The Resistance is Present

For most of my life, I've only written and shared things post-experience and post-reflection. When I started this journal, I did so with the intention of giving myself a platform from which I could share my experiences and reflections with you as they were happening. However, I gravely underestimated just how difficult that would be.

I've learned that when I'm traveling -- when I'm opening myself to new experiences and spending time in deep reflection -- it's extremely challenging to create and share from that space of exploration. Only after I've processed and reprocessed experiences, stories, and conversations do I feel comfortable sharing them.

But maybe that's my problem: maybe I'm too comfortable.

I tell myself that I'm remaining true to myself by sharing only when I'm ready to share and writing only when I feel compelled to write, but maybe I'm confusing truth with comfort and fear with patience.

One of my journal subscribers recently cancelled her subscription because she felt I wasn't publishing frequently enough. My first thought was fear-based. "What if more people start canceling? Oh, no! I should publish something immediately!" 

But then I stepped back and looked at the situation objectively.

My idea of "frequently enough" is not the same as everyone else. This particular subscriber publishes her own work far more frequently than I'm comfortable with; in fact it's too frequently for me. 

My enough is not her enough and that's okay; I shouldn't chase her enough and abandon my own (which can happen quite easily if we're operating from fear).

As I realized this, I also began asking myself if my recent low publishing frequency was really the result of 'remaining true to myself', or if I was in fact creating excuses and succumbing to fear and resistance. 

If we don't get uncomfortable on a regular basis, growth will stagnate. It's comfortable to lay down and relax on a plateau, but scaling the next mountain and climbing to the next peak should make us sweat. We need to sweat.

(Discomfort and pain are not the same thing; I don't believe pain is necessary, but all growth requires some level of discomfort because growth challenges the natural decay of things.)

At the beginning of this year I conducted a short experiment where I published to the journal every day for ten days straight. It was an uncomfortable but empowering experiment. In conclusion I surmised that I had overcome any previous resistance to publishing here. 

It's clear to me now that resistance is still very present and I have much work ahead of me; I need to get uncomfortable.


Travel Notes

I began a road trip almost two weeks ago and while I have been keeping notes on various experiences and conversations, I haven't been publishing much more than a few short thoughts.

I've always told myself that I don't like writing about travel from a travel writers perspective. "I'm not a travel writer", I would tell myself over and over. And while it's true that I don't enjoy writing long essays about travel, as a traveler I inevitably make observations as I explore and move around. 

I'm realizing now that my aversion to being called a 'travel writer' has been holding me back from recording and sharing these observations (talk about a self-limiting belief).

Starting with this road trip I'm going to start sharing my 'Travel Notes' through the Notes section. You can expect several such travel notes to arrive in your inbox tomorrow morning.

Listen to yourself, listen to the universe

We're all filters now, constantly presented with the task of deciding to read something or ignore it, to share a thought with the world on Twitter or let it go unheard. For creators this challenge of filtering can become overwhelming. Satya Colombo writes about a recent experience with this:

So, here's the dilemma: do I share what compels me, what sparks this very intimate recognition within me, pulls a small heart string... Or do I share the thing I think other people might resonate with? The thing I think might actually be more compelling?

In this case, I decided to just shelf it, and do nothing. [...]

The point is — how to decide what to create, and what to share, and what voices to listen to in deciding…?!
Sometimes you just know — that thing you just did is Fricken good. It's ready to fly. But more often than not, there's this gray area…

A lot of people get stuck in that gray area. Especially when trying something new, or finally listening to those voices and actually pursuing a soul calling. Everyone has an opinion, or an idea of how to do it based on what they've seen and done, and unless they're really amazingly brilliant and/or they know you really well, their opinion is absolute crap when it comes to you. Totally useless. Please don't listen to them.

There's a lot of voices you can choose to listen to, but then there's one really awesome one that rules them all, and it's the language of the universe when it comes through your spirit.

Some people hear it speaking through a tree they're sitting next to, or the wind rustling overhead. Sometimes it comes through on the smile of a child, or a flash in the eye of the checkout bagging girl. You recognize it when you're really open to it — when you're connected to yourself, and actively surrendering to the marvelous creative pull of your work. Whatever and whenever that might be.

As creators, we're constantly presented with the task of figuring out if we should create that which our audience will most likely understand and appreciate or if we should create what feels real, authentic, and true to ourselves. I believe a balance between the two can and should be found, but often that requires a very deep and thorough understanding of both sides: an understanding of ourselves and of those who are listening.

