We build every day with actions and words
Sometimes our work is purposeful.
Sometimes we joke that our habits and actions and speech patterns amount to nothing. But that is false: if nothing else, what we do and say affects us. And there is no telling the power of example and well-placed words in the circles we travel.
Don’t think for a second you are not building.
Image credits: Kirk Livingston
An idea is a new combination of old elements
This part comes after.
After the interviews and after reading the transcripts, after absorbing the journal articles and revisiting the notes from discussions with various experts. After taking in as much as you can, there is the sitting-back and ordering of facts and impressions.
Maybe you use an outline. Maybe you use index cards. Maybe you use a mind map or a white-board. Maybe you draw figures or icons on the back of corporate memos. But this is an essential creative exercise: sorting through and lifting up what keeps coming to the top. This creative exercise is about identifying and corralling the really important stuff. The stuff that simply must be transmitted.
A shortcut to this essential phase is a conversation. If a colleague interrupts you with “What’s that project about?” The first three things out of your mouth—those things worth remarking on aloud—those three things need to find their way into the copy. Often they become the main topics.
Sometimes I’ll just start writing to see what I say. Give yourself 10 minutes to answer “What is this about?” and you will come close to producing an outline for the piece.
Or you can write a letter to a smart ten-year-old. Molding an idea into a simplified (but not simplistic) presentation has a clarifying effect.
The point is that your mind needs to find a grapple with myriad facts and figures and impressions and data—to sort minor from major and to begin to find the story that makes sense to you and to your target audience.
I like the wide-open blank page aspect of this exercise. I also like that brand new stuff presents itself during the exercise:
…an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.
–James W. Young, A Technique for Producing Ideas (NY: Thinking Ink Media, 2011)
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
One Wall in North America’s Only Walled City
This art wall reminds me of Wendell Berry’s The Memory of Old Jack.
Image Credit: Kirk Livingston
Who was living with three alloys of his own
Yesterday I met Quady* for coffee. I was impressed all over again by the executive function of his brain: how he seems to effortlessly order complicated systems and businesses and talented people and even his own life. Quady** told me how he was weaving consulting with business acumen with creativity. I could not help but be impressed with the forward motion the guy exuded.
In fact, it was about ten years ago I met Quady at (yet) another Dunn Brothers on another side of Minneapolis to talk about how he grew the business he was running at that time. He was president of a firm that placed creative people in creative positions and his firm was on fire (that is, busy). At the time he gave me some solid advice which I resisted for years until embracing it fully: make a daily/weekly habit of reaching out to make contact with varieties of people.
And listen to them.
These days Quady is weaving together a consulting life that draws on his outsized executive function and his creativity plus a desire to walk alongside people. He’s a kind of CEO-for-hire and he’s currently working some high-level gigs. It’s the melding of these three threads that seems to open doors for him: the organizing gene plus the creative gene plus the people-smarts gene. Because he understands the moving parts of business, he can give solid, real-world advice to people. He gives the kind of advice that encourages from some deep place: the sort of advice like,
“Look. You’ve got this. It’s a stretch, but you can do it.”
And who doesn’t want to hear that?
Dumb sketch: Kirkistan
*Not his real name.
**His real name was Markothy.