Making a plan


Dear Artist,

Some artists don’t believe in resolutions. Others find talking too much about ideas neutralizes the power needed to execute them. Some artists worry about sabotage. Many value the accountability that comes with a public declaration — they set goals, create a strategy, tweak tactics and pull from ineffable inner resources when needed. Like John Beeden, who this year rowed from San Francisco to Cairns, Australia in his 6-metre boat, “Socks II,” some artists create what once seemed impossible.


“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944)

Whether you make an announcement or keep your resolutions quietly to yourself, keep in mind the words attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And if you’re going to make a plan, why not work backwards?

Begin with your dream. Be as specific as possible — according to the popular gurus, the universe, like a puppy with a slipper, loves to chew on material things. Imagine, for example, the art you always wanted to make. Visualize in detail this reckless, heightened expression of your creativity.

Next, make a wish for your dream. How will you make this art? What will happen if you do?

Finally, in the same way you might answer the five Ws of storytelling, you can build a plan around your wish:


“It is the time you have lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Who are the key players?
What are the steps?
Why am I doing it?
Where will it happen?
When will I complete?



PS: “Plan your work and work your plan.” (Vince Lombardi)

“What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides, somewhere, a well.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)


The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Esoterica: If you were receiving these letters in 2001, you may remember a late December invitation to privately send in your resolutions for safekeeping. Several hundred of you did — your emails kept for a year, then returned on January 1, 2002. I always thought of it as a kind of collective intention to make better art. What was learned was that artists are the individual keepers of their own systems, fancies, obsessions, patience and grit. Our unity is in the dreaming, our character in the striving.

“Make it an event. Go reverently to some quiet or secret place: a wood, a park bench, your car. Plan on taking at least an hour. Make a long list. Visualize anything, everything; let your imagination soar. What’s needed? What do you really want? What’s practical? Throw in some luck. Edit your notes on a second sheet and chuck the redundant but not the impossible. Inhale the resolutions and then tuck them into your pocket. Take a minute to build a small obos (three or more rocks piled on top of one another). You can come back in 365 days to see if it’s still standing.” (Robert Genn, January 1, 2002)



  1. I wish you love, happiness, health, and joy in the new year. Thank you for the generous gifts you bring to your readers week in and week out. You are so appreciated and a tangible part of my ‘dream’, as was your dad.

  2. Dear Sara,
    As usual with e-mails from you and from Robert before you, there is an uncanny link to what is in my head, albeit in an untidy form. Your letter popped up while I am my gazing at the screen making a plan as to how to best to use my studio time this coming year.

    Thank you for your letters this year Sarah. For me, the alternation between your writing and that of Robert is the perfect solution. The best of Robert plus and new and younger view reflected in your own writing.

    I wish you and your family a happy and creative 2016 and extend the same New Year greeting to everyone who subscribes to the site. Happy New Year

  3. “Others find talking too much about ideas neutralizes the power needed to execute them. ” I’m one of those. Always hoping to stumble over de Saint-Exupery’s well. I’ve had to-do lists like you and your dad recommend pinned on my studio wall for years. I’m looking at one right now….

    Happy New Year, Sara!

  4. Happy New Year! How true. Struggle with this often. Your piece reminded me of a line from a Stephen Sondheim song:

    “Having just a vision’s no solution - Everything depends on execution”

  5. Thanks for another great post. I spent last evening doing a year in review and I was surprised at how much more I accomplished than I thought I had despite 2 broken legs and several months of serious pain. I had been feeling like the whole year was just a waste until I wrote down what I did and learned about drawing and painting this year. Having done that I am ready to make a plan for 2016 and your email is another helpful tool to help me do that. Thanks much and hope you have a great new year.

    • Hello Pat: Your comment resonates with me as I am right now healing from a femur fracture that occurred 3 weeks ago. If you can move forward after having broken two legs, then so can I. I will make a plan and your doing so, plus Sara’s encouraging post, will help me along. Thank you both.

  6. Well, I am always mystified at the comments from other artists as well as yours. It seems we are all in tune with one another. What a wonderful life we have and how hopeful we seem in spite of our unresolved paintings. We are relentless.
    Happy New Year to creativity once again and thanks Sara for continuing with us.

  7. Sara, Thank you so much for the inspiration and focus in each post. Between your father and you, it feels that progress comes in leaps and bounds. And this past year I feel an opening to soar.

  8. This year finds a different sort of beginning with the recent passing of my parent. Yet through all the trials and long days of cooking and caring, work was carried out of the studio, awards received, celebrations and sales and now… I am reflecting on that list within last years calendar. Mindful of each moment, making something of it, while sketching or sewing. Sitting along with My Parent deepened my understanding and appreciation of each minute we are given with those we love or what we love. They want us to keep going. “What’s next?” she would ask. I believe they will be there to celebrate each moment even when they are gone from us. Thank you Sara and the writings of Robert.

