Thursday, February 25, 2016

How To Process The Stupid Out Of Your Project

How To Overcome Any Obstacle In Your Way

There are many reasons to get serious about anything you care about, your passion projects, from creative writing, to painting, business and entrepreneurship.

But first ask yourself, what is it about theses things that you actually enjoy?

We often get in our own way.

We focus on the outcomes, forgetting about the steps necessary for our own success.

Do you get lost in the moment?

Is it something you can do in your own time, if left to your own devices?

Musicians are a great example of this.

They can practice for hours on songs and scales, perform for a couple hours in front of an audience that ranges from zero to huge, and afterward, sit down and play some more for the sheer joy of music.

How do you think about your passion?

Is it something that like David Foster Wallace wrote in his metaphor about two fish swimming by each other, one fish asks, "How's the water" and the other fish replies "what's water?"

In other words, is it something that you can just do, or do you have a self-limiting belief holding you back?

If you struggle with starting and maintaining your passion projects, you may be putting too much emphasis on the outcome rather than the necessary steps to get there.

Writing is not simple, and every writer - which due to schooling, the Internet and email, we are all writers - has to find a way to overcome the obstacles of momentum, motivation and inertia.

Think Of The Process Like Sailing

You pull out of your slip, cruise through the harbor and set out on the water.

If you constantly stare at the port, it's going to seem like you're never getting anywhere.

The gradual distance between you and the dock seem like it's taking forever to create any real distance.

But, if you look forward, focus on all the little things like wind, setting the jib and steering; enjoy the scenery in front and next to you, once you look back, you'll be amazed how far you've travelled.

Or imagine a cross-country flight.

You walk down the tunnel, board, stow you carry-on luggage, sit down and buckle in.  Luckily you have a window seat and can look out while you're on your way.

Do you spend the entire flight staring at the clouds and watching the square lots on the ground, wondering if there are people down there?  If so, where are they going? What are they doing? Are they looking at you as you fly at cruising altitude, bouncing around in your seat from a little light turbulence?

It'll seem like the flight lasts a life time if you try to count each lot as you fly overhead.

But if you strap down, watch a movie, read a book, or take a nap and only look out the window after you get up to use the bathroom when you need to, the flight will seem like it's passing in no-time at all.

It's All About The Process Not The Product

3 Authors That Will Help You Overcome Your Adversity To Writing

1) In his book on writing, The Lie That Tells a Truth, John Dufresne opines that when we focus on the end product, it's difficult to see it through. He encourages us in his preface that;
"Remember when you were a child, and you were stuck in the house on a rainy day, and Mom sat you at the kitchen table, gave you a pencil, a sharpener, a box of crayons, and a ream of paper, and you went at it? You drew all day long and never got blocked..."
The idea here is that as kids, we never thought about the outcome of our passion.  We used it to lose ourselves in the moment.  To act as a pastime when we could.  It was about the enjoyment of the process not the end result.

2) Similarly Austin Kleon writes in his books, Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work, that it's the process that people don't see when they think about creative work.

People enjoy the finished product, but as creatives we should focus on enjoying the process.

He suggests getting out in the world, carrying a notebook and making notes of the sights, sounds, smells, that you experience. You can use them at a later date.

I wrote a post about this process of stealing and borrowing for ideas on a blog post that you can read here: My Kindle Publishing Lesson: Beg, Borrow and Steal Your Way To Becoming A Better Writer.

The point is, you can borrow from people around you and utilize it to make your projects better.

3) Finally author Johnny B. Truant of The Smarter Artist Podcast (as well as the Self-Publishing Podcast and Write, Publish, Repeat) claims in his episode titled "Talking About Writing Is Not Writing" - he mentions the work that a carpenter does.

A carpenter doesn't spend their time talking about carpentry, they're actively working on the craft.

So find a way with your passion project to get deep into the trenches of doing the actual work.

The band Pearl Jam says that when they started, they're rehearsal space was in the basement of a warehouse that other creatives used during the day.

They'd walk past the artists, climbing down the stairs smelling the paint and tincture, and feel inspired to match what was going on around them.

In all of these examples, there is the reinforcement to focus on the process, the daily act of sitting down and writing.

No one is saying that following your passion project is going to be easy.  Or simple, or fun all the time.

There's no guarantee you won't fall on your face, lose your shirt, or fail.

Get Lost To Find Yourself

Set a goal.

Perhaps it's finding a new client.

Or writing 500 words a day.

Perhaps it's running 3 miles at the end of a long work day.

Set a goal that you can realistic do everyday.  Don't worry about the outcome of those goals.

For this exercise focus on small, micro-accomplishments that you can do and maintain daily.

The point is, create the process of doing little things that moves you , step by step, toward your goals.

The act of getting down in the trenches, of digging into the words and what you're trying to say, is one you need to be willing to do.

Teach yourself how to be preoccupied with the act of doing, how to get lost in the moment, knowing that you'll get there some day and some how.

Just don't worry about the outcome. How it'll be received, or whether it'll be any "good."

That's a burden that's too great to carry.

And one that, often, you don't have any control over.

So focus on the necessary steps, and diligently get lost in the process (an oxymoron for sure!).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

3 Keys To Maximize Productivity And Improve Your Unintended Consequences

How To Be More Productive Without Meaning To Be

The Cause And Effect Of Unintended Consequences Toward Our Productivity 

Funny thing about a blog. 

The law of unintended consequences states that our actions create effects that were not what we had in mind.  It could be that you choose to sit down and watch an "innocent" film with the family, only to find out that there's a love-making scene in it. 

Hard to explain what's happening to a six year-old.

