Keep Calm and Set Goals: or, Writing with Spring Fever

spring fever writing lynsey g

Writing outdoors is the perfect thing to do with your spring fever. That and setting attainable writing goals…

Well, it’s officially spring here in the northern hemisphere. After a long, tough winter, yesterday was sunny, mild, and delightful. I don’t know about you, but I felt spring fever kick in and immediately dial itself up to eleven. Now that the days are longer than the nights, you can roll down your car window, and birds are chirping once again, I feel so light, so free…nearly invincible. Can you relate?

Almost everyone has moments like this in the early spring, when anything feels possible. For those of us with books to write, it can be a time so full of energy and inspiration that we find ourselves making all kinds of plans. Scheduling our writing sessions. Planning many words we’d like to write every day. Plotting out our editorial calendar. That kind of thing. And, with the energy of the vernal equinox boosting us, the planning and goal-setting stage of creating a book can feel fun instead of terrifically dull. It’s a damn miracle!

But, uh, I’m here to be a gigantic buzz kill. I apologize in advance, but hey. Set attainable goals for yourself. Yes. Even now, when you’re in the grips of a mighty fever of the spring variety. I know, that sounds super not fun right now. You’re on top of the world! Carpe diem! All that. But I speak from experience, and I’m telling you to reign yourself in right the heck now.

Allow me to share a personal anecdote:

I’m a big-time planning and organization nerd. I’ve always been the type to keep myself busy with a bajillion projects at a time—both creatively and in more mundane matters. My daily to-do list is long, complicated, and overly ambitious. And, over the years, I have recognized a pattern in my goal-setting life: When spring arrives, I have a week or two where I’m so pumped about life that I accomplish a superhuman amount of tasks every day. It feels fantastic!

But the reason it’s called “spring fever” is that, like a fever, it comes on suddenly, reaches a peak of intensity, and then…dissipates. And, just like a fever, my productivity reaches its zenith in early April and then trickles off, just like the runoff coming down from the melting snow in the mountains.

And here’s the thing: If I allowed myself to set a bunch of unrealistic goals for my creative projects while I was on a spring-fever high of energy and productivity…I am absolutely, without a doubt, 100% going to be disappointed in myself by the time May rolls around. That’s because, while I may have been fully capable of crossing twenty things off my daily to-do list in late March, that kind of energy is just not sustainable. If I measure my productivity for the rest of the year against my spring-fever peak, I’m setting myself up for failure. And, when it comes to being creative, feeling good about your work is key. I would a hundred times over rather set modest goals now—and then be able to consistently meet or exceed them—than set impossible goals and feel crappy about myself later when I consistently fail to meet them.

You see what I mean?

So, from one overly ambitious writer to another, here’s my advice on how to cope with spring-goal-setting fever:

  1. Enjoy your spring fever! Get lots of planning, organization, writing, and/or editing done! Heck, take a notebook with you and go write outside! Do the thing! Do all the things!
  2. Congratulate yourself on being productive on these first beautiful days of spring. You deserve to be proud of your accomplishments!
  3. Take a deep breath…
  4. Set some goals for yourself for the next few weeks or months. What would you like to get done on your book?
  5. Take a step back and try to recall how you felt in early February.  It might be hard, given your overly energetic state right now, but do your best. Remember how you were tired and overwrought and grumpy and just kind of bummed about life in general? Yeah. That’s a real thing.
  6. Okay. Now. Look back at the goals you just set, the work you just planned for yourself. Realize that between now and mid-summer, you are going to get over your spring fever. And…then remove about a third to a half of the goals you’ve set for yourself. Space your deadline further apart. Lower your word count. Recognize that you won’t always have the energy you’ve got now, give your future self a break, and make plans that you’ll be able to manage.
  7. All right. Well done! You may feel a bit deflated right now, but hey. It’s Friday. It’s spring. You’ve got months of gorgeous weather, late sunsets, blooming flowers, and singing birds to look forward to. Your spring fever won’t be damaged by managing your own expectations for yourself—and your future self will be mighty thankful to your present self for being understanding.

Now, not everybody is like me. Some people don’t need the above bullet points of advice. These individuals are able to accomplish a lot more than they usually do in a day, then pat themselves on the back and say, “Good job, self! It’s great that you got so much done! Tomorrow let’s go back to a respectable but less-frantic pace!” If you’re able to reign yourself in like that when you’re feeling hyped up for spring, then kudos! You are a functional adult person! But for me and lots of other creative folks I know, it’s difficult not to cling to your accomplishments around the time of the vernal equinox.

So take my advice. Set yourself up to succeed this spring! Use your spring-fever energy to set realistic goals for yourself, and then enjoy meeting them for the rest of the spring!

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