  9. I’ve found it really helpful to take the process backwards by asking myself where I want to go and what I need to do to get that that point, and how to reach a point where I could accomplish that, and then to a point where I could accomplish that, … This process reveals, bit by bit, the steps to follow to get to my goal. I couldn’t always see every step along the way, but by taking one, it led me to the next, so long as I always kept the ultimate goal in mind. My first step was to learn how to control my medium of choice—watercolor, at that time. I bought basic materials and began to experiment; but I was running blindly, so I found a mentor who could guide my early efforts. Then I found the Virtual Art Academy (a comprehensive, online, self-paced course), where I learned not only more techniques, but about the principles of good artistic design, color theory, the importance of close observation, and so much more. As my skills improved, and my understanding expanded, I became a (very) “minor celebrity” locally, first in pet portraiture and then as a teacher of novice watercolorists. The ongoing Academy work kept me striving for improvement and thinking analytically, which helped me teach more effectively and continue to grow artistically. It also helped in developing confidence to enter shows and approach galleries. Having finally been accepted into a gallery, I suddenly realized that I had reached my original goal! Wow! But my goals had shifted and changed along the way, to being more concerned with continuing improvement, mentoring others, and branching out into other mediums. It’s a new year. I still have goals, and there are still plenty of steps to take to get there. I wish you all success as you strive for and achieve one step and one goal after another.


  10. Sharyn Miller on

    Happy New Year Sara and Family.
    Your letters combined with your Father’s are my greatest gift in 2015.
    Your words have given me a renewed love and respect for Artists. We do not give in no matter what obstacles are tossed our way. This letter touched my soul as I started my planning early this year and first signed up for a workshop in the dessert not knowing whether I could afford this luxury but so far so good. Believing in oneself is difficult at times but the rewards are worth it.
    Thanks Sara
    Sara my new website is not up and running but it will be soon!

    • Eugene Kovacs on

      I wish you and your family a new year 2016 filled with good health, happiness, creativity and peace.

      Your letters are greatly appreciated.

      Thanks a lot.


  11. Jennifer Jonas on

    Thank you Sara for this inspirational letter. I feel so fortunate, that, through a friend, I discovered you. Your letter for the New Year is like a gift.
    Wishing you and your family all the very best for the New Year.

  12. Thank you – I had just completed my resolutions before i happened upon your email about making a plan. Thank you for sharing the inspiration of ‘the little prince’. Have a great new year! Kathryn

  13. I just read this email, I needed it. My husband, David, died this morning and I will need to make
    a wish, your words helped me.

    Thank you,

    • Dearest Patricia ~ My heart is holding you and the sorrow of the losses you and your husband experienced. I hope you have family/loved ones near you. I will continue to think of you with tenderness and affection. With a shared knowing of grief and its softening through time, know you are cared for in a soft nest of all beings who love you both. Warm, reassuring hugs.

  14. Marja-Liisa Oksanen on

    Happy New Year to you Sara and Family, in movie Babets Feast, was interesting code ,” artist are never poor” , we are enriched by talent we have .

  15. Hi Sara:
    Thank You for writing and keeping up your fathers blog, for us all ,and for inspiring us all to do better with the God given talent! that we are to use to help this world see Art as a form of LOVE for all who enjoy . I am trying to do the best work that I can with what I have to work with and for the goals that I set for my self . I am so thankful for your Dads blogs and for all of you great inspiring ARTIST that put yourself out there for us(new/bee’s) to learn from. I hope that someday I will have the great pleasure to meet some of you that inspire this wonder time in my life . may you all, each and every one of you have a great ART FILLED 2016 . Keep up the good work Sara.

  16. Thank you Sara for continuing with the Newsletters. Your subjects always seem timely.

    Wishing you a very Happy New Year full of blessings, creativity, joy and adventures.

    Helen xx

  17. My plan is to continue to do the outreach and self promotion I always do.
    I believe in sending career updates to my art people. I do it by handwritten
    mail. People need to know I am active and letters are a good paper trail.
    I illustrate the mail I send to people. They get art from me.
    I do all of my own business, no gallery affiliation at t his time. I treat the business
    part of my art life, like I treat art making. I am steady, I get by and have a good working class
    art career. Have done so for many years. I understand making the art is only half of the job.

  18. Sara, your dedication to continuing these letters makes a difference and a great impact on he creative community. Thank you for that. I have an appointment with my notebook tomorrow morning to plan for 2016, set goals and dream big!

  19. Pingback: Capricorn Lunation Cycle, Crescent Phase: January 13 – 16 | Zodiac Arts

Leave A Reply

Featured Workshop

to Wine Drinkard
oil on canvas
40 x 50 inches

Featured Artist

There’s a hush… a palpable electric presence radiating from some of the paintings in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the galleries of the Frick Collection.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.