This law applies to writing as well. 

So you wrote another blog post or story.  

You write something, publish it and promote it everywhere and then wait.  Sometimes you wait and you wait and wait some more. 

Constantly refreshing your browser to see your audience and traffic results, you wait for someone to read it, you wait for someone to comment on it, and you wait for someone to promote it for you.

And while you're waiting, another funny thing happens. 

The unintended happens.

In this post, we'll discuss the law of unintended consequences as an effect of our actions.  By knowing your target goals, making small incremental gains that happen in the correct order, you'll prevent negative results and making it ten times easier to stay productive. 

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

Your blog post has stirred an emotion, a thought, an idea in someone else.  An idea that wasn't part of your intention when writing. Duh, that's why it's called unintentional.

Since beginning this kindle publishing journey and, more importantly, began to document it on this blog, I've stumbled upon a few interesting conversations.

Just recently a friend and I had an intriguing conversation about how she could get started writing.  
She asked how she could find the courage to get going, as if I had some secret confidence or potion to making it work.

As she spoke, I felt more and more like a fraud. 

I knew that it didn't take much courage to write.  

All it takes is just making the time a priority.  

Sit your ass down and write.    

What the conversation reminded me of was that we have to make it important.  Make it so important it's a habit. Like breathing. 

Then and only then would the words get put down on paper.  

Our conversation reminded me of the critical nature of staying focused on the goal. Also it was a reminder to think about the mini-steps needed to be taken, the lines that needed to be written in order to finish the novel, blog or story, that was started.

Another thing the talk reminded me of was the discipline needed, even if it meant taking a few minutes here and there between other tasks in the day, of stealing a couple minutes to get the writing down.

Life will get in the way.  That's one of the truisms, that what ever we want to do will be interrupted by things beyond your control.

There're always bills to pay, phone and text messages to reply, and emails to answer. 

Hello? Is Anybody There?

You published it, promoted it on all the Social Media platforms.  

Tried to connect with others in your area of interest and you wait.  

Again you refresh your browser and wait for the traffic. 

But still crickets. 

Anybody who writes knows the anxiety of first sharing your content and second waiting for a response from an audience. 

Another conversation I've had is with a friend who likes to tell me that they enjoy reading the posts, but never go into detail about what the theme or point of the post may be.  

While I enjoy the compliments, I get an uneasy tension as we talk.  

It's uneasy because the conversations amount to nothing more than platitudes, empty calories that are neither sustaining or nutritious. They're like a snickers bar when I'm starving.  But hey, I'm not really me when I'm hungry. At least they're reading, which I do enjoy hearing about.

In yet another recent conversation with another friend, she was telling me that she felt that she wanted to read a book.  

That's not surprising considering that in 2002, a survey as reported by the New York Times claimed that 81% of Americans claimed to have a book they wanted to write.  

The dicks at the editorial board of the New York Times and the writer Joseph Epstein epistemologically dictates that you shouldn't waste the energy, time or paper it would take to create a book.

But that's a sidebar for the point of my conversation with the friend.  

She was claiming how difficult it would be to write a book, how precious little time she had, yet how important it would be to write her book.

My advice to her was simple. 

1. Focus But Don't Obsess On Your Target: Decide on the outcome you want but don't start out trying to handle the full load, rather, find a way to work backward. This reverse planning will help you anticipate some missteps to avoid along the way that you may otherwise stay blind to with an outcome based perspective.  

Think of it like a marathon - Ugh, the thought of running makes my stomach churn and shins hurt - but if you know your distance to the finish line, and work on the steps leading up to it, the marathon is much, much easier - so I'm told. 

2. Succeed Greatly By Taking Small Steps:  You can't stand at the base of Mount Fuji and expect to get to the top in one super stride.  It takes the collective number of many, many small steps to cover the height and distance. 

Take the task at hand of writing a book, divide it up into micro-phases such as chapters.  It'll help you organize your thoughts, and organize the direction of your thoughts. 

 Think of it like eating a pizza. 

 It comes out of the oven, the cheese is boiling hot, the vegetables gleaming, and the pie is uncut.  

Looking at the size of the pizza may be overwhelming and you're unsure how you're going to eat it, much like starting out on a novel.  But just like the pizza, the cook cuts the pizza into slices, 8 pieces most likely, and now you're salivating for one.  

It's the little things that add up.

3. Pants First, Shoes Second: If you plan on going for a run, you need to put on your pants or shorts before you put on your shoes.  Know the proper sequence of events before taking on the tasks. I've written about how to put things in proper order in a previous post that you can read by clicking here: 3 Tips To Conquer Your Fears And Become The Person You Deserve

In effect, target those micro-phases, and divide them into even smaller phases.

Just like the pizza above, you can't eat a whole pie in one bite, and you can't pelican a slice in one bite either.  You're going to fold it and take one bite at a time, or if you're "cultured," you'll cut a piece off the slice and swallow it, after chewing of course. 

And my point to my friend was the same.

Take the idea of a book and divide it into small slices, then take those slices and make them into smaller pieces still.  It'll be more digestible and easier to find the time to get those mini-projects done.

Her response was that, "Wow, that doesn't seem as tough."

It's not.

The mountains we perceive are really just a molehill.  But the more we stare at the task, the more we obsess over the outcome, the greater we make the challenge for ourselves.  

By writing about my Kindle Publishing journey, it's led to conversations about time management, productivity, habit formation, and the importance of knowing your ONE thing to focus upon

Those are the unintended consequences of putting myself out there. 

If you're struggling with a task or goal, focus on the steps you want to take, put them in proper order and get started.  

To quote Joe Strummer of the band The Clash