Last night we had a family meeting (with the 3 oldest kids joining via videochat). Each of us reported on our year, and we reviewed a list of family goals we had made at the beginning of 2020 — laughing hard at how few we accomplished. For example, at the beginning of 2020, we were confident we would be moving into the Tall House, probably in the fall, and certainly by Christmas. (Hahaha!)
I like making goals, though I don’t beat myself up if I don’t always accomplish them. A big part of what I like about goal-making is creating a picture in my head of a possible future. Goals help me focus, and they give me something to look forward to. I make goals throughout the year, but January is my favorite time to think about what’s next — even though I know the calendar is arbitrary.
For 2021, here’s what’s on my mind goal-wise:
Launch a Show
I really want to create a show based on the renovation work we’re doing in France. This is by far the biggest project idea on my mind these days.
I love the work we are doing, and I love sharing the work with readers and social media subscribers. And I’ve received a ton of feedback that people want more and that they already think of it as a sort-of show.
I’m confident an actual show will help me share more consistently, and that having structured episodes will be easier for people to follow along with the renovations — and make it easier to re-watch or go back to an episode if they missed something (which is hard on Instagram stories when footage disappears after 24 hours).
We have several projects to feature in a potential show — the Tall House, the Small House in the back (from the 1400s!), and the Cottage in the countryside. If the show is working, we’d also love to tackle a bigger renovation project here in France — like a small chateau or a building that could become a boutique hotel.
There are two very frequent comments I get from people who see the renovation updates in my Instagram stories. One of them is how calming it is to watch; that even when problems arise, it’s not stressful. Our oldest, Ralph, who has been watching the renovations from America, described the footage as a cross between HGTV and ASMR. (Hah!) I like that description and think it’s a good base for how a possible show could look and feel: Calming. Mr. Rogers vibes. Wholesome. Unstressed responses to troubles or issues.
I also want the show to have strong elements of learning and discovery, because so much of our personal experience while renovating has been about learning and discovery. I’m picturing sidebars about history when we find shrapnel in the attic, and learning about products and restoration techniques — like a factory tour of the tile producer, or learning how to tint plaster.
The other most frequent comment I get from people who see the renovation updates in my Instagram stories is how much they enjoy seeing our children working with us on this project. And I think showing our family working together could also be a really positive aspect of the show.
I can easily visualize what this show is. I’ve mapped out a season of 20 episodes and what we could cover. But I don’t know how to go about creating the show. I mean, I kind of do. We did this with Olive Us all those years ago. We just hired a crew, and brought them to France, and started creating videos. No one told us to do it, we just wanted to, so we did. Eventually, Scripps approached us and bought 20 episodes beyond the 20+ we’d already made. Related, I know people build shows on Youtube or IGTV as well (my kids love watching Binging with Babish, a cooking show on Youtube). So we could try to take that sort of DIY approach to the show, but right now, I think it’s the wrong direction.
What I really want is to do a more traditional show with production and distribution that launches on a big streaming platform like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV, Disney+, etc.. But I don’t have a sense of the steps I would need to take to pitch that idea or create that show or generally how to make it happen. (If you have any knowledge or experience with this and can point me in the right direction, I’m all ears.)
I think a show would also help me with a second goal…
Help People Learn About Moving Abroad
We field a ton of inquiries on the why and how we moved to France. And as you know I try to share that information freely and have several blogposts I point people to. But I’d like to create an Official Guide that would really help walk people through the process, and give them everything we’ve learned — every mistake and helpful tip and experience hack — all in one place.
It used to be unusual that Ben Blair and I both worked at home, which allowed us to work from anywhere in the world that has reliable internet. But the pandemic changed everything. The world has now clearly demonstrated that there are a ton of jobs that can be done remotely. It’s easy to predict that even once offices are safe again, many employees will continue to work from home. I think that means more people will opt to experience the same sort of adventure our family is on — working from another country, or even a non-big-city part of the U.S.. I’d love to help people make that happen.
Beyond creating a Guide, I’ve also talked with people locally about creating a network/service so that people can easily move abroad for a couple of months, as a temporary experiment to see if they enjoy it before they commit to applying for a visa.
But first, I’m focused on creating a Guide. I’m still unsure on the format. I’ve considered some sort of downloadable digital book/pdf, but I think I would prefer a format that can be easily updated with fresh information so that it’s always up-to-date — possibly a dedicated website (or section of a website) would be better than a pdf. If you’ve ever purchased a guide or e-book or online course, I’d love to hear which formats you prefer.
Write a Parenting Book with Ben Blair
This project has been in the works for much of 2020. In the late spring, Ben and I set time aside weekly to work on a book proposal. We gave the 75-page proposal to our book agent just before Thanksgiving, and she found a publisher before Christmas! We’re supposed to sign the contract this month and once it’s official, I’ll tell you more about it.
For now, I’ll just tell you that I’m so excited about this. I loved working on the proposal with Ben and can’t wait to write the book together. For years, I’ve been collecting the parenting questions that Design Mom Readers send me, and I feel like we have a really good sense of the parenting topics where we can be most helpful.
Publish a Coffee Table Book about the Tall House Project
This is another book project that I would love to tackle this year. Ideally it would publish as we finish the Tall House renovation — even better if it publishes at the same time as a show that showcases the renovation!
For this project, I would like to hire a photo-editor and a writer. For the writer, I want them to interview me and Ben and then use the interviews to help tell the story of the renovation. For the photo-editor, I want them to go through all images taken at the Tall House (we have so many), select the best images for the book, and figure out which images we still need to finish telling the story (and then we would shoot those images).
The actual renovation work, the photos, and the words in the interviews would all be ours, but we would hire out the “building” of the book. My thinking is that brain-wise, I want to use my writing energy for the parenting book, but I don’t want the Tall House book to be delayed, so if I can hire out the building of the Tall House book, that could mean both book projects are doable at once.
But I haven’t talked to my publisher or agent about this idea yet, so it may get totally nixed. Hah! We’ll see. We may have to push this book project to another year. : )
There you have it. Project-wise, this is what I’m thinking about for 2021. Will I accomplish all of this? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will sure be fun to try. What about you? What is on your mind for 2021? Are you thinking about projects? Self-improvement? Maybe you have reading goals? Or perhaps you’re delighted to have survived a pandemic so far, and you can leave it at that. (By the way, I’m serious about the show — if know how to make it happen, please reach out.)
P.S. — There is one more project, but I hesitate to write about it. I’m still interested in doing a Podcast. I want to call it A Few Things and I want it to be like my Friday blog posts — personal updates, current events I’m thinking about (including article links), cool products I’ve found, reports on different projects, responses to reader inquiries, stuff like that.
But I don’t want to make a big deal of it. In the past, when I started working on a podcast launch, it became too weighted and stressful in my head, and I had to stop. So for this attempt, I’d like to keep it casual, and experiment a bit until I find a format that is enjoyable for listeners, and for me as the creator. And then build from there. So maybe I’ll try a beta-launch-podcast. Is that a thing?