When in doubt, my philosophy is to do without. If I'm not sure about something, I hold back and create and share nothing. While this is certainly a safe route, I think it's also a fear-based route. Playing it safe is easier than making a mistake or creating something that is misunderstood, but it's also a sure way to mediocrity. It's far better to risk making mistakes and asking for forgiveness than to play it safe and remain quietly invisible to the world.

Notes: A Case for Copyright

In discussion related to the anti-SOPA protest, commenter grellas writes on HN about Copyright:

Creative effort - or at at least any that is truly worthy of the name - takes tears, and sweat, and blood. We can marvel at the output of an artist, or a writer, or a composer, or a film maker and yet fail to focus on the years of toil that often preceded that work.
When a society makes a decision to defend the right of a creative person to control his work, and to profit from it or give it away as he likes, it has to make all sorts of policy decisions. Should such control last indefinitely? Of course not. Why? Because the benefits that we all get from being able to control our creative work only last so long. After a time, and certainly after we die, we have presumably exhausted whatever benefit we get from such control. Then too, others also create and, in time, all sorts of people borrow from one another and build upon the efforts of others regardless of the degree of creativity that they add to the process. Given enough time, we get what is known as a "common heritage" - something that far transcends the creative work of any one person. And so we have what is known as a public domain - a rich collection of creative output that is freely available to all. Those who value copyright and its social benefits in protecting creative output also value the public domain because it is a natural concomitant to the protected core of works that fall under copyright in any given generation. Indeed, a key aspect of copyright is precisely to encourage people to create - to invest the very blood and sweat that it often takes to do something great - in order that society generally will be enhanced and improved as creative works are done, are made available to the world as the creator may decide, and eventually pass into the public domain. So a fundamental tenet of copyright is that it cannot be absolute. It needs to be strictly bounded to achieve its legitimate goals without being extended to a point where it defeats those goals and gives special privileges to persons for no good reason.

Today, copyright has been seriously abused in the U.S. and elsewhere and needs to be fixed. In particular, terms of copyright need to be brought back to sensible levels. The public domain as it exists needs to be preserved and a better system needs to be in place by which orphaned works can freely enter the public domain. Many other fixes are needed as well. What is most definitely not needed is a SOPA-style enforcement scheme that opens up legal channels to copyright holders that would permit all sorts of abusive actions against innocent parties in the name of copyright enforcement. This sort of thing merely perpetuates the abuse and does not fix anything. Those who have been paying attention strongly sense this, and it has been pretty amazing to watch people unite to oppose the back-room sleaziness that led to such legislative efforts in the first place.

The full comment is a bit longer, but it's well worth the read if you're at all interested in what Copyright means and why it might be necessary. I thought about this in the context of the 'bigger picture', and it seems like copyright makes a lot of sense.

I personally don't copyright my work, but that's exactly the point: Copyright gives you the option to retain rights to your work if you so choose to. If you want to give it away, you can do that too. All of my work here is Uncopyright, but I still think that if someone wants to copyright something, they should have that option.

Copyright extends from the scarcity mindset while Uncopyright embraces abundance. Should one be enforced over the other? I don't think so. If a creator can produce uncopyrighted work and still make a living (as I believe they can), let them.

I say instead of arguing between the two, let nature choose the winner.

Notes: Own Your Idea

Julien Smith writes about the importance of figuring out your message, your core idea, the thing that your very existence stands for. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and Julien's question towards the end of this highlight is fantastic; when I think about his question I feel like I can almost put my finger on my core message.

I've spent a lot of time around authors over the past little while and I've started to figure out that almost all of them have one primary thing to say, a single idea that they are really about. Seth Godin could be "be remarkable," applied to multiple different formats. Tim Ferriss: "most effort is wasted– do what matters." Pema Chodron: "Drop the storyline." I could do this all day.

Here's the thing: authors have to write down their ideas and express them differently. It's their job and they have to work at it, so they get many ideas in their head and stick with those that matter to them (or sometimes those that sell– sigh). Point being, even non-authors need to figure this one thing out. But most never think about it. They plod along without much direction or grand goal at all– and if it is, it's often rather selfish.

Again, I include myself in this.

Here is my suggestion: If you had a TED talk, or some other grand idea, how would you present it? Think about it. This is your one chance. How would you use it?

