One of the things I LOVE about serving as a Superintendent in Texas is the camaraderie among our female leaders. Our state’s organization supporting women school executives (TCWSE) is thriving. Not only do area groups gather throughout the year and the whole group comes together for an energy-packed, inspirational annual conference, the female superintendents have become exceptionally close. We have our own GroupMe (sort of an online chat group) where we share our struggles, ask for advice and (my favorite part) lift each other up!
Just this week, one of our rockstar #sistersupts, Dr. Martha Salazar-Zamora (Tomball ISD) shared her BIG goal of running the Houston Half-Marathon next month… Wow! 🙌
This past week I had the opportunity to talk with our Middle School Leadership Class and I started by asking what BIG goals they had recently set and what steps were necessary to achieve those goals.
The students had fantastic goals – from being chosen for Student Council, to making all A’s, to becoming a better athlete, to being nicer to their siblings. And they had great, tangible steps to achieve those goals too – both things that they needed to do and things they needed to stop doing. Whenever you set a big goal, there are often major life changes that you make in order to achieve it. Sometimes they are short-term sacrifices and sometimes they are long-term sacrifices.
This past year, I had a BIG goal too, and that was to write a book. When I committed to that goal I began to make changes in my life too. I said no to a few things so that I could say yes to some windows of writing. And I said yes to some things that I knew would fill my bucket, encourage others and grant me a platform to talk about this critical work that I am so passionate about. One of the things I knew I would need to do was back off my blogging for a short period of time in order to focus on the long-term goal of publishing this book.
And alas, here I am… writing again – to/for my awesome readers. Because the words just have to come out. There’s no other real way to describe it except that as a writer, you feel like you must give way to the thoughts inside of you; that it would be an injustice not to do so.
In January of this year I had a watershed moment. For a long time I really felt that the only way I could broaden my leadership or have a greater impact on others would be to leave this beautiful community in which I live and serve. And I struggled between my (and my family’s) desire to stay here and also lead in a broader way. The turning point came earlier this year where it was clearly revealed to me that I don’t have to leave in order to lead in the way that I feel like I’m being called to.
I signed up for a Ted Talk-like event through TCWSE and began to write my thoughts in order to prepare for that event. And as I practiced in front of some trusted colleagues and friends, they encouraged me to share my message beyond that event. So I launched a blog and started to write.
I was purposeful in writing small increments rather than trying to determine my title and table of contents for a book from the get-go. I wrote from the heart about things that were near and dear to me and only after I did that consistently for months, did I begin to have clarity around what it was that I truly wanted to write about.
I began to follow writing-related things on social media including groups like HopeWriters (a community of writers who share their best strategies along with encouragement and inspiration). I also began to follow writers like Jon Acuff who shares snippets about his actual writing process on his social media platforms. I began to learn from and emulate strategies to guide my own work.
I also knew that I knew nothing about the publishing world so I began to reach out to writers who have had an impact on me. I literally cold-called authors and was elated that they were so gracious to share what they learned along their journeys. (*A huge thanks to Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, Tamara Letter, Evan Robb, Melanie Mayer, Dr. Sandra Harris and others). I asked questions about their writing process, finding a publisher, negotiating contracts, who they had worked with and what their experiences has been like. One conversation even helped me get to the topic of my book by helping me realize that while my mind was set on one area for a potential book project, my heart was clearly speaking to another.
One publishing group that came up over and over again in these conversations was Dave and Shelley Burgess. Much like what Dave did for teaching and Shelley did for leading, they both have really shattered the archetype for publishing by leveraging technology and social media to make what used to be out of reach for so many a real possibility… and that is amazing practitioners, who are doing the work every single day – who are not perfect but absolutely passionate – sharing their authentic voice with others. Their vision for their work is crystal clear, just as the voice of their authors is in the books that they publish.
I also began to read books, and read them with a completely different lens – How did they intermix storytelling with research with practical strategies? How did they build reflection opportunities into their chapters? How did they divide their books in a way that was meaningful? A close colleague also recommended Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and that was truly a gift to read. One of the things that Anne stresses is that the true reason for writing is not just an end goal of publishing, but rather for the gifts that writing gives along the way.
Many people have asked how I find time to write as a busy mom and superintendent, but as I was reflecting with my husband recently, we both realized that I have never been more happy and less stressed than I have been since I started writing. I’ve shared before that balance is not as much about your physical location as it is your emotional preoccupation. And my mind has truly been able to leave work at work because of the writing. It has also opened the doors to positively impact others – those who I knew, and so many that I’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way.
As I finalized the final book proposal and sent it off and the weeks of waiting began, those words from Anne Lamott were a refuge for my doubtful and wandering mind. Especially because I only sent out my proposal to ONE publishing group: to Dave and Shelley Burgess.
I must have checked my email 19,376 times (a day) while waiting for a response, but seeing these words in print, “what a gift this book will be to leaders everywhere,” was worth every step and anxious moment.
I am so excited to share that I will be publishing a book with DBC Inc next year that is about leadership, and about life. I absolutely love what I do, but there is a small, small percentage of my work (and life) that is just really hard! And I don’t think I’m alone. So how we can we lead through that 5% in a way that allows us to THRIVE? I am excited and grateful and hopeful for the IMPACT and encouragement it will bring to those who are doing the real work every day!
The second question I’m asked, after “what is your book about,” is “how far along are you?” I’m happy to share that I reached a major milestone: 40,000 words. When it comes to writing, it is always quality over quantity, however, I would also like to publish an actual book and not a pamphlet. LOL. While the goal is actually somewhere between 45,000 and 55,000 words, and I’m not there YET, 40,000 is significant to me because it absolutely closes the door on all doubts on whether it can be done. But as I sit back and think about the 40,000 words that I have captured so far, I mostly wonder about how many of those words will encourage or affirm or inspire or challenge or positively impact another person – whether that be 40 or 4,000 or 40,000.
As my #sistersupt so poignantly captured in her tweet, time is short. There are only 90 days left in this decade, and we’re not even guaranteed tomorrow. So dream big, take one small but bold step in that direction and let your actions encourage everyone around you along the way! #dreambig
#ThriveThroughTheFive #ComingIn2020 #dbcincbooks