Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Goals: the long and short view

Many years ago at a family party a friend of my mother's asked me my “five-year-plan.” I bristled. Was this a party or an interview? I assumed the phrase originated in a self-help book, but a little Google-action showed me it dates back to the Soviet Union and China in the mid-to-late 1920s. While web surfing I found sites offering templates for creating personal five-year-plans, and many more sites with strategies for setting and working toward goals in all areas of life.

I did realize my childhood dream of becoming a children's book author-illustrator, yet most days I am not aware of my distant goals. I'm only aware of the flashlight beam illuminating the near spot on the path so I can put one foot in front of the other. Do I know where my path is leading? Not really. I hope when this project concludes there will be another one ahead. My graphic design teacher scolded me for just accepting jobs that fell in my lap. He said I should steer my career.

I'm great at meeting imposed deadlines. That is one reason I take writing classes or join writers groups. It's important to switch from this mode of pleasing others to looking at what I want and then break that down into tasks I do for myself. I can look to one example where I did this with happy results. My second author/illustrator project, Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building will publish with Lee & Low in fall 2012. I set the goal of submitting this project for consideration on the pub date of my first author/illustrator book. I chose to put aside other ideas in development and focus solely on this. Those other half-baked projects still call to me now—a MG novel, a biography, concept picture books, poetry, and more. The ideas bump into each other and compete. I need to stand back and get a distant view. Where do I want to go? Uh-oh, I might just have to develop a five-year-plan! Which project should be the next to develop? For those of you who entertain multiple ideas at one time, how do you decide?

Here's a couple interesting bits I found in my web explorations:

A creativity coach's web site (http://seedfiddle.com/) introduced the concept of Kaizen (Kai=change; Zen=good). “Kaizen, also known as 'continuous improvement,' is a long-term approach to success that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve quality and achieve significant goals. Said simply, it is all about the power of small steps.”

Another site offered a helpful mnemonic, SMART goals:

S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Attainable
R - Relevant
T - Time-bound


Lauren said...

Christy, thank you for this very thoughtful entry on setting goals. With all the projects you have bumping into one another inside of you, the five year plan with a mix of baby steps sounds just right. I want to spend more time on the seedfiddle site-- it looks fascinating! I am always on the lookout for better ways to plan and organize so I can do my best work. Thanks again for this post!

Stephanie said...

I'm excited to see your next auth/illus book. How amazing to be talented enough to do both. I often juggle projects. For me, it helps mentally to see them all as different stages which makes them different to me: a novel in editorial revisions is different from a novel in my own revisions is completely different from a novel I'm still drafting...So I usually have three going at once.

Edie Hemingway said...


I'm all for taking baby steps. And I can't wait for the launch of DREAMING UP: A CELEBRATION OF BUILDING! Your creative process amazes me.

Mark said...

Great post, Christy. Sounds like you have managed to achieve your goals through various means. What I like about your incremental steps notion is that sometimes we (well, at least, I) can feel overwhelmed if we try to look at the whole project in front of us rather than just looking at the smaller steps that will lead us to a successful destination. Good luck in continuing to make your dreams come true!