Recently my “secret” for coming up with blog topics was discovered: I base most entries on conversations in which I am asked for an opinion, answer, or guidance. In those conversations I realize the information is often beneficial to more than just the individual with whom I’m talking, and thus a blog post is born. This, my friends, is one such post:
I was discussing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with a friend who is going to be undertaking the challenge. Naturally I had some advice and words of encouragement, and recalled a few blog posts from ears past when I tracked my own progress through the month-long challenge. I figured those may be helpful in some way… so, in tribute to the upcoming 2013 edition of NaNoWriMo, in which many people will be endeavouring to write their own 50k word novel in thirty days, I’ve rounded up my old NaNoWriMo posts.
From my 2008 attempt:
From my 2011 attempt:
Keep in mind as you read through the above posts, I was blogging in-stream while also trying to write 1600+ words per day. Transitioning from stream-of-conscious word-count focused writing to more structured and self-edited blogging was difficult, and it shows in the disjointed posts. Let that in itself be a lesson: writing that much every day is not a small task, but still, it can be done… even while maintaining a 40-60 hour work week and still being somewhat social.
And for those curious, no I won’t be undertaking NaNoWriMo this year… but, I will be making a more concerted effort to use the month to focus on some other writing that I want to accomplish. Using the NaNoWriMo structure as motivation may help me actually get some old goals moving forward.
image credit: (c) 2013 NaNoWriMo.org
I was challenged this week to use the word “errant” in something I wrote. This challenge, not surprisingly, came from a friend’s off-handed comment about an errant pickle on my sandwich, meant to poke fun at my own strict sense of what a Cuban sandwich should be and how it should be presented. (I’ll say right now that it was a fabulous meal that I’d order time and time again, but didn’t quite meet the definition of what a Cuban sandwich is. Yes, I’m pedantic, but I can still appreciate a great meal even when it doesn’t quite fit.) She enjoyed the idea, and the word, so much she challenged me to use it…
While I contemplated how to work the word in to my daily writing, I realized that the word itself tied directly in to my work in social business at a strategic and conceptual level, as the connotation of “errant” implies a negative while the denotation can actually become a positive.
Let me explain: Trying to be a change agent is hard. Changing culture is hard. But, what is often perceived as errant behaviour is one of the most critical pieces to accomplishing any success in changing a culture or being truly innovative. It is the dissent, the disruption, that many see as problematic but is critically necessary to break the culture out of its comfort zone and become more open to new ideas; ideas that may initially seem errant, but grow to become better methods or ideologies and ultimately change culture with positive effect.
Errant ideas or behaviour are simply that which stray from what is considered proper or standard. While this can indeed be negative or harmful in some ways, can also be positive and beneficial when thought and consideration is applied with informed intent. By way of example I point to the disruptive technology we know as Twitter: when used with informed intent the service can be an amazing agent for change by allowing perceived errant behaviour and ideas to be organized into an effective force for revolution.
Be it toppling ineffective governments or organizing against corporate greed, disruptive technology and the people who use them are on the forefront of culture change. Without our ability to stray from the standards, we doom ourselves to a stagnant and unsuccessful existence.
This morning I posted a short bog article on Notes from Rational Support outlining the “Think Friday” and hackday concepts in IBM as different ways of implementing Google’s 20% time policy. I’d encourage you to take a few moments and check it out…. In that short post, however I didn’t touch on the logistics of how to make the shift from focused work to a more creative or non-work related project.
For many of us, it is difficult if not impossible to simply flip a switch and go from your daily tasks to allowing the muse to take hold. Sometimes you just need to stop and refocus when inspiration hits, other times you need to set aside a specific period of time to devote and hope that the creativity flows when you want it to.
So, what do you do when you need to be innovative or creative in a set period of time?
What works for me: mid-afternoon showers.
I doubt I’ll find any disagreement that some (if not most) of our best ideas come to us in the shower. So, use that to your advantage! Now I know many of you may not have the luxury afforded to me by working from home, and for that I’m sorry. I have, however, found that an afternoon shower both invigorates me as well as gives me the time to detach from technology and think over problems rather than acting upon them. That combination often coalesces in small epiphanies or germination of ideas to follow-up on later, typically within 20 minutes time, if only to write it down so I don’t forget.
What to do if you don’t have opportunity to take a mi-afternoon shower? Well, make whatever time you have work for you. If you are like me and get great ideas in the shower, perhaps waking 30 minutes earlier to give you time to write ideas down immediately after your morning shower, or showering in the evening/night and taking the time to log down ideas to build out later will work for you. Or, maybe showers aren’t the trigger for your muse… find what is and give some attention, some time to flourish; after all, your muse will do nothing if it doesn’t have some level of priority in your life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some ideas to go think about…
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by stevendepolo