Caution: Navel-gazing Writer

Dramatic life of the pilot/writer.

Dramatic life of the pilot/writer.

“Writing is like sex. You should do it, not talk about it.” – Howard Ogden

Have you ever heard that quote before? Yeah. Me neither.

A brief look back. I had goals, man. Didn’t meet any, but still. My writing goals for the year were to finish a first draft of a memoir I’m working on. Also to self-publish an e-book that describes how Leo and I ran the whole 300-mile Superior Hiking Trail for charity in 2014. Neither of those things happened.

I also had an “action plan” for how to make those two things happen. I wanted to write 250 words per day and update a word tracker with progress. (I like keeping lists. I also like Judge Wapner. Judge Wapner.) I also had a poorly worded item that said, “Finish Projects. Write any amount per day.” So, wait. Was that 250 words per day or any amount per day? Pick one, loser. Anyway, those three things fell by the wayside.

Here’s the part where the Instructor Pilot looks for root causes and finds Lessons Learned for 2016. “Next time I will (insert Lesson Learned).”

My desire for finished projects (books) is exactly the same. I’m good at the “vision thing.” But where I fall down is concrete steps to make it happen. I fall down when it comes to weekly and monthly milestones. I have a yearly goal that is absent of any intermediate steps. My lesson is that I need to come up with weekly goals and monthly goals that get me to my ultimate goals.

So what are my ultimate goals for writing in 2016? I have three major goals.

  • Submit an updated version of my e-book Outside Duluth to a publisher.
  • Finish first draft of memoir and complete editing.
  • Establish weekly and monthly goals that support 1 and 2.

There. I will discuss the failure of the above with you in 12 months.

I won’t go into how the rest of the year’s non-writing goals went in 2015. But the common thread was a lack of intermediate milestones.

There were bright spots this year. I’m getting a fair amount of poetry published, which is surprising to me. I feel pretty awkward and happy about it.

I won the 2015 Lake Superior Writers Short Story Contest category. I worked harder on that story (my only piece of fiction) than any other for the year. It was great to see that it was worth the effort. It was also a little frightening. Making sentences that you are truly proud of is demanding.

My non-fiction story “Isolationist” won first place for the literary journal Line of Advance (Vol. 4). That bodes well because I’m using it as the first chapter of my memoir. Also, my non-fiction piece “Buckle Up” earned Honorable Mention in the anthology The Talking Stick (Vol. 24). I still feel most comfortable in the non-fiction game.

So, here’s a helpful mantra for my three goals in 2016:

Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.” – Neil Gaiman.

2015 Output

Words: 31120 (85 words per day) (that’s less than 250 words per day, I think)


9 poems

  • 3 in print journals
  • 6 in online journals
  • 2 military poems

9 non-fiction

  • 7 of 9 outdoors topics
  • 2 of 9 creative nonfiction
    • same 2 of 9 in lit journals (1 online and 1 print)
    • 1 contest winner
    • 1 honorable mention
  • 7 outdoors articles in print magazine

1 fiction

  • 2015 LSW Contest Winner short story


8 Publishers in 2015:

4 print

  • 1 magazine
  • 3 literary journals

4 online

  • 4 literary journals


Northern Wilds

Sleet Magazine

Grey Sparrow Journal

The Talking Stick (Vol. 24)


Ash & Bones

Line of Advance (Vol. 4)

Aqueous Magazine


About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
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8 Responses to Caution: Navel-gazing Writer

  1. mariezhuikov says:

    I find that self-bribery works well to complete writing goals — like telling myself, “If I write ### words, then I can have a glass of wine,” or some chocolate, or the chance to do some other thing I’m more enthused about than writing. I don’t do it all the time, but sometimes it’s helpful! Also, I’d like to say, you are too hard on yourself. You did good this year!

  2. Sandi says:

    Hi Eric,
    I can relate to your frustration-I’m a newbie writer and I thought it would come easy. Being a writer is one of the most frustrating and rewarding goals. You are talented and interested in the creative process or you wouldn’t be putting your angst on line. Suggestion- Why don’t your form a writing support group at a local coffee shop, once a month for struggling creative writers? There is limited inspiration in solitude and perhaps getting together with like others will inspire? Good Luck
    Sandi Johnson

  3. Dana Griffin says:

    You and I both had trouble meeting our writing goals this past year. I planned to write and publish my fourth airline thriller and begin the fifth. I’m still working on the first draft of the fourth book.

    I too have done a lot of navel gazing trying to figure out why. I’m really interested in the plot line.What I’ve written I feel shows I’ve grown as a writer. I hoping many will enjoy the story as its more realistic and emotionally engaging than my other ones. Yet there have been weeks go by when not a word was typed.

    I could claim a few negative reviews resonated within me, or questioned if I’d ever write as well as the thriller novelists I love. Maybe I was just being lazy.

    I used to think I worked best when under pressure. If I set a deadline to have the first draft done and a publishing date I would hunker down and meet them. It worked the for the first three books. The deadline for the first draft is coming up in two months; a year ago.

    I better get to work on the novel instead of responding to this post.

    • I find I stumble a little and move on to different hobbies when stuff I send out gets rejected. The best remedy I think is to ignore feedback you disagree with. Absorb feedback you do agree with. In either case, to get back to work. Write on!

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