Feb 282013
 
whiteboard with notes.

I do my thinking on the wall. Fortunately, I have an easygoing landlord.

Pulling together the first outline for my next ebook, drawn up on my wall. This may or may not be the next one I actually publish (there’s always a Plan B and a plan C) but here’s what I’m thinking.

I show this for several reasons:

  1. Because people ask what I do with my spare time. (This isn’t it, by the way.)
  2. To show what goofy idea is fermenting in my (admittedly manic) brain this week. Last week, too. And the week before that. And maybe next week.
  3. In case you wonder how a book or some other idea forms.
  4. To show what mindmapping/brainstorming process I use.
  5. Showing off my whiteboards, and the engineering that went behind them. (That’s a lousy pickup line, by the way. Don’t even think about saying, “Hey baby, wanna see my whiteboards?” Forget it. Ain’t happening.)

OK. That’s enough. Let’s go on with our regularly scheduled programming.

 

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Feb 282013
 

When working on a goal and I feel stuck, it’s so tempting to just dump the whole thing and go herd sheep instead.

That’s pretty much what I did back in ’97. Rather than sticking my nose in there and building on my craft, I took the easy way out. I drove a taxi instead. Not exactly herding sheep, but close.

I hope I’ve learned the value of endurance since then. I still get tired and discouraged. I still want to go sleep the whole thing off. I still think about sheep (watch it). But getting down dirty with the writing, rewriting and pitching carries its own rewards. Just seeing a finished project is enough; it means I’ve stood off the resistance this time.

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Feb 282013
 

My first ebook wasn’t the one I originally planned to write. Neither was my second, for that matter.

In truth, I planned to hit the Amazon world with a bigger splash. I had a super-ambitious project that got stuck, so I put it on hold. In fact, I started going the Amazon way when an even more ambitious project couldn’t get past the gatekeepers in the traditional publishing world.

Stuff happens. Those initial plans don’t work out. But that’s bearable if I have something else going on, as long as it gets me closer to a larger goal. If it doesn’t point me that direction, though, I’m just screwing around.

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Feb 262013
 

I know it sounds inconsistent coming from one of those think-outside-the-box people like myself, but rules are good. I prefer to know the rules of whatever it is I’m doing, to the point where I can cite them from memory.

As far as slavishly following the rules of art, that’s another story. Rules serve as guidelines and sometimes prevent me from spinning off into some territory where I might get totally lost. Knowing the rules of my craft also lets me know which ones I can bend and which ones I can shatter.

Before I start coloring outside the lines, I want to know where those lines are. Otherwise, I’ll never know if I’m doing something different or amazing.

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Feb 252013
 
Mop bucket

So my bleach-and-ammonia experiment didn’t work so well, but at least I answered one question.

Before you find an answer, you need a question.

Sounds elementary, but creativity addresses questions. You find solutions to answer those problems. How do I get from Point A to Point B? What happens if I mix bleach and ammonia?* How can I build a computer that your grandmother could operate? How do I build a bunch of cars quickly? Why does this story need to be told, and why am I the one to write it?

Once you get the problem defined and broken down to its elements, then you can find your answers. But that’s the first step. Start there.

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* I don’t recommend mixing bleach and ammonia. It didn’t get the bathroom any cleaner, and the fumes about knocked me out. Scratch one brilliant idea.

Feb 212013
 

I’ve completed and shipped my project despite its obvious imperfections. It’s out, project’s done, this game is in the refrigerator.* This still doesn’t stop the rollercoaster ride, as completion brings its own share of ups and downs.

After every blog post or ebook or article or musical performance, I’m nuts-ing and bolts-ing it. I’m manically checking my sales figures and Google Analytics metrics. Why isn’t everyone breaking the Amazon servers because they’re eager to read/download my work? Should I pull my ebook down for a complete rewrite?

But there’s the high. I’ve finished something and shipped it. It’s time to celebrate — a nice dinner out, buy myself a fountain pen or some tech toy, or decompress with my closest friends. Or maybe … just maybe … find another rollercoaster and start work on that next killer idea fermenting in my brain.

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*(If you’re a Lakers fan and remember the late Chick Hearn, you know about the refrigerator.)

Feb 202013
 

I’m a terrible perfectionist. It’s one of my failings. A project isn’t done in my mind until, well, it’s perfect. Which is impossible. If I waited until something was perfect it’d never get done.

With that in mind, I look at my project again. Sure it’s not perfect. But is it good enough to ship? That takes a lot of faith, and maybe that’s the only thing that makes this project ready to send out. Or not. Maybe it’s just plain good enough.

This is liberating stuff. I’ve had clients accept first drafts (which as a rule are crappy) as good enough to run. The more I sit on a project, the less likely I’m actually going to complete it — even if it’s already good enough.

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Feb 192013
 

I’ve completed the final draft. I go over my work again to dummy-check it (that’s checking for the obvious errors that would make me look like one) when I discover something.

My work stinks. Seriously reeks. To high heaven. It’s so bad I need an extensive rewrite. I just need to burn all printed copies and notes, run a truck over the thumb drive which houses my files, and deny ever having the idea. It’s that bad.

Again, that’s normal in the creative process. What’s that I said yesterday about things getting really difficult when I’m close to the finish line? That’s when resistance is the heaviest. but at this late stage the biggest source of resistance isn’t other people, circumstances, or bum luck. It’s me.

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Feb 182013
 

(Backgrounder: Last week I ran with the theme of how an idea progrsses throuh several steps. the whole thing runs like a rollercoaster, complete with ridiculous climbs and stomach-emptying drops. Seth Godin, one of the great thought leaders today, calls it “the rollercoaster of shipping.” This week we’ll continue this journey, and hopefully it ends well. Like, shipping the product will be wonderful. I swear I’ll let you off this goofy ride soon, as long as you promise me you’ll find your own rollercoaster.)

I was hopelessly stuck and wondering why I contunue to pursue this stupid idea. That was then. Now all that stuff has shaken loose and I’m fine. Bashed through a major barrier.

Now I’m rolling. Sometimes in terrifying, hold-onto-your-butt bursts of creativity, sometimes slow and steady like the tortoise. The arrow is pointing the right direction anyway, and that’s all I need.

Meanwhile I continue. I know the going will get rougher as I near the finish line — that comes with the territory — but I have the momentum working for me. Can’t quit now.

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