August 28, 2018
5 Tips and a Story to Achieve Your Impossible Goals
Have you ever had a glimpse of a vision of something you’d like to do, but didn’t think it would ever be possible? I have.
One evening about seven years ago I was sitting in a coffee shop in Ojai, California with Mary Natwick. Mary is a poet who had just published two books of poetry. We were reading each other’s poems and offering feedback.
“What do you have to do to publish a book of poetry?” I asked her.
“You write hundreds and hundreds of poems,” she said. “Then you carefully select the best ones to create a collection that tells a story.”
Hundreds of poems?! At that point, I’d been writing poetry for two decades but only a few poems each year when I was at peak inspiration. There’s no way I’d ever be able to write regularly enough to produce hundreds. Or so I thought.
This year, I proved myself wrong.
It turns out that this is a perfect back-to-school story. It’s also a story that reveals some key principles to achieving impossible goals.
When I was in elementary school, I received poor marks in two areas. This is the exact wording from my report cards, they are so ingrained in my mind:
– “is courteous and considerate”
– “uses self control.”
My teachers said I was not and I did not.
After fourth grade, I attended a summer enrichment program called Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder. Founder Joan Franklin Smutny’s creative writing class opened the world of free verse poetry to me. Suddenly I had a means of self-expression. I had a channel into which I could pour my continuous thoughts!
It is no accident that in fifth grade I finally was able to earn perfect marks in behavior. That unbridled mental energy could flow into writing instead of being spouted in the middle of class.
In Joan’s classes, my creative thinking had been valued and utilized.
I felt a sense of growth and satisfaction having had the opportunity to do academic work that also engaged my creativity.
This one summer course helped sustain me through many years of less interesting classes.
Practicing What I Preach
For many years, I wrote a handful of poems each year. I thought that I could only write under perfect conditions: total inspiration + perfect setting = perfect poem. Wrong!!
I had the expectation of perfection, but needed instead to adopt messy draft mindset. Embracing messy draft mindset helps us to sustain original thought and productivity over time. If we’re willing to write (or draw or make or suggest) something imperfect, we won’t be frozen into inaction.
Once I changed my mindset to release myself from the need for perfection every step of the way, I was able to write more poetry. Because I approached it as a continuous process, writing drafts to improve over time, my poetry got better.
The image above is the first introductory page in What Do Birds Say to the Moon? After fourth grade and especially when I was in college, Joan became my lifelong mentor. I would not be doing what I do today without her influence and support.
It is with gratitude that I present to you this little book, this collection of free verse poems, edited by the amazing individual who taught me to write in the first place.
There’s more. Chloe Landisman, a student who is just starting college, designed the cover and layout for the book. Chloe had designed a literary magazine for a school that I loved, so I hired her to do mine.
Joan got me started writing articles that helped me build my resume even before I knew I was ready. I thought it appropriate that I follow in her footsteps for this project and I’m delighted with the results!
5 Tips to Achieve Your Impossible Goals
Want to achieve your impossible goals this year? These pointers gleaned from my story follow principles from the science of creativity:
1. Start! Then, improve.
(Embrace messy draft mindset.)
2. Work often.
(Writing lots of bad poetry will yield a book of good poetry!)
3. Pair up.
(A mentor or process buddy creates a team.)
4. Enjoy the journey.
(Focus on the work, follow #’s 1-3, and the outcome will unfold.)
5. Be inspired.
(Mary Natwick inspired me and I’d love to inspire you. You can get your copy of What Do Birds Say to the Moon? here. Proceeds support Joan’s nonprofit that continues to run incredible enrichment classes in the Chicago area, with many, many scholarships.)
Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.