Plan More, Plan Less: Continuing the Search for Simplicity and Legacy By Reviewing 2014 and Sharing Goals for 2015

Last year at this time, I had a plan for 2014. I even wrote about it.  I heard back from many readers about my plan to CONNECT (my word for the year) and to continue the search for simplicity and legacy by creating goals centered on my mission: to prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time.

Notes from 2014 planning. These are always on my right as I write.

Notes from 2014 planning. These stayed up all year and are always on my right as I write.

The process of end-of-year reflection is one I look forward to each year.

First, here are my three 2014 goals:

  • daily rituals that remind me of my mission: to prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time, and to help others do the same.
  • travel to at least eight places (plans so far include Laurelville and Lancaster, PA; Mexico; Kansas City and other Kansas towns; Elkhart County, IN; Holland, MI). I would love to do a West Coast trip, a Canada trip. I am planning my travel for the year now, so please let me know if you would like me to speak in a location near you or have a venue in mind for a book talk. Have book, will travel. :-)
  • a possible new e-book using the best of Magical Memoir Moments to help inspire other people to remember stories from their past and build a legacy. If you have signed up in the right-hand corner, you get these weekly photos and short prompts from me. Would you value having the best of them in one e-book at a low price (likely between .99 – and 2.99)?

Grading my goals: (Once a teacher, always a teacher).

I give myself a B- on being faithful in daily rituals. The days that felt the best were ones that included silence, inspirational reading, prayer or meditation, exercise, and good conversation. Travel often disrupted the plan. I had to learn to simplify and shorten the ritual.

I give myself an A+ on travel and book talks.  2014 was a great year to CONNECT about the subject of story and memoir. So many ordinary lives are really extraordinary. Instead of focusing only on my own childhood memoir, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World my talks were about the sacred nature of story itself. After reading Blush, many readers poured their hearts out to me. I was touched to read and hear their sacred stories.

I am convinced there is no such thing as an unimportant life.


Letters, notes, and emails illustrate the power of story.

Letters, notes, and emails illustrate the power of story.

As for that third possible goal? It gets an F. I found myself uninspired to do the work of figuring out how to turn Magical Memoir Moments into a book. The biggest barrier is technical. I don’t know how to locate the photos, in the right size, organize them and transfer them into a book. I don’t fret about leaving behind a goal that didn’t capture my imagination.

My friend Sherrey describes the need to stay flexible while making goals. And Elaine, the grief of no longer having plans after the death of a spouse. They illustrate the futility of thinking we are in control, especially in control of our health and our penultimate foe, death.

My friend Laurie, has a solution to this problem in how she approaches the subject of planning this year. Her word for the year is FLOW.

I determine to plan and to not be a slave of planning.

If I should die before I wake, I pray for grace.

I want to focus, therefore, on waking. On being as alive as I can be.

I have a daily partner to help me with that goal. A book, Wide Awake. Every Day, by an online friend Starla. From the short passage I read today, here is some advice I could use myself and share with you.

Plan more. Plan less.

—Starla King

A red book on a red chair.

A red book on a red chair.


So, today I will plan more by naming three goals for 2015.

1. Continue seeking simplicity and legacy by sitting in the red chair, thanking God for a new day, reading, and praying.

2. Continue to travel when called, visiting family often, and responding to invitations to speak with both generosity and appropriate boundaries.

3. Try to find time for The Box in the Basement. (I am amazed at how little I have done so far.) Try to consolidate social media efforts to preserve more time for memorabilia research and possible next memoir vignettes.

My word for the year, as I seek to be awake, is NOTICE.

To prepare for 2015, I’ll listen to two of my favorite people, Krista Tippett and Seth Godin, in this wonderful On Being podcast: The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating.

Now, your turn. Do you have a word to help you focus this year? Have you evaluated last year’s goals? How can we help you in this year’s goals?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Angela M Carter on January 7, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing this post, Shirley! So inspiring.

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 5:49 pm


      Thanks for your comment. Always good to hear from you. Still glowing from all the success you had this year with Memory Chose a Woman’s Body. Best in 2015!

  2. Laurie Buchanan on January 7, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Shirley –

    I applaud your F and let me tell you why. Some of my very best work resulted from myself, or others, telling me that I somehow fell short. You never know, this may well be the impetus that launches you — head first — into the The Box in the Basement.

    Not previously familiar with Starla King, and loving the quote of hers you shared — “Plan more. Plan less” — I plan to follow the link you so generously provided and get to know more about her. I may well FLOW over to the other links as well.