Thom Chambers wrote something along these same lines. I keep this close and re-read every few days:

It’s tempting to want to break new ground each time you publish a piece of writing. To dazzle. Far more valuable in the long run, though, is when you take an idea and run with it. Show us around it. Show us how it works in action, how it affects us. Own your idea and you’ll be remembered for it.

Notes: Blogging distilled to its essence

Leo Babauta writes about something he came across in the desert mountains of Nevada. It's an interesting example of how ones perspective influences what something means to them; who else would see a cardboard sign and think 'blog'?

Amidst the rocks I found a small cardboard sign with some neat handwriting on it:

"February 11 marks our 3,068th day living out here. Thanks P+T (for 3 weeks ago)."

Then there were numbers crossed out, marking the days after that, until it hit today’s total of 3,150. It also had a note inserted among the numbers that said "Happy Easter".

It occurred to me that this hand-made sign is the most minimal blog there is. Basically a statement of how long they've been living out in the desert, and daily updates in the form of crossed-out numbers. With a shout out to friends, of course.

What is blogging at its best? This sign distilled blogging to its essence: regular updates that inspire others from someone doing something remarkable.

Notes: The middle-man to your happiness

David Tate writes about the dangerous effects of reading, but more than that he explains why it's so vital that we stop being filters, that we stop developing a habit of judging what we're consuming in attempt to consume things that make us happier and instead focus on creating the things that actually make us happy.

I think we should all agree that getting faster at judging things is bad, but I think the real danger in having a super-efficient-filter is that your default mode is exclusion – you reject long enough and you lose the ability to create things that pass your own filter. You stagnate at work for fear of everything you do being judged like every news article or viral video that you view.

So how do you break the power of consumption? By creating your own things. All the things you consume - somewhere somebody is making all this stuff, right?

Adding anything (not just your opinion) to the world is creating – writing, drawing, dancing (not line-dancing which is not art but instead some sort of long-term psychological annoyance stress test). Normally when people think of 'creating' or 'innovation' they think of a naked hippie standing in the woods painting a tree, an alcoholic writer slaving away at a sad tale of a small town, or some tech geek coming up with some new way to annoy everyone by sharing every detail of their pointless life.

If the world overwhelms you with its constant production of useless crap which you filter more and more to things that only interest you can I calmly suggest that you just create things that you like and cut out the rest of the world as a middle-man to your happiness?

Pushing Through 'The Dip'

I believe that I'm at the point in this experiment that Seth Godin would refer to as 'The Dip'. It's the point at which one feels no upward progress is being made and where one feels momentum has stalled. It's where continuing further doesn't feel worth the effort.

Seth says it's where most people quit. It's the reason great ideas and businesses often fail. They don't fail because the idea or business was no good, but rather because the person keeping the venture alive decided to give up. They weren't patient and persistent enough. They didn't push through the dip.

As I experience the dip in this experiment, I find myself questioning more and more the purpose of it. I find myself looking for an out, trying to convince myself that nothing of value is being produced and that I'm wasting my time. But I know none of that is true and it's almost comical to watch myself go through this phase.

I'm able to look at these feelings objectively because I made my decision not to quit before I started. 

I accepted that no matter what, there would be value in this experiment. Even if all I wrote was narcissistic gibberish -- something I knew my perfectionist, value-based side wouldn't allow for anyway -- I knew there would be value in finishing.

Knowing I would come up against this resistance, I gave myself just two rules: One paragraph, ten days. These rules were optimized to get me through the dip. I knew that even my perfectionist self should be able to share that much.

And as it turns out, I need only look to the previous seven days for proof: More than three thousand words shared and lots of resistance overcome.

Breaking Barriers to Self-Expression

It's easy to write about what should be done. It's easy to see a problem, a deficiency, and then describe an action or series of actions to change it.

When change is viewed externally, it seems easy. Our brain has no problem dissecting what's wrong and coming up with possible solutions. What's a bit more challenging is taking those thoughts and actually turning them into actions.

Action takes something special. It takes commitment. Action requires accepting that something is important enough to expend energy doing it.

Much of my writing is a reflection of what's on my mind. The words I'm typing right now are literally recording bits of what's going on in my head. Sometimes what's going on is clear and articulation comes easy. Right now I'm "in the flow", typing these words with only the effort required to maintain grammar and spelling.

