Daughter Liz is an artist who loathes the prospect of losing her creative skill. She’s a newlywed and both she and her husband work full time.
“I’m worried my art skills are getting rusty,” she said during a recent video chat. “But I have an idea!”
Her idea? To create a children’s book together with her as the illustrator and me as the writer.
“I think the project would help motivate me to work on my art during my free time instead of mindlessly checking Facebook or watching YouTube,” she said.
What’s a mother not to love about that?
To keep us motivated and excited about the project, we decided to make the book a gift for my granddaughter Charlotte, whose birthday was six months away. That became our long-range goal. Mermaids — a favorite of Charlotte’s — became the main characters. A dancing and singing mermaid named Charlotte became the protagonist with a sea turtle as her wise sea creature friend.
Then, in order to stay accountable and keep the project moving, we agreed to meet via video chat every other week. I was thrilled to have an excuse to chat twice a month with my daughter who lives 2200 miles away!
Finally, we each stated what portion of the project we would complete by our next chat. She would make rough pencil sketches of the mermaids, and I would write character sketches.
We have followed that pattern for the past 12 months! Look at us! Writing a children’s book in six months! :-/ Our new goal is to have it finished by Christmas 2018.
Life happened, of course. In addition to the normal distractions of life, we extended our deadline twice. Charlotte decided she hated sea turtles and LOVED dolphins. Watercolor pictures became too time consuming, so Liz switched to computer-generated scenes. Family health concerns became my priority for a few months. And her work got super busy.
Not a perfect happily-ever-after ending, but we have made significant progress.
We made progress!
Focusing on progress rather than perfection teaches you things, like
- Be real! Six months to write, illustrate, and publish (even just on the family printer) a children’s book is unrealistic.
- Be willing to bend. Things change. Focusing on progress leaves space for flexibility.
- Have an accountability buddy. The progress we have made is largely due to our bi-monthly video chats.
- Chats served as a natural deadline
- We felt responsible to have accomplished something for the sake of our co-creator.
- Collaborating with a friend is FUN!
- You don’t have to give up because things didn’t work the way you thought.
- It’s helpful to occasionally evaluate where you are, what you’ve learned, and decide on what the project looks like moving forward.
Liz and I will complete our book creating project. But, whether or not we finish it by Christmas, we’ll continue to enjoy the journey together.