Of Goals and the Nature of Infinity

They say everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. I’d add a fourth, although it’s sort of a mixture of #1 and #3: something to aim for. Goals.

Not that sort – for someone with my athletic ability, a good game is one in which I don’t catch the ball with my face (I’m good at this, regardless of the sport and whether I’m actually playing it or just happened to be walking past).

I’m practically addicted to setting goals for myself, but they tend to be either unachievable or unachieved. Or both. See Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C. The prosecution rests, m’lud.

My official goal as a full-time writer is 13 manuscript pages a day (2,000 words) or 65 pages a week. My first week as a writer seemed to be spent largely at the vet, and this week I wrote even less (for personal reasons I won’t bore you with).

Let me set the scene for you.
Deborah looks at this week’s page count: six. Nearby is the Caped Gooseberry (M.Sc, Mathematics).

DM: Six pages is something. Six is infinitely times as many as zero. (thinks) Is that right?
CG: Um… (trying to be tactful) it’s difficult to be consistent when multiplying by infinity. (encouragingly) Six is six times as many as one.
DM: What makes you think I’m trying to be consistent? (thinks some more) One is infinitely more than zero.
CG: No, one is one more than zero.
DM: (defensive) One can be infinite, if it’s the right one.
CG: Umm…

Apparently my theoretical mathematics is what is known as “not even wrong”.

Still, something is better than nothing, and next week is a new week (just to get all my clichés in one basket). Today I counted up the pages left unwritten in my current exercise book (the one I bought before Christmas) and decided that my goal for the coming week would be to fill those 42 pages up. It’s less than my original target, but (ulp!) more than I actually wrote in the preceding two weeks combined.

Of course, this is a thinly disguised carrot: if I fill up this book I will then have to go and shop for another one. Mmm, stationery shopping! (It’s not just me, is it?)

A thinly disguised carrot.

Are you a goal-junkie too? Do you actually manage to have reasonable expectations or are you like me, careering wildly from aspiration-induced high to shortfall-induced low? Is there a cure? Your insights welcomed.

4 Replies to “Of Goals and the Nature of Infinity”

  1. You can get “infinity” as the answer when comparing six pages to nothing at all, if you take a limit: $latex lim_{xrightarrow 0^+}{frac{6, mathrm{pages}}{x}} = infty$

  2. Six pages a week? Good for you! I’ve made my living as a writer forever, but now I’m theoretically free to work full-time on my own personal writing, and … well … six pages a week may be MY new goal! However, I’ve found some good cafes in which to Not Write, Start to Write, and Think About Writing. Sadly, I seem to get a lot more finished with externally set deadlines. Although I must say that if I work at my own pace (or non-pace), the food is better.

    1. Making a living as a writer – I’m impressed. It’s remarkable how much fills up the time when you suddenly have “nothing” to do but your own writing, isn’t it?
      Good luck with finding a cafe that’s good for Writing So Much You Get Kicked Out At Closing Time 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *