I was once told that the most important first step after setting a goal is to tell someone what the goal was. I think it was a Tony Robbins thing and the idea was that it would help me feel accountable. Like “I have to do whatever it takes to get those books published because I told _______ that it was going to happen.” I’m just not that kind of thinker though. If _________ actually cares about what I’m doing, then they can help get it done. And if _____ had any respect for me as a person, they’d know that any roadblocks or obstacles to reaching that goal were totally not my fault. Come to think of it, what has _______ done anyway?
More often than not, ____________ is more concerned with their own pursuits than mine and no one in their right mind is going to nag ME about reaching a big goal. I’m a divorced mom with 6 kids and a full time job and a house to maintain. I’m pretty sure that when I tell someone I have a new and exciting goal, they probably actually wonder if I’m manic, if I’ve had too much coffee or if I need to go get a drink Friday night.
I have plenty of reasons not to try and do too much because even when I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary I’m still doing too much. No one is going to hold me accountable to a lofty goal that’s outside the bounds of generating income or maintaining my house and relationship with my kids. If anything, the people in my life are more concerned that this would mean LESS time to grab a drink or lunch or a movie over the weekend.
Except my kids.
They have heard these Suzy Lou stories at bedtime for their whole lives and have begged me to get them published. I was so close in 2012 when the editor I was working with left for a different publisher and since our deal wasn’t done, my books went into a comatose state of existence until I found the motivation to figure out a new plan.
For a while I thought that plan was going to be “find a new publisher” and get an advance so that my living expenses are taken care of so I can just write. But how do you tell a publisher that you’ve conceived a series of hilarious children’s books whereby a child vomits all over the dinner table, accidentally chops off her cousin’s thumb, kills her goldfish, steps in dog poop or lights her Grandma’s wig on fire?
The answer was right under my nose.
For years I have ghost-written for clients who have gone on to sell thousands of copies of books that no one knows I’ve written. There’s a toxic sort of safety in being a ghost-writer because if the content sucks, no one says “Lisa Russell is a terrible writer.” And if the book flops (or the blog post never gets shared or the white sheet produces no leads or the business plan isn’t attractive to investors) I still get paid.
The downside to that is that if it’s successful, I don’t get paid any more than the agreed-upon rate. Which is fine sometimes, or clearly I wouldn’t agree to the rate but I’m thinking it’s time for a little more.
I’m sick of hearing my kids telling me “Mom, just do it already” and I’m sick of floundering around wondering what my next big and exciting move in life will be.
So I’m taking a leap.
I’ve completed the text for my first few Suzy Lou books and while I haven’t entirely completed the artwork (still vacillating between a lofty idea of creating composite image collages in Photoshop and the easy – yet potentially unreliable – idea of having my kids do the illustrations) the literary wheels are in motion and my plan (though you can’t possibly nag me about this) is to launch 10 titles in 2016.
If I fail, it won’t be for lack of personal organizational skills. I’ve mapped out the entire project and created a schedule that includes diving deep into each task, creating a framework for delegation in the future and puts a flexible timeline on each of the ten books in this series over the course of the next year, that flexes based on lessons I’m learning along the way.
If I fail, it won’t be for lack of marketing. Web marketing has been part of my business since 2007 and while some aspects are new, like putting my name and face on the work instead of someone else’s, the rest are old hat. And a lot of it can and will be outsourced.
If I fail, it won’t be for lack of tech skills. There isn’t a single task on the list that I don’t know how to do myself, I have learned so much over the past few years about how to self publish, how to compile ebooks, how to market children’s books and how to do various other necessary tasks involved in this project that I’m pretty sure that once I experience the flow of the project by doing it alone, I’ll know exactly what I want to outsource and be able to specify instructions that ensure that I’m not wasting time or money on substandard contractors.
If I fail, it won’t be for lack of support. I was recently sitting down to dinner with my kids, my mother and one of my best friends and there was an undeniably powerful moment when I sort of casually mentioned that I was thinking of publishing those books and everyone at the table firmly and seriously urged me to proceed. I don’t need cheerleaders, I need unshakeable confidence and friends who “knew I could do it.” I think I have that.
If I fail it won’t be because I haven’t thought it through. In recent days, I have taken my idea for this project to the most critical (yet supportive) minds I know. None of them were able to dissuade me. Yes, they asked hard questions like “What if your job offers to double your salary and add healthcare benefits?” and “What if your financial goal isn’t realized for 2 more years?” Because of that questioning and worst-case-scenario realism, I’ve realized that there’s nothing that can stop me from working toward this project.
I recently confessed to a friend of mine that I don’t know what my passion is. The thing I love the most is hanging out with my kids, playing games, helping them learn something new, watching them figure things out, traveling, making things together and enjoying life.
What’s right under my nose is that ingrained in all of those “favorite things” are these bedtime stories that I have been telling my kids since my oldest was small. Suzy Lou helped my kids cope with an impending move, she helped them laugh about the experiences they were struggling with and she helped me teach them life lessons through experiences that weren’t their own. Living on commissions and royalties has proven once before, to be the key to a traveling life and what better way to create more time for travel than to invest my time in an income that generates royalties?
There’s another line of thinking that says “Tell no one your goals” and just do it. Naysayers can drag you down, telling your story can keep you from working on it, and there’s a “runner’s high” sort of feeling that comes from sharing your dreams with others that can be addictive. I’ve seen it lead to failure with people sitting around dreaming all day and not taking the practical steps to make those dreams come true. But I think there’s a balance that’s necessary, like focusing on the work that it takes instead of relishing the success before it comes true.
Two years ago, I announced that I’d be moving to Seattle and that goal was reached through a lot of unpredictable events and a lot of hard work and before the end of the year . In 2010, I announced that I’d be taking my family on a road trip and while we didn’t actually go in 2010 (we left in 2011), the fact remains that I announced it and it happened.
So here’s my official announcement:
2016 is the year of Suzy Lou. The little girl I invented on the fly back in 1997 or something is coming to life, available on Kindle and in print. Please please please subscribe to the email announcement list so you can be notified when the books are released.
At first, I’m going to make them free. And you won’t want to miss that. It’s a technique that lets me get feedback in the form of reviews. So please subscribe, and share this with friends and family so they can get their free copies too.