Assignment #1: Prepare an action plan for reaching a medium-term writing goal. You have seven days to complete and submit plan.
Write up an overarching SMART goal and then generate a series of intermediate objectives, each with its own subset of deliverables. The objectives and deliverables will use measurable action words, such as those in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and will themselves include all the elements of SMART goals (most importantly, specificity and timeline).
As the details of the interim requirements resolve into view, they may reveal that the Big Papi goal is itself problematic. The goal might be too ambitious or your schedule unrealistic. Revise as necessary. The plan will be more effective if it emerges from an adaptive exchange between desired outcome and deliberative process.
Here is an example of my possible Big Papi writing goal: By May 1, 2017, prepare for submission a working draft of book proposal (with complete outline), introduction, and chapter 1.
Note that the goal isn’t to have a book finished. It’s to have a solid framework for the book ready for the next phase of production.
What comes next is the meat of assignment. During the coming week, CONTENT FORBIDDEN. No writing on the topic of your masterpiece. Dedicate all writing time this entire seven days to crafting a blueprint so finely wrought it would make Frank Lloyd Wright swoon.
Big Papi is standing at the building site on the scaffolding of your project. From where he’s perched, you work backwards. What do you need to do in order to get to him?
This is where you spew out a list of the 742 little things that you’ll eventually need to complete. It’s like planning a big reunion party. The Big Papi goal might be, “On Memorial Day weekend, host a daylong outdoor-games-and-dance party a lake within an hour’s drive of DC for friends, family, and co-workers.” Woot! Kick-ass goal!
Next, brainstorm, with exactly zero attempt at organization. Like this:
“invites, party games, WHERE? (how do you even book county/state parks?), Who? Babysitter for kids, or maybe crafts and organized kiddie sports, food, Is there someone who might be willing to help?, or POTLUCK – save $$ on food and use for booking site, or maybe a friend’s band?, rain plan, supplies for activities and also supplies for eating, campfire maybe, so evening party?, grills, is beer/wine allowed at venue?”
And so on. Get it all down. Once you’ve exhausted all the questions and possible considerations, start sorting your mess into categories.
VENUE, GUESTS, FOOD, ACTIVITIES, SUPPLIES
Dump each set of questions and ideas into each category. From there, you start untangling and adding detail to create interim steps. These steps should become SMARTer as you map them out. Like under venue, “By January 31, Create list of possible locations, review websites determine policies and costs related to use of picnic shelters, identify and compare venues with Memorial Day Weekend openings, submit application and deposit. By February 28, ensure details of amenities and accessibility are available to guests.”
Finally, take a look across the categories at all your various timelines and re-sort everything into one single, integrated schedule that gets you from this moment to the big day. Put each mini-deliverable into an actual slot on the actual calendar, the exact same one you use to schedule work commitments and dates with the cuties.
The party-planning example is intentionally flippant. Remember that our creative darlings are simply projects. They are comprised of moving parts, powered by a thousand small acts of habit and intent. Let’s decide to turn for a moment, this one week, from the sacred art, and work with the quotidian stuff of spreadsheets and science so we can start to turn our work outward and ready it for the world.
Then we can all party with the Big Papi. Firelight, story, a dark and singing shore.
Assignment #1 due date: Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:00pm.
Image: Alphirin, “Romanesque Architecture” on Deviant Art