    As you so graciously shared with a link, my focus word for 2015 is FLOW. You asked your readers if we’ve evaluated last year’s goals. Yes I have, and like you, I got an F (not for lack of effort), but plan to place it firmly beneath my feet and use it as a stepping stone to reach my goal…

    …I received an email note from my literary agent of two years letting me know that she’s tired and hanging up her gloves (so to speak). She’s retiring. That leaves me with two choices:

    (1) find another literary agent, or
    (2) evaluate the self-publishing route. Not an option I’d thought of before, but I’m willing to FLOW in that direction and do a thorough evaluation.

    Here’s to FLOWing in new directions and taking NOTICE of things (obvious and otherwise) along the way.


    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Thanks, Laurie. You are sweet to remind me of how many of my own wrong turns eventually led to better paths.

      You will love Starla, her blog, and her (unbelievably priced at 3.14! paperback book). The link above will take you there. She is one of your kindred spirits.

      You have a fork in your creek bed this year. Which way to go? Maybe you can FLOW with both paths before making a final choice. You have built an excellent following online, and you write very well. So I think you will have choices. You might try some of the FB groups for indie authors. I have found these groups very helpful, even though I was traditionally published by a small press.

      I will NOTICE as you go with the FLOW. And if I can lend a hand, I’ll try.

  3. Clif Hostetler on January 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    A highlight of year 2014 for me was hosting and making local arrangements for Shirley’s visit to Kansas City during her book tour to Kansas promoting her book, “Blush.”

    A second highlight of year 2014 for me was hosting and assisting with local arrangements for J. Denny Weaver’s visit to the Kansas City metro area for multiple meetings to discuss his new book, “The Nonviolent God.”

    Book authors are my heros, and hosting two different authors in one year is a mountain top experience which will probably not happen again. Thus, for my future I guess it will be downhill from here on. (I’m happier than that that last sentence sounds.)

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      You made me chuckle hard with that last sentence, Clif. What a treat it was to meet you (and have you host me in grand style) in 2014. All authors suffer without voracious, appreciative readers like you. May I clone you?

      Thanks for stopping by and for your support in many, many ways, not only to me and J. Denny but also to every author of every book you review on Goodreads. An incredible number.

      All best in 2015!! And thank you again for everything.

  4. Marian Beaman on January 7, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    As one teacher to another, I think you are too hard on yourself with goal # 3. Among the grades available are A-F, of course, but also an Incomplete. Ideas take time to incubate, marinate, vegetate. Maybe the spark for this (or something else) may occur as you put your head into the Box in the Basement. Or sit on that red chair.

    My word for the year is Advance. Orientation begins this evening for my Memoir in Six Months (draft one). We’ll see how blogging blends with this. Hmmmm

    Thank you for the Starla King title too.

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      I rather like that idea — Incomplete rather than F.

      Yes. That seems right. And I hadn’t thought of how the MMM book might connect with The Box in the Basement. How very intriguing to think about that. Thank you!

      And you have set yourself a great goal with the class. I am sure you will get a draft finished. And I will be the first in line to buy your book when it eventually appears. That is, when it ADVANCES in due time. 🙂

  5. Kathleen Pooler on January 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I agree with Marian, Shirley. You are too hard on yourself with goal #3. It needs to marinate and I have no doubt “it” will let you know when it’s ready to roll. Here’s to working your way to The Box in the Basement. What a treasure trove. I think I’ve settled on “simplify” as my word for 2015, cutting through the chaos. “Wide Awake Everyday” sounds like a must-read. Thanks for sharing and best wishes for a stellar new year.

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      Thank you, Kathy! You picked a word that is that I keep coming back to again and again also. The drive to simplify is stronger as we get older, I think.

      You may get to see a few items from the Box in a few weeks. Looking forward to meeting you in person.

  6. Starla J King on January 7, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Wow, what an honor to be mentioned in this post, Shirley, and THANK YOU for your kind words and example of my book’s impact! It’s so interesting that you pulled out that particular phrase of “Plan more. Plan less.” because it’s exactly the reminder I needed for my own self today. (Our books are magic in that way, aren’t they?).

    May your red chair and red book and more planning and less planning all fall together into the most delicious experience of a year, my dear woman.

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      It was fun to go back to your list and find just the right words. I had to NOTICE them. 🙂 I love it that they helped you. I’ve had that kind of thing happen before also. Especially when I reread journals and quotations from other authors that spoke to me in one setting and then spoke again in a later, different, one.

      I think you might have found some new readers above, Starla. That would delight me. Thanks for writing Wide Awake. It’s only January 7, and look how much it has helped me already! 🙂

  7. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on January 7, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    My word for 2015 is Flow. Perhaps great minds run on the same track here, since I have admired Laurie’s mind and offerings, and she has the same word. I want my life to flow on in endless song, and, I am pretty sure, music and song are something we do not have to give up when we die.

