Monday, August 15, 2011


Post by Jenny

When I think about the prevalence of GPS technology in the modern world, it starts to feel a little creepy in a Big Brother sort of way, but, as I have a horrible sense of direction, I sure appreciate how it gets me from Point A to Point B. it has also made my job as road-trip co-pilot much easier…and much less stressful for my husband, especially when we are on a road less traveled.

Hundreds of years before GPS, travelers had milestones to help them gauge their progress and keep them on the right path. Emperor Caesar Augustus erected the Milliarium Aureum—the Golden Milestone—in ancient Rome, from which all distances in the Roman Empire were measured. Inspired by the Golden Milestone, Dr. S.M. Johnson proposed a similar marker for Washington D.C., and the Zero Milestone was completed and dedicated in 1923.

We get the word “mile” from the Latin mille passuum, meaning thousand paces. The paces in question were those of the Roman Legion, so a mile was about the distance the soldiers could travel every thousand paces, with a pace being defined as two marching steps. We’ve standardized things even more now, of course, and a non-nautical mile equals 5,280 feet, or 1760 yards, or 1609.3 meters, or 320 rods. (Now you have to do the math to figure out how long a rod is.)

These days, most of us refer to milestones less in a travel context and more for marking progress toward a goal. And if my internet search is any indication, we writers are milestone people. Though we all set our own, they tend to be very similar: first chapter, first draft, first manuscript, first pitch session, landing an agent, securing a contract, cashing a paycheck.

Unlike the real deal, though, our writers’ milestones are not equidistant. The first milestones are often reached faster, with less perceived effort and more perceived fun. But at a point, progress gets harder, as if we’re crossing more difficult terrain (which we often are). When that happens, and the next milestone doesn’t seem to be any closer, how do we keep our momentum? We might all have a different answer, but I find that it can be very helpful to simply turn around and look back. Sometimes, when we’re so focused on what lies ahead, we forget how far we’ve come. When I’m reminded of the milestones I’ve passed, it becomes easier to pick up the pace and keep on going toward the next one.

Have you reached any milestones lately?


Marlena Cassidy said...

I recently passed the 50 page mark on a new manuscript I'm working on, which makes me happy, and I recently gained a new follower to my blog, which I consider a huge milestone regardless of the number. And I have my first guest interview set to run soon, so I'm good for a while. (:

Nathan Lowell said...

I'm a novelist, but occasionally I am invited to submit a short to an anthology. I struggle with the shorter forms so I don't do it often.

One of those shorts made the finalist list for the 2011 Parsec Awards for podcast fiction. The winners will be announced on Labor Day weekend.

This will be the first year for me to have a finalist in two categories.

Tim of Angle said...

It's mille passuum, not mille passem.

(I know: Pick pick pick....)

Jenny said...

Congratulations, Marlena! Those are all great milestones.

Nathan, being a 2x finalist is fantastic. I wish you luck!

Thanks, Tim, for the correction. I, of course, will blame my spell checker :-) At least I didn't go with "possum."

Dean K Miller said...

Well, I just learned I didn't get selected in the last poetry contest, so that's another one passed over, but now in the past.

With only one article ever published, I do soldier on toward a second piece being published, sometime, somewhere.

But at the end of the day, if I have written anything at all, be it good or bad, it is a day to celebrate.

Patricia Stoltey said...

My big milestone is getting over the hump in this suspense novel it seems I've been writing forever. It will be nice to have it finished and be ready to start a new project.

Jenny said...

Dean, I love your "soldier on" comment. And any day we can get at least a few words written is a good day, indeed.

Pat, I hope getting over the hump gives you new momentum!

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