I started this Journal entry spontaneously. It started as a thought, "I want to write", and then, being that I had nothing else pressing to do, I began to write. But when I started thinking about what I was doing (as I did towards the end of the previous paragraph), I found myself pausing. I immediately had trouble articulating my thoughts.

It seems that's a problem with most "things we want to get done but don't". They come to our mind as clear as day but then we start thinking about them. We end up destroying our original thought with buckets of analysis and self-doubt.

"Is someone going to think this is stupid? Should I step back and think about this a bit? What if I'm making a huge mistake?"

Instead of following our intuition, we follow our self-ridicule. Instead of allowing the result of action to determine whether we should continue, we suffocate the motivation to act before it's even born.

I do this all the time.

A few days ago I wrote a follow up essay, Say More, to the essay I published the week before, Say Less. I found it interesting that after writing Say Less, I was using that essay as an excuse for not writing more. 

That's when I realized how important it is to say more. I can hide behind being succinct forever, but then I'll be sharing very little. If I feel that I have so much to share (and I do feel that way), then I should make every effort to share more.

It's in my nature to say less. As a child, I was taught the value of listening. I would stay quiet for hours at a time, doing nothing but listening. As I grew older, I continued listening. My dad often repeated a quote that stayed with me: "A wise man thinks first and then speaks. A foolish man speaks first and then thinks."

That quote really resonated with me even at an early age. It made a lot of sense. If you speak first and then think, it's too late to decide not to say anything. But if you think first, then you'll always have the option of choosing whether to speak.

Ando Perez recently shared a quote with me by Jean Jacques Rousseau that reminded me of my dad's quote and inspired me to see it from a different angle: "People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little."

I certainly wouldn't claim that I "know much", but I do feel that I don't say enough. I hold inside too much of what I feel is important. I need to learn to say more. To speak up. To share what's inside.

When I reflected on why I don't say more, I discovered self-imposed barriers to my expression, barriers that I had created, perhaps long ago, to ensure that I wasn't too wordy or needlessly verbose.

Those barriers served an important purpose and I wasn't ready to rip them down. 

My public writing is usually the result of careful consideration. For the past two years I've maintained a relentless desire to abandon "the way blogging should be done" and replace it with something that felt more true to my heart.

Readers connected with this form of writing and my work felt more real than ever. It felt more like something that I would actually want to read.

But something was beginning to feel stale. More and more things felt trapped inside. I felt caged by my own quality barriers and unable to express and share things that I felt would be really useful to others.

So the idea for this Journal was born. I would create a place to express myself, a Journal in which I could write without barriers (or at least very few barriers) and share what was happening inside.

But, just as it's easy to write about what should be done, it was easy to create this space to write. The actual action of writing here, of taking down those internal barriers and allowing my thoughts to materialize, to become tangible pieces of writing, has been incredibly challenging.

I did not realize just how difficult this process would be until I started writing. It has required an entire rewrite in the way that I think about what I'm sharing. 

Before the Journal, I let everything percolate in my mind. I gave myself as much time as I needed to flesh out an idea to the point where it felt, in my head, polished and easily sharable.

Now, I needed to share that percolation process. I needed to find a way to express my thoughts and ideas before they felt polished.

Perhaps if I had already been keeping a personal Journal, this transition would've been easier. 

There were a few years during my early teens in which I kept a Journal on my computer. I wrote thousands and thousand of pages in a simple text file, sharing my deepest thoughts and observations, and my most private ruminations.

Then someone close to me, someone I trusted, violated that trust and read my Journal without permission. They took things that I wrote out of context and accused me of thinking thoughts that I had not really thought.

It was traumatizing, perhaps more so than I realized.

I deleted the entire journal, several years worth, and promised myself that I would never record such deep thoughts on any medium that a person could access. My mind was the only safe harbor now.

And so my mind became the storehouse for what would've gone in a journal. What I did share verbally and through writing became more refined and more carefully considered.

When I began attempting to write for this Journal, those barriers became apparent. The difficulty of expressing my deepest thoughts without judging myself or holding back felt incredibly difficult and challenging.

This Journal entry is probably the closest I've come in the past 10 years to actually recording my thoughts unedited. I haven't stopped writing since I started the beginning of this Journal and I haven't gone back to edit or reread anything as I normally would.

When I wrote the 'Say More' essay, I was talking to myself. I was telling myself that it's time to stop holding back. 

For more than ten years now I've learned how to hold back. For more than ten years the voice inside has been silenced and moderated by fear. It's time for me to leap past that plateau and move forward.

