What I Learned About Planning From a Toddler in Walmart

This almost went over my head. Mostly because of the day, and what I was doing.

I’d say that needs an explanation…

Last Sunday, like every Sunday, was the shopping trip. I was in Walmart, looking at a few things. One of the things I like to do in stores is read books (is anyone surprised?) It’s kinda like a free sample of something in a paper cup that stores give you to encourage you to buy after you eat or drink a little of whatever it is.

So here I was, reading along in City of Ashes (I think). Inside the story, everyone’s busy figuring out who did what, and visited the boat (readers will know about where I was).

All of a sudden, a little voice behind me said,


Sounded really small, too. I wasn’t sure how small, because my back was turned.

But I said “Hi” back.

And then I laughed. And then a woman laughed. I turned around to see a blond-haired boy in the cart (where kids normally sit if they’re small). I don’t think he would have reached too far above my knee, if he would’ve been standing up.

After that, he was reaching for books, or whatever, and I went back to my own reading.

And almost lost out.


Well, I didn’t really think much of it. Some kid said hi to me in a store. What’s the big deal?

There’s a lot for writers and others to mine in here. Good stuff for business, life, and a few other things, most likely.

This boy had tremendous guts. He didn’t have to say anything to me, but he wanted to be nice. Or thought I was interesting, or what-have-ya. But I was still a stranger to him. Point being, a lot of people are afraid of a lot of things by the time they grow up. This kid didn’t have any of that. And I hope he never learns any of that fear stuff–some of which I’m still unlearning. Some fears are justified (like playing out in traffic), and some are not.

Writers can use this every day. So can others. Every job interview you go to, every copywriting or business prospect you email, call, or visit, and every editor or agent you contact, for those first few minutes, will be a stranger, too. No way around it.

But just like that little boy, don’t let that stand in your way. There’s over 7 billion people in the world (or so), and I’ve only met a small fraction of ’em. Billions of people will be still be strangers to me when I’m gone. So, might as well get used to it.

Write that story, or polish that email. Chat with that prospect, or editor. Do the best you can do. And then do your best to be better.

Sometimes people plan too much. This boy didn’t do a SWOT analysis, take a survey, or draw up an outline before he said hi to me. And I’m not knocking those things, by the way. Something I’ve come to realize over the past couple years is that there’s time for planning, and there’s time for action.

It’s better to go into things with a general plan and get going, than to have a super-specific plan, but do nothing with it.

If you like to outline, go ahead. I find that it gives me focus, with stories, especially. But in the end, it’s YOU who has to put the pixels on screen, or ink on paper (another lesson for me personally).

He was willing to move ahead quickly. After the little boy said hi, and the woman with him (I’m guessing his mom) and I laughed about it, that was it. He was busy looking at books, and other things.

He probably forgot about me. Oh well.

But let’s look at this.

How many times have you worried about a project, assignment, or manuscript, after you sent it off, made preparations, or otherwise were done with it? Yeah, so have I.

And it’s really not good for you. People mess up. And (here’s another one for me) they can’t be perfect all the time.

No way, nada, nope, ain’t gonna happen.

People decide not to buy. Manuscripts are sometimes rejected. That’s why folks test marketing methods, do research, and above all, if you’re a writer, write.

Write, and write some more. And absolutely, there’s times when you don’t want to.

Do something simple. Work on another project. Take a break. Go outside (not in the Midwest in February, but, you know).

Planning and action are like writing and marketing. You need both. And both need time spent on them.

Like a boy saying hi in a store before looking at books.

Until next time,



About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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