Category Archives: Blogging

Photo Essay: Breaking Through Writer’s Blocks

Overcoming writer’s block, they say, is done simply by writing.

stonewall 1

It’s kind of like building a stone wall.   Pick a suitable spot, gather some material and begin putting it together, layer by layer, one block at a time.

stonewall 2

My favorite stone walls are the ones found around southern Connecticut and Westchester County, north of New York City. I especially enjoy the ones built in multiple iterations, starting with an existing rocky outcropping and then crafted by multiple authors.

stonewall 3

From the standpoint of building creative muscles, it’s better to write and write, even if you’re just filling gaps or un-doing previous work.

stonewall 4

Because even the sturdiest of stone walls will eventually begin to crumble if nothing is added to it.

stonewall 5

Break through. Write on.

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Creative Space

“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

Brenda Ueland

Timna Spiral Hill Approach

In most endeavors, the main differentiator is creativity. Creativity requires that we — at least once in a while — no really, please — can we just — yes, there you go — relax.

Timna Mushroom Sandstone

When to relax?

  • When we’re doing the same thing and getting tired of it.
  • When we get tired of doing that thing before even starting it.
  • When we notice that too many other people are doing that thing now and doing it in an almost formulaic manner.

We may notice that doing that thing — that thing which once seemed meaningful and special — suddenly seems rote and ordinary. The groove is so deeply ingrained, so predetermined and obvious, that we cannot tolerate moving along within it.

The only thing worse than being caught in your own rut is to be caught in someone else’s rut.

Timna Copper Mine Shaft

When we notice that rut, it’s a clue that it’s time for us to put down our pen/pencil/paintbrush/pixel-pushing device and go for a walk. Off course, of course.

Take a leisurely stroll through open space and unprogrammed time.

Wander in the wilderness and glance across at other seekers along the way.

Timna Voyeurs and Poseurs

(Re)capitulation

(#27 of 27, final post in the series)

After re-visiting 26 posts from last year over the past 30 days, it’s time to wrap things up. The goal of this “blog feed-forward exercise” as I described it, was threefold:

  1. Focused output
  2. Reflective practice
  3. Sheer experimentation

Stretch Goals:  You're going to feel a little pressure...

Re: 1) Definitely got the focused output  — but it took a huge effort. As usual, I was being more ambitious than I initially realized. But I got it done with only a bit of faltering… well within the acceptable parameters of self-imposed high standards.

Re: 2) Got a boatload of reflective practice, in a much deeper and rigorous way than ever before. Even when I came across an oddball post that seemed irrelevant and/or poorly executed, I was able to draw out value from it by forcing myself to revisit it in some way. This was particularly true when I considered a sequence of posts which had continuing threads or themes, but looked at them in reverse order.

Re: 3) Got a decent amount of sheer experimentation out of this exercise. However, because of the daily pace and competing personal and professional demands, I could not fully experiment as much as I would have liked. I’d love to put together a graphic map showing how each of the last 26 posts related back to the corresponding 26 posts from 2014, with icons indicating the approach taken on each pairing.  For example, in a couple of cases I re-blogged a post. In one case, I split out a post into two posts, and in another case I combined two into one.  Many of the posts were reversals, some were refutations, others were remixes or extensions. Got to play around with visual and audio elements a bit, too.

One of the biggest lessons for me was seeing what it was like to blog every single day. It had all the elements of a grind, and it often felt lonely, but I did manage to get some feedback — both online and offline — during the process. Some of my “interaction” with fellow WordPress bloggers during this time helped improve my perspective and/or validated thoughts I hadn’t yet fully articulated. For example, the essay  “Why I Write so Personally, Publicly” resonated deeply. Sinawali Clip Art WomanAt least one real world friend offered solid encouragement and insights. I now realize that I miss the dialogue and debate that I used to have in comment threads with my buddies, especially Nareg. Having bolstered my writing skills by running this mini-marathon of 27 posts, I’m now interested in slowing down the pace and delving deeper with a stronger element of conversation and co-creation.

All of this ties in neatly (of course) to the first two posts from 2014 — one of them written by me (“Rough and Refined, Filipino Style: Sinawali Eskrima”) and one ghost-written by contributor Jake Broce (“6 Tips for Making and Sticking to an Exercise Regimen”). My two biggest takeaways from this past month are:

  1. I need to keep writing on a regular basis — not necessarily daily, but more often than once per week; and
  2. I need to engage with a chavruta – a learning partner — whenever possible, to generate some creative and intellectual sparks.