I'm going to do an experiment for the next 10 days in attempt to cultivate this unedited side of myself.

Every day until January 1st, 2012, I'm going to write at least one paragraph in this Journal. Perhaps some of those paragraphs will turn into longer entries, but no matter what I'm going to commit to writing and sharing at least one paragraph each day. (To minimize the number of emails you receive, I will combine the entries into one email sent out on the 24th, 28th, and 31st.)

Do you hold back? Do you unnecessarily censor yourself? Is there something inside that would benefit others if you shared it? Do you ever feel like you should speak up, but don't?

Notes: Finding Your Writing Voice

Finding my writing voice is something I've been taking seriously since the beginning of 2010 and since then I've come across a few excellent sources of inspiration and guidance. I'm sharing three of those below:

It all began when I started searching for my blogging focus after reading Charlie Gilkey's excellent post, Becoming Yourself and Growing Your Blog. (I was considering splitting my blog at that time, but Charlie's comment on that post convinced me to focus my attention in one place.)

My two favorite paragraphs from Charlie's post follow:

You don't grow a blog by thinking about growing a blog or trying to figure out what you should be writing about – you grow a blog by writing, posting, receiving feedback, integrating feedback.. and writing, publishing, posting, integrating feedback... and writing, publishing, and integrating feedback.


To connect with your readers, you'll have to develop the voice and style that is unmistakably you. And you probably won't know who that person is unless you start writing; living is not about being – it's about becoming. Between where you are now and where you want to go stands a lot of writing. Not thinking about writing. Not worrying about writing. Not figuring out what you're going to write. But writing.

Next comes a post by Jeff Goins where he describes an exercise for finding your writing voice. Three of his points that have been incredibly helpful in my own journey follow:

7. Free-write. Just go nuts. Write in a way that’s most comfortable to you, without editing. Then go back and read it, asking yourself, "Do I publish stuff that sounds like this?"

8. Read something you’ve recently written, and honestly ask yourself, "Is this something I would read?" If not, you must change your voice.

9. Ask yourself: "Do I enjoy what I'm writing as I'm writing it?" If it feels like work, you may not be writing like yourself. (Caveat: Not every writer loves the act of writing, but it's at least worth asking.)

And last but certainly not least, this article by Holly Lisle, titled Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice, contains a wealth of things to try, including several games and suggestions for writing in the voice of your favorite authors. Here are my two favorite points from her article:

9. Remember that complacency is your worst enemy.

If you’re comfortable, if you’re rolling along without having to really think, if you haven’t had to challenge yourself, if you know that everyone is going to approve of what you’ve done — you’re wasting your time. Writing done from a position of comfort will never say anything worthwhile.

10. Remember that fear is your best friend.

If your heart is beating fast and your palms are sweating and your mouth is dry, you’re writing from the part of yourself that has something to say that will be worth hearing. Persevere. I’ve never written anything that I’ve really loved that didn’t have me, during many portions of the manuscript, on the edge of my seat from nerves, certain that I couldn’t carry off what I was trying to do, certain that if I did I would so embarrass myself that I’d never be able to show my face in public again — and I kept writing anyway.

At the heart of everything that you’ve ever read that moved you, touched you, changed your life, there was a writer’s fear. And a writer’s determination to say what he had to say in spite of that fear.

So be afraid. Be very afraid. And then thank your fear for telling you that what you’re doing, you’re doing right.

Voice is born from a lot of words and a lot of work — but not just any words or any work will do. You have to bleed a little. You have to shiver a little. You have to love a lot — love your writing, love your failures, love your courage in going on in spite of them, love every small triumph that points toward eventual success. You already have a voice. It’s beautiful, it’s unique, it’s the voice of a best-seller. Your job is to lead it from the darkest of the dark places and the deepest of the deep waters into the light of day.

Say More

When you say more, you underemphasize less.

You may not be heard clearly, but you will be heard.

Ideas will grow wings.

Knowledge will plant roots.

Your voice will shape the future.

Saying more increases our potential to emphasis what matters. Saying less reduces our potential to change the world; it spoils our creative genius and lays ruin to our inner brilliance.

Sporadic communication is indifferent.

Recurring communication is powerful.

You can reduce risk by saying less: fewer mistakes will be made and less attrition will occur. It's easy to come across as interesting, persuasive, or even eloquent when you're quiet. But until you empty yourself of that which needs growth, you cannot cultivate an environment from which growth spurts.

