not visible and in your face all the time, it's not a goal. It's a wish."
His good advice has stayed with me. The tendency to wish and dream and hope is part of any writer's makeup - certainly it's part of mine. At what point do you decide you're serious? I think it's at the moment you write down when you're going to be a published author - by what date. What kind of book you're going to write. How many hours you're going to devote to your manuscript. How many pages long it's going to be.
Or anything else that makes the dream specific and alive to you. If you are off by a few pages or even years, what difference does it make when you do reach your goal?
As this is the time of year when we set new goals, here's mine: Within the next three years, I want to spend time in Italy. Not just a vacation, but a real immersion in the country. I want to wake up each day to the rolling landscape, and visit the markets blooming with the different-colored harvests of the seasons. To learn how to cook authentic Italian meals. To share those meals with friends - meals that go on for hours. To see the works of artists who helped invent art as we now know it. To wallow in the sense of limitless time - time to shop, to sip coffee, to people watch, to visit museums, to speculate and to dream. There are few places in the world that allow and encourage this way of life outside of Italy.
If I put money aside for this adventure, the only thing really getting in my way is the language. I tell myself I've never been good at learning languages - that I have one of those brains hard-wired just for English. But with sufficient motivation I know I can learn Italian, even at my great age. The motivation is to be able to purchase Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar and fruits and vegetables from a vendor who speaks no English, and to be able to do this with with more than my point, nod, and smile methods of the past.
So here's the first step that will take me to my overall goal, and I'm writing it down and printing it out:
I will spend one hour a day in 2011 studying Italian online.
Not a wish, but a goal.
[The photo at right of the happy couple was taken in Cortona, Italy, the perfect place to sip coffee and people watch. The photo at top is from outside a grocers shop in Cortona. And I think the photo in the center is of a place where actor George Clooney stays when he's in Italy. I wonder if the struggling young actor George wrote down his goals, too.]
G.M. Malliet | http://GMMalliet.com
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