April is complete and somehow, so is the first third of the year. It's moving way too quickly. I have so much I want to do, and the time literally seems to fly by.
As I rose this morning, I quickly scrolled back to the projects I have taken on over the previous three months of 2016. I noted the new habits that have been created, and how interwoven everything has become. April, ultimately, became about creating the outline for a book.
I have been playing with two book ideas for the past several months; one business, one novel. Knowing I had ideas for both, it took me quite a while to get started this month on direction. Each day when I sat down to really make progress on defining exactly what it is that I wanted to write about, I realized I couldn't focus on which was important to me. In general, until I become crystal clear on what I am trying to accomplish, I mess around and try to stay open until things begin to gel together in my mind. That process works well for me getting to clarity; but during that period of time, I feel ungrounded. It's hard for me to enjoy the journey when I'm just trying to figure out the ultimate destination of where I am going to end up.
But that's how I got there, mid way through the month. I decided to pick the destination first, and then began to work backwards. And it all came to me while I was heading out on vacation with my kids.
Every year, I try to take my daughters somewhere to experience the world outside of our little suburb. In London, they sat and chatted with a homeless man who made them rings just because he believes his work puts smile on people's faces. They've experienced the poverty of Jamaica, and witnessed a child drown in Aruba. Of course, they've experienced some wonderful, things all these places have to offer as well. However, if I'm taking them somewhere, I want them to experience all of it; not just the incredible art work and tourist check-the-box items. I want my kids to understand their life at home isn't the only life out there. The best way I know how to do that is to get them out in the real world and not just hear about it; I want to them to experience it.
We always end our trip with a conversation about where we want to head next. This time, I was beaming that their choices are beginning to show signs of budding world adventurers. South Africa and Vietnam popped up at the top. And as we added these places to our wish list, a lightbulb hit.
I can do both types of books. It's not an either or scenario. It's about prioritization; just like our travel destinations. Which comes first should be based on some basic data points like timing, cost, flexibility, and which creates the best outcome for us at the time. I can choose one, and still look forward to the other sometime in the future if it still looks appealing.
Once I had that clarity, I knew exactly what my writing destination would be. And then I decided to keep applying my vacation planning strategy to get started.
My life at work is extraordinarily scheduled. Meetings often start in the early hours of the morning, and I'm fortunate if I can carve out a 1/2 hour window during the day with no work so I can use that time to return calls, check off small items. Real work is done before the sun comes up, or after the sun goes down. So when I head on vacation, I try to do the exact opposite of that. Once we have our destination, I work with the kids to find one thing each day we want to do, see or experience. We do this so we know that while very open ended, we can purchase tickets ahead of time (who wants to spend their time waiting in huge lines?) and know we have some defined purpose. The rest we leave wide open so we can wander and experience as it comes.
It is a strategy that works for all of us. And ultimately, it's the strategy I'm applying to my writing. Pick the destination, add a little bit of structure so I can make a bit of progress every day, and then just go DO. Somedays are amazing, some are a little bit messy and disorganized. And I'm totally ok with that. I've learned that those messy, disorganized times are where the real learning and experience come from.
So April was about finding my next "project" destination, and then beginning to map out how to get there. And just like when my kids and I chose a new place to travel and the world seems wide open for us to explore, my mind is doing the same thing right now. I'm like a kid with a passport open looking forward to getting a new stamp and I am excited to see what's going to happen throughout the whole trip.