You don't need to speak at a conference every month or publish 1,000 words every day. One thought. One paragraph every morning compiled and shared once a week. One spoken sentence when you feel passionately.

Say less but say more. Somewhere, there is someone who needs to hear you.

Say Less

When you say less, you emphasize more.

You may not be able to say more, but what you do say will be heard. 

Half attention becomes full attention.

Scanned writing becomes writing that is read.

Discarded opinions become opinions that are taken into consideration.

Saying less increases the emphasis on what is said. Saying more increases the time, effort, and expense required to listen.

Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting.

You are statistically guaranteed to reach more ears by talking more; it's easy to get attention by publishing every day. But talking and publishing every day are not the only ways to practice and improve communication. 

You can write and ruminate every day without talking and publishing every day. What you do makes up the difference between receiving attention and holding attention. 

Would you rather have people hearing you or listening to you?

Notes: Willing to go naked

A beautiful quote by May Sarton, from Journal of a Solitude, referred to me by Joy:

"How one lives as a private person is intimately bound into the work. And at some point, I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition, and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity, self-doubt, extravagance of feeling, guilt, joy, the slow freeing of the self to its full capacity for action and creation, both as human being and artist, we have to know all we can about one another, and we have to be willing to go naked."

Notes: Take an idea and run with it

Thom Chambers writes about how focusing on a single idea and talking about it over and over is far more valuable in the long-run than always trying to start with a bang (I have trouble remembering the importance of this because I have a strong aversion to being too wordy):

Ideavirus, tribes, permission marketing, purple cow, linchpin; whenever you use these words and phrases, you’re tipping your hat (consciously or not) to Seth Godin, the man who popularised them.

Look elsewhere: Kevin Kelly and “1,000 True Fans”, Hugh MacLeod and the “global microbrand”, Chris Anderson and the “long tail”.

What these writers and thinkers understand is not only the power of a good idea, but the longevity of it.

It’s tempting to want to break new ground each time you publish a piece of writing. To dazzle.

Far more valuable in the long run, though, is when you take an idea and run with it. Show us around it. Show us how it works in action, how it affects us. Own your idea and you’ll be remembered for it.

Create to Share

Have you ever seen a baby get excited about a new toy and then almost immediately turn around and hold it up with bright eyes and a big smile, pleading with you to share in the excitement? The baby has no expectations, only a desire to share.

When we share without expectation, we're sharing love. When we create without expectation, we're creating with love. But if we put a condition on sharing the things that we create -- I'll share this if you give me that -- then we disconnect from the ultimate reason that we possess the power to create: to share love.

That doesn't mean we can't receive something in return for what we create. Receiving in return for creating isn't the same as creating with the intention of receiving. The latter is based in scarcity, the former in abundance.

Like the baby pleading to share in the joy of discovery, we instinctively want to share what we love. When we do something because we love it, the act of doing it becomes enough. When we create with the intention of sharing, everything we receive in return becomes a gift.

Capturing Moments of Passionate Inspiration to Produce your Best Writing

What is "passionate inspiration"?

Passionate inspiration occurs when you feel so inspired by something that you become engulfed with passion.

It might be triggered by a random blog post or comment that you read. It could be a conversation with a friend or an unexpected exchange with a stranger.

Whatever triggers it, you usually know when it happens. You suddenly feel a spark of inspiration followed by a flood of enthusiasm. A stream of ideas quickly turns into a river and before you know it you can’t keep up!

It doesn't matter what type of writing you do -- perhaps you're a novelist, a journalist, a poet, or a programmer -- this experience is universal among writers. If you’re a blogger, this flood of ideas -- this flood of inspiration, is something you know would make for good blog post. It's something you’d love to magically see go from brain to blog. Continue reading

Create and Share Value

Do you add valueless content to the digital world? How much of what you say or write is only valuable to yourself? How much of it consists of you complaining or bragging about what you've done (or even worse, what you're currently doing)?

I know I'm guilty of it: Sometimes when I’m alone and my mind is idle, posting something, anything, to Twitter and knowing that someone somewhere will read it gives me a sense of connection. But that's being selfish. How much does spewing useless information into the world actually help me (or anyone)? It makes me “feel” a little better in the moment, but does it really do anything for anyone long-term?