    One of the highlights of 2014 was enjoying a Fourth of July with you and Stuart staying at my house and walking in my city. It was so thrilling to meet you two at dusk as you came off the train, and then to send you back into the dusky night at the Jack London Square Amtrak station.

    I’m looking forward to the times when you delve into those boxes…or not. Is it possibly harder to be compassionate with our college age and 20 something selves? Also, there are so many more people involved, and there are many more decisions that we make ourselves.

    Really…I feel certain you will be blessed and share blessings, whether or not you spend time with those boxes.

    Speaking of blessings, I’m going to check out the link you shared.

  8. shirleyhs on January 7, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Oh Dolores, I hope you got a chance to listen to that conversation. On Being is my favorite program, and I listen to it on podcast.

    I love your description of the time of day and the station July 4. You have a poet’s sensibility and a farmer’s love of the land. I so admire both.

    Your description of the 20’s as a life stage is so true. We make mistakes! I’ll try to remember to be compassionate, something I wasn’t necessarily good at during that period. 🙂

    You life will FLOW on in endless song. I agree with you. They are eternal.

    Happy 2015!

  9. Sharon Lippincott on January 8, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I salute the bravery of all who are willing to publicly evaluate a year’s progress in keeping resolutions. Having accepted ages ago that I’m more of a butterfly than an eagle, especially this year my resolutions are about process, not product. That fits with my word for the year: Transition. On many fronts. More about that as things unfold. Flow and awake are two more I strive for.

    So for the Incomplete on the Box in the Attic, I offer two of my resolutions: Write WHAT I want, WHEN I am ready. (you weren’t readY), and Take as long as you need to write it right.

    Here’s to a year of love, peace, joy and grace.

    • shirleyhs on January 9, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Sharon, you make me relax! And I love that feeling. You are an excellent example of someone who accomplishes an amazing amount but who doesn’t fixate on linear progress.

      We keep our eyes on the prize and recognize that the path often zigs and zags. Happy and healthy new year to you!

  10. Marla Longenecker on January 8, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Please get started on that box in the basement, and then on to the book on memoir writing prompts. I have been going through my “Boxes ITB” and am soon going to be ready for your new memoir book. I was just thinking about that last week and wondering if such a book existed. 😉

  11. Loretta Willems on January 8, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    For me as well, New Year’s Eve and day are a time for reflection on the year past and planning for the year ahead. It’s not a matter of making resolutions; it’s more an assessment of where my life needs to go and what I would like to accomplish. I usually meet most of my goals. However, I find I have to hold plans lightly. If I say, “This year I will do this,” something inside me will rebel. That resistance needs to be taken seriously, almost always has something to teach me. That happened big-time this last year in regard to my writing. I hit a wall that required a complete reassessment of not just my plans for the year, but the whole role of writing in my life. It was a long, complicated process, but I did work through it, and I begin the new year at peace with what was accomplished in 2014 and happy with what is on the agenda for 2015.

    • Laurie Buchanan on January 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      Loretta — ” However, I find I have to hold plans lightly. If I say, “This year I will do this,” something inside me will rebel.”

      Quite possibly we are cut from the same bolt of cloth…

  12. shirleyhs on January 9, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Loretta, I salute the rebel in you — and I too understand it completely. Good for you for re-evaluating. I feel myself doing that also and taking my good old time to weigh my options. Lets help each other keep moving and keep holding our plans lightly! To a great 2015, no matter what comes.

  13. Elaine Mansfield on January 9, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Lovely, Shirley. Thanks for linking to my blog. Of course, our plan-making schemes are often doomed and yet if we don’t plan our books, our tours, our blogs, and what’s for dinner, nothing happens.My goal is to stay curious and keep knocking on doors. And to be ever ready to change or drop plans. To be a healing influence in the world.

    • shirleyhs on January 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      You said it well, Elaine! I just finished writing and scheduling my post for tomorrow which revisits this theme.

      My friend and former boss Tom talked about holding all our plans “lightly.” That’s another way of saying it.

      May your plans for today keep moving you forward and include at least one delightful surprise.

  14. Melinda on January 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    F can be for Flow or Flunk. The latter F is for when you are dead and can do no more.

    • shirleyhs on January 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Melinda. you challenge me to Flow and to give myself higher grades for Not Yet Done or perhaps Not the Right Goal. I’ll try to remember “sweet Afton” and “flow gently.”

  15. […] Just last week I described my approach to 2015 as “planning more and planning less.” […]

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