2017 was my most transitional year yet. I left my job, started my own business, gave up my Brooklyn apartment, spent six months living nomadically all across America, and wrote my first book, Daytripper: 60 Days on the Road Exploring America's National Parks.
So how was it that I was able to sit down and actually write my first book in a mere 10 weeks at the end of the year when I didn't even have a home base?!
After I spent two of those nomadic months living out of a car exploring nine states and twelve of America's National Parks, I was flushed with inspiration. I was in the middle of a huge shift of my life, leaving my job, my city, and my community and focusing my energy within. I was nearly busting at the seams with this message of beauty, wonder, sustainability, and curiosity. I wanted to share the way I was feeling and the only way I knew how, was to recount the stories from my #vanlife experience - hiking my tallest mountain, camping in the desert in 100 degree heat, sleeping in parking lots, and shedding my New York City skin. For me, this manifested in the form of a coffee table book.
Upon returning from the trip, I started telling all of my friends that I was writing a book. I did this for two months before I actually started any writing. I still had all of my photographs to sort through and edit and that daunting task led me to full-on procrastination.
I am someone who thrives in a structured environment. I need deadlines. The hardest part about being an entrepreneur for me, has been just that. Nobody is giving me deadlines. I actually force myself to present my clients with deadlines so that I will get the work done. A project for myself though...I'd get to that one day...right?!
I had the inspiration and the drive but what was missing for me, was Accountability.
I am a part of several beautiful Facebook groups of freelancing women + curiosity seekers that I look to when I have hard questions about navigating owning your own business. Someone posted that they discovered this online program, Art of Freelance (a group accountability course), that they were considering joining. One look at the website and I signed up right away, this was exactly what I needed to propel my book project forward. The structure of the 10-week online course looks like this:
-1 week: Define and refine your professional goals using carefully designed exercises that have been proven to work for creative Freelancers and/or those with a “side hustle”.
-1 week: Create a roadmap of the projects that will push you to the next step in your career, and help you choose the right project to tackle right now.
-8 weeks: Accomplish that project with the support of real human to human contact in weekly online video check-ins focused on providing feedback and guidance.
-Accountability group: I was assigned to a group of 6-10 other creatives. We had a set time to meet for one hour via Zoom each week for the next 10 weeks. We had a guide who led each week's meetings and we were each allotted time to speak about our progress, goals for the week ahead, and any roadblocks we were facing. Example: I turned to my group when I was trying to decide between three book cover designs. My group members provided honest feedback to help me perfect what would end up being the final cover of the book.
-Finale: Debut your project in person at a community showcase.
For my project, I took on a HUGE undertaking for the mere 10 weeks I had ahead. These were the steps I had to take:
Photo archiving + editing
Writing + editing
Layout + design
Printer + paper sourcing
Getting a printed proof in-hand for the showcase
In other words, I couldn't mess around. I needed to GSD (get sh** done)!
The course ran from Nov 8th - Jan 20th so on top of the huge assignment ahead, all of this had to be done during the holiday break, an already stressful time of year. And to be clear, I was technically homeless during this period, living nomadically between friends and families homes across CA, CO, NY & VA.
No matter. There's nothing to it but to do it, right?
The first two weeks of the course were a huge help because we had several assignments in the beginning to help get us really clear on what project we should take on. (Many people did not know what project they should tackle from the beginning, and these assignments will make it clear which projects will support both your short-term and long-term goals). It also helped lay the framework for setting a realistic timeline by working backwards. Knowing there was an end date in mind with a showcase at the end, how could I structure my ten weeks to properly ensure I would have a printed proof in time? I set up a timeline for myself and that framework gave me the push to accomplish my weekly tasks. If even one task fell short, the book would arrive too late. The holiday break added a curveball because there is a prime 1-2 weeks that printer + paper companies could potentially be closed so I had to account for that in my timeline from the beginning.
I gave myself an extra challenge by telling all of my friends and family about the book and the showcase. I invited over 100 people to the community showcase at the end, when the book hadn't even been written yet! My mom, sister, uncle, cousin, and a few friends committed to flying in from out of town for the big showcase day in LA. The pressure was on...
Luckily I had just come off of living two months of #vanlife where I was forced to be scrappy to work remotely. I turned the quiet sanctuary of public libraries into my mobile office and continued this trend, seeking private study rooms wherever I could for the next two months, carving out time for myself and for this project.
I'll save the book production process for another post but in the end, I took my printed proof to press the week of the showcase. Luckily, my printer was able to print two proofs and ship them overnight to me so they arrived the day before the showcase.
Cutting it close but they had arrived!
To see my book in full binded form made it finally real for me. To hold my story in my hands for the first time was a completely surreal experience that made the memories from that trip tangible.
My friends and family came to support me at the showcase for a successful celebration of the progress that had been made and to see the first version of the book. At the showcase, I also debuted a video of footage from the trip and had a few limited edition 5x7 matted prints for sale. At the showcase, there were so many different types of artists debuting their projects as well, from new websites, new director reels, new zines, spoken word, board game design, etc. The diversity of ideas that had been born in such a short timespan was really beautiful to witness and be a part of.
I very much have the framework of Art of Freelance to thank for propelling this project forward. It gave me the framework, the timeline, the accountability, the peer support, the feedback, and the debut to get this project out of my head and into my hands. I highly recommend anyone to go through one of their programs, even if you aren't sure which creative project to pursue.
Note: This is not a replacement for doing the actual work but simply, an accelerator.
Use this link and code "FRIENDOFKAYLA" for 10% off. Sign-ups for Spring19 close on March 20, 2019 at 11:59pm PT.
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