The Internet makes it easy for us to keep sharing useless stuff that we think is important because we don't see anyone’s reaction to what we're offering. If you stood on the sidewalk and asked strangers to listen to how your day went, how many people would care? With the in-your-face feedback that you’d receive on the sidewalk, how long would it take you to realize that what you're offering is valueless and adds nothing useful to the lives of others?

On the Internet, you don’t see when someone grumbles at that self-centered, narcissistic paragraph of text you’ve written; you don’t see all the eyeballs that pass over and dismiss your carefully crafted jumble of words.

Being in a constant mode of providing value requires changing your mindset. Yesterday, for example, I went for a walk to clear my head. Towards the end of the walk, I decided to post something on Twitter to share the refreshing experience. At first, I wrote:

"Just finished a nice walk outside in the cold. It really cleared my head.”

Then I realized I could provide more value to others by rephrasing the message:

“Got a lot on your mind? Try taking a walk outside when it’s cold and focus on nothing but your breathing and the movement of your legs.”

Now which of those two posts would you rather read? Which provides more value to world?

Be someone who creates value, not noise. If you find something of value, rebroadcast it (but don't become a repeater just rebroadcasting someone else's voice; create your own voice). If you feel you rarely have anything of value to share, try changing your perspective. If you still have nothing, don't share information simply for the sake of sharing. Sharing is good, but sharing something that only adds to the noise is not good.

Before you publish something you’ve written for Twitter, Facebook, or a blog post, ask yourself if what you're writing would be of value to anyone. If not, don't pollute the digital world by adding to the noise.

Be someone who provides value:

  • Ask yourself how your observations, activities, and experiences could be useful to others.
  • Rephrase valuelessness to provide value through making suggestions or offering advice.
  • Try seeing things through someone else's perspective; would a stranger be interested?
  • Only create or share when you think it will provide value; don't create or share for the sake of creating or sharing.
  • Rebroadcast value, but don't become a rebroadcaster; build your own voice through personal observations.
  • Change your mindset to reflect someone who provides value.

It’s amazing how easily valuelessness can become valuable by simply changing the perspective and intention.

The Three W's: What to Write Where?

I'm not sure why, but lately I've felt as though I haven't had much to write about. I'm not sure if it's that I haven't had much to write or that maybe I just haven't felt the desire to write what's on my mind.

As I've mentioned in the past, I intentionally don't write a lot of personal things on this blog. That's not why I started it and I'm not narcissistic enough (yes, we're all narcissistic to some degree) to think that my thoughts, dreams, and personal observations are all that important. I don't really feel compelled to express myself or talk about what's on my mind and it's not that I don't feel like people will care what I have to say; it's simply that I don't care what I have to say. In this age of information, I feel as though anything to be said has already been said and so why should I repeat it?

But I digress. Perhaps all the definitions and various places to write are slowly killing my creative outlet. Perhaps making the decision of what to write and where is becoming difficult enough that I choose to simply not write anything. My time can be used for more important things than figuring out where I should write, let alone what I should write.

Writing about events and places is easy: I simply recount what happened and maybe include some pictures for eye candy. But nobody wants to hear about the ride into work, or the meetings, or the support emails, or... or maybe some people do? Well, to those people I say go find another hobby. Or at least, find another blog. I find it absolutely revolting and a total waste of textual space and time to see people writing about things that have absolutely no substance. I will not become a twitter shitter or an iRaam. The last thing I want this blog to become is my personal diary. (This post is coming dangerously close to what I'm trying to avoid.)

Then there is the question of where to write. When I started this blog, it was easy. Facebook wasn't even open to the public and Twitter didn't even exist. Now I find myself posting thoughts, activities, and other updates on Twitter (trying desperately to stay within the 140 character jail) with my Facebook status automatically being updated by Twitter. (Then my Facebook friends, who probably never read my blog, comment on my updates and make me feel compelled to reply on FB.) Anything that doesn't fit on Twitter I usually put on my blog as an Aside (it appears without a post title), and longer stuff, like this post, get the honor of being a full-blow blog post with a Twitter update announcing it being published.

So why haven't I been writing more? I've been asking myself that question a lot the past few weeks and the only answer I can come up with is that my rule of not writing about passing thoughts or seemingly pointless observations is leaving me without much to write. I've been very busy concentrating on work and fitness and I haven't had much time for exploring my various interests or writing about them. So I'll try to start writing more asides with what's on my mind and see where that takes this blog.