Trailing Joy: My Wish For You
Kristen Heimerl

To My Friends at Children’s Writer’s Guild:

If you visit this site often, you know that I’ve spent over a year chronicling the product development process and go-to-market strategy for my children’s book, Inspector Dewey, and philanthropic startup. I’ve covered a variety of topics—from establishing a vision and goals, market research, branding, IP and legal matters, crowdfunding, and editing to choosing an illustrator, pricing, promotional tactics, social-media strategy, website development, partnerships, creating strategic events, and more. Throughout my posts, I’ve shared my development philosophy and approach, peppering my advice with the useful (and hard) lessons I learned as a neophyte squeezing her way into the publishing industry.

Now I’m tasked with the most difficult job of all: what was the point of all this? And what do I hope you have taken away?

Now I’m tasked with the most difficult job of all: what was the point of all this? And what do I hope you have taken away? Unquestionably, for the wonderful creators of Children’s Writer’s Guild, I hope that my work contributed in some way to the successful launch of the online community, positively influencing awareness and growth. And I’m forever grateful to Sheila Wright, Editor, who gave me a shot—an untrained, newbie writer—to practice my craft and voice. No questions. No shame. (Even for the duds! Thank you, Sheila.)

But what about you? The promising entrepreneur? The emerging artist? The next important voice? The curious reader? What do I wish for you? When I started writing the articles, my wish was that I would provide helpful insights and information to ease the ride down the learning curve of the builders behind me. I thought that my business acumen was the greatest gift I could bring to you. But I know now that it is something much different. It is inspiration—inspiration to act.

Writer Mary Oliver wrote in her beautiful meditation on the central commitment of the creative life that “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

I feel this statement deeply. I live this statement daily. What if I die with my dreams still inside? This is the fear that burns inside me. It’s what drives everything I do. It’s what drove me to found a startup mid-career. And it’s why whatever I’ve done in my lifetime got done. But after decades in the world, I know that action and execution are far rarer qualities than thinking, strategizing, plotting, planning, or dreaming.

What is my wish for you? That you take action. That you pay attention to the voice inside. That you at least explore what’s percolating deep within before writing it off as irrational or impossible—a flight of fancy.

When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.Josh James, Omniture CEO and co-founder

Why is this so incredibly important—imperative, in fact? When we create our “art,” it is the only thing with permanence and the only thing that is truly ours to own. Everything else meaningful is subject to decay and loss—our health, our job, our financial security, our youth, our home, our partnerships, our relationships, our lives, and all of our “stuff.” But our creative works, the things borne of our heart and head, the “some things” we build from “no things”—a business, a product, a poem, a painting, whatever it is—can never be taken away. In fact, they exist long after we do. If you want something lasting, if you want to make a mark in this world, you must bring your art to life.

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.Benjamin Franklin

To do it and do it well, you must leave behind the baggage you cannot take with you on your journey, for it will saddle you, derail you, or worse, stop you dead in your tracks:

Make a plan. You’ll need one. But think of it as your milestones not as your Master. Slavery to your plan will prevent you from taking advantage of untimely but extraordinary opportunities. After committing a launch date to my crowdfunders, I met a prominent, nationally awarded author who suggested I speak with his editor. Would I choose the opportunity to work with a leading New York editor and postpone the launch or stick to my path and promise? I chose the former. My product is far superior because of it. And my funders far happier.

Courageousness must trump fear when the trail needs blazing and you hold the tools. You will have many moments when you have no idea what you are doing. And other moments where you question everything about yourself—your sanity, your intellect, your judgment. Move toward your emotions. Feel them. Honor them. Then move through them. Feel the fear and do what you need to do anyway.

“When a resolute individual steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Start your project by letting go of the results. Do it because you want to—you need to regardless of the outcome. When I kicked off my publishing effort, I told myself that if my book was a bomb, I didn’t care: I’d wallpaper my living room with book jackets, and I’d smile every evening at the sight of them. And I meant it. Focusing on the process and letting go of the results freed me to bring my best self to the effort. (Gratefully, hardy sales precluded the need for blue kitty wallpaper.)

You will fail at some tasks; at minimum, you’ll turn out work that falls short of your expectations; it’s inevitable when doing something new. No matter how many successes you have behind you, embrace your “beginner’s mind,” open yourself up to new learning. And when you do mess up—because you will—let it go and take the lesson with you. I did so many things wrong in the process of bringing my product to market. But I did even more things right. Collectively, they came together to result in a consumer-winning product. Striving for excellence is motivating, striving for perfection is dispiriting.

This is the hardest one to leave behind but the most important. People will question your judgment. Others will try to “guide you back” (to normalcy, I assume). And some you have supported for years will turn away from you in disapproval. Ow. This is a test of your resolve and the strength of the voice inside. How on earth do you know if the decision you made was the right one? You will know at every major milestone. It’s hard to believe or even to describe, but everything I needed on my journey arrived exactly at the precise moment that I needed it. I believed. And it came—the connection, the insight, the vendor, the money. Trust yourself.

Is the entrepreneurial journey worth it? I imagine my life would be quite different now had I not embarked on the creative path. But I also know that I would not be whole.

Is the entrepreneurial journey worth it? It would be wrong to sugarcoat the amount of work involved. A lot (x 100). I imagine my life would be quite different now had I not embarked on the creative path. I know I would be operating with the full support of those who have been important to me in the past. I know I would pass more of the traditional fitness tests of success. But I also know that I would not be whole. I would not have experienced one of the most joyous rides of my life. I would not be looking at my unknown future with the same eager eyes as a child. And I know that I would not carry with me the satisfaction that “I did it”—something meaningful, ineffable. My team and I created something from nothing, something beautiful, something that contributes positively to our world and our children. Something that is ours. Forever.

All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA.Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder

What is my wish for you? That you create the “art” that only you can create. That you put everything into it, everything that makes you uniquely you—your voice, your mind, your story, your joys, your hopes, your pains. That you share it with the world. That you shine it brightly for all to see. That you show us who you really are. Because that’s what we all want to see: you.

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