As for now, it’s time to rest and recover…and take a few days off from the blog.

Onward into the rest of 2015.

Dear Internet — Six Things I Admire (and Dislike) About You

(#25 and #26 of 27 — a synthesis of two posts: one was overly ironic, one was overly vague, but both had excellent visuals)

Sandstone-PhotoEssayPepTalk-2

Dear Internet,

We’ve been together in this relationship for quite a while and let’s face it, it’s complicated.

I’m writing this letter to let you know how much appreciate everything you do for me — both the good and the bad — and what I intend to do about it.

1. You provide endless resources and support to my quest of constant learning. Sometimes this is a distraction but mostly it is a good thing. By putting undiscovered worlds of knowledge at my fingertips, you help me think and work like a polymath. As I integrate and extend my central nervous system into you, the extent of my repertoire becomes limited only by my imagination. I want to further improve the quality of my integration with you.

Instant-Learning-Gratification

2. You provide endless streams of inane and meaningless novelty and tempt me constantly with click-bait designed to rob me of my precious time and attention. This is a useless distraction. That said, nobody is immune from stodgy comfortable thinking habits and you offer a source of fresh ideas and perspectives. I will choose to see this aspect of you as just another way to keep myself young in spirit, and to keep my repertoire dynamic and relevant. But I will sip sparingly from your ocean of distracted drivel.

shark jump

3. You enable me to move and sift more quickly through vast amounts of information. In a span of mere minutes, I can go from having understanding to achieving insight, and from achieving insight to unlocking foresight. As I do this however, my mammalian pack rat habits cause me accumulate a cluttered landscape of open browser tabs on my screens and in my subconscious. I become bloated with unresolved notes and suspended ideas. This is not your problem — it’s mine. Every day I’m getting better at managing the vital balance of creative clutter and zen-like simplicity.

fat cat on couch

4. You hamper me with vast amount of misinformation and dubious content. I  can waste hours trying to sort the signal from the noise, and more of than not I just don’t bother trying. I will choose to see this as a reminder and test  to maintain my critical thinking skills, and to guard against the temptation of lazy thinking. As much as I’ve outsourced parts of my brain to the cloud, I can’t ever delegate my faculty for judgement and discernment.

liar

5. You are on all the time — 24x7x365.25 — and tempt me to be on with you. This pulls me away from being present with the people are important to me, the people who I love. Since that is unacceptable, I’ve already limited how much of my life you get to be a part of. I also ignore you for days at a stretch. In fairness, you do ask me about my friends and loved ones and even provide opportunities for me to interactive with them, but it’s on your terms and in your space. I would trust you more if you encouraged me to spend time with them in the real world. There are parts of you, Internet, that are more aligned with my interests and I will seek to connect with those parts.

maya and kristen dancingI know that we’re both still growing and evolving. Even as I’ve barely scratched the surface of your being, I see how rapidly you are changing. This is a source of inspiration and provides some of the fuel for my own continued development.

Thank you, Internet… and ttyl,

D

Silent inflection point

(#24 of 27, a calendrical inflection point)

Exactly one year ago yesterday was the date of the post I’m revisiting now: “How to Have More Engaging Conference Calls -::- Four Lessons from Morning Radio Shows.” That post provided tips on improving webinars and conference calls by using some of the principles of morning show producers and deejays, the main principle being, “no dead air.”  Keep talking, keep making noise.

Last night a friend asked me for my opinion on silence in a live facilitated conversation setting. They wanted to know “how long is too long,” and how to break the silence of “deal air” once a certain threshold of quiet pause had been reached.  If I said I wasn’t tempted to say nothing until he answered his own question, I would be lying.

Baby Bjorn at Gooseberry Falls Lake Superior

I love silence. I thrive on silence. I come from a long line of “strong silent types,” aka, action-oriented introverts on my dad’s side.

On my mom’s side, not as much… over there it’s more about hyperactive ideation, grandiose visions and massive amounts of detail, all combined together in a warm delicious Toastmaster wrap.

Lately I’ve been anything but silent, playing more to my mitochondrial RNA with day after day of verbose blog posts, ponderings and pronouncements. I’ve been building my writing muscles, for sure, but must admit to looking forward to the rest-and-recover phase of this exercise regimen.

Just a few more days to go.

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