There's a lot going on and much to consider. Safeness and the covid-19 pandemic, our role in community activism, 4th of July celebrations with restrictions (and maybe frightened pets and wildlife), and the upcoming elections. Let's play full out safely with kindness and compassion to make this a better world for everyone.
It has occurred to me that this awful covid pandemic crisis could have a silver lining.
No, not that more people work from home, but that's true.
No, not that we're all more aware of how we spread our germs - all kinds - but that is a good thing.
No, not that we've figured out how to better appreciate time spent at home, but that is cool.
No, not that we've all learned to bake banana bread, but I won't complain about that.
The silver lining I'm thinking about is that this crisis offers us a stock/standard reason to say NO to some things...to get out of some commitments...to make changes we've wanted to make but have thus far hesitated.
Have you noticed how tolerant we've all been with each other during this time (not all, but many)? When people say they're having a hard time focusing, we say, "it's understandable." When people lament that they weren't able to meet _____ expectation, they get empathy and support. People get it - this is a weird time. We're in flux.
Sidebar: After I was first diagnosed with cancer, I got all kinds of grace and understanding when I backed out of things or changed commitments, or changed my mind or goals. It's understandable and was warranted. This is what loving human beings do for each other. AND...every now and then, I played the "C-Card" to make a change that I would otherwise have been too self-conscious or guilty to make. And while you might be thinking I was being a manipulative person, using my disease to garner unwarranted support, hear me out. If I was no longer committed to something or still inspired to accomplish a goal, I should never have felt bad about making that change. But sometimes we do feel weird, because we don't want to disappoint others. But here's the kicker, people are often more disappointed when we aren't straight with them about what's really important to us and - perhaps - what is no longer as important.
Back to covid. It's a great time to take stock of your life and identify and changes that you've been wanting to make but have hesitated. Use the current situation to provide a bit of cover, to make it feel less weird. I LOVE this idea and have already implemented a couple of changes. Several more are in the works. And the lovely thing is that these changes will set me up to experience a more fulfilling and misadventurous life.
What might you STOP, START, or CHANGE that would make a big difference?
Repeat after me: You know, this covid crisis has turned parts of my life upside down and I've been thinking about what it all means or should mean. And what I realize is that _____________ (this is where you say, what you want to stop, start, or change).
And this is all true and authentic. This crisis, like any (even like being told you have cancer), has made us all take stock a re-think some things. Let's use this opening to act upon what we know is best for us now.
I've been thinking about the act of creation and the dilemma we face because we need to unplug to create.
Some of you might argue with this point and say that you can create while your email pings, cellphone vibrates with a new text, or you overhear eavesdrop on (we're all secretly voyeurs, don't you agree) several conversations.
Maybe...but not likely...and we could be creating at a much deeper level if we focused.
My email just pinged. I went to look, deleted the new message and now I am back. It is taking me a few moments to get back into what I was writing for this post. Sip of coffee might help.
… We need to unplug to create. I know this to be true for my writing. My best stuff flows when I shut down all outside influences for at least four hours. This is tough a challenge impossible with all the plugged-in things we have managing our lives (it's like they're in charge, isn't it?). Add to this the warm-blooded people and pets who seek our attention.
And then there are bodily functions, thirst, temperature, and other physical interruptions that pop up.
My writing was just halted by thoughts of being cold. I couldn't decide whether to turn the heat (no, because it will be hot later) or put on a fleece pullover. Or perhaps I should get on the WaterRower and generate heat. That seems like a lot of work.
Creation demands our undivided attention. And yet, so many of us find this a hard gift to give ourselves. Even the little red squiggly line that pops under misspelled words can disrupt our thinking.
Another ping. Should I look? Heck, I've already diverted my attention, might as well look. Two messages, deleted them both.
Where was I? Still cold and, oh yes, creativity.
Perhaps instead of a sensory deprivation tank, we need a disruption-free module somewhere in our home or office. We could remodel an Airstream Bambi and make it a safe zone. Or get one of those new office sheds. But the key would be to NOT bring cellphones, email, phones, or other potential distracters into the module. Or if a tighter space would be more practical, we could repurpose an abandoned phone booth (aren't they all?), paint it black and use a barstool sit on and the little shelve for your pad for laptop. Like a tiny house craze for offices!
Another ping. It’s OK, I'm still distracted because I'm shivering and haven't put on another layer. Why? My fleece pullover is in the other room and I don't want to get distracted. Wait, this email is GOOD – the REI summer sale starts today.
When I think about great writers – Hemingway, Steinbeck, other dead guys – I imagine they went to secluded places where they could write undisturbed. I've been to Hemingway’s home in Key West and, other than the genetically mutated extra-toed cats, it seems like a place that would have allowed him to focus while writing.
I am now distracted by my own mental interruption. I can’t help but wonder why there are BOTH too many wild chickens and too many street cats in Key West. It seems as though one would take care of the other and they would just have too many freaking fat cats. Having an extra toe means having an extra claw, too. Doesn't it? Not sure, but if so, they'd have one more weapon against the chickens. Will google.
But this has nothing to do with creativity.
The heater just kicked on, which tells me that I was not being a sissy, it was cold in here (we have the thermostat set at 67, so it must be colder than this).
I'm trying to think back to the last time I was able to create in a –
Another ping. It’s my daily Publisher’s Lunch email. I love seeing all the deals agents get for their clients...who write and FINISH books. How is it that some are so prolific? Do they not have a life or any friends? Or Twitter?
I am trying to think back to the last time I was able to shut out disruptions. It's been a while. I've read about famous writers who said that they took years to write a book. This seems like a long time, but maybe this is because it takes that long to string together bits of uninterrupted writing time.
an hour here
25 minutes there
two hours last week
I am distracted by the fact that this is likely the first time I've ever typed out the word etcetera in a sentence. It looks strange. We get so used to abbreviations.
The heater is still going, which tells me that it was VERY cold in my office. No wonder I was having a hard time thinking. Jeezze.
What is the solution to this conundrum fight never-ending bloody battle? How can we create works of beauty within the ugly mess that is our everyday lives?
There is no magic pill. Not legal, anyway, and drugs are never rarely the answer. We need to embody personal accountability (there's a sexy phrase, said no one ever). We need to do the best we can to reduce distractions. Turn all pings off, wear a diaper (kidding), dress comfortably, go for a pre-thinking walks, pet the cats and then lock them in another room, and then fill up a large mug of coffee and create.
I admire those who simply MUST do X (and X is a good or decent thing) and ensure they do X even when barriers make doing X hard or near impossible. Case in point. David Sedaris' commitment (obsession) with racking up huge numbers of steps on his Fitbit.
And by huge, I've learned that Sedaris routinely gets thirty thousand, forthy thousand, even sixty thousand steps in a day. He's even walked 20 miles in one day. And he loves beating the total daily step numbers of his Fibit pals.
I first heard about his walking habit a few years ago in a New Yorker story. Then Bill and I saw Sedaris perform and he talked about it there. While getting him to sign a book, I told him I also used a Fitbit. He signed it accordingly (see pic).
That was when Sedaris could walk through his neighborhood in Normandy (or wherever he was). Then the covid crisis occurred. This recent story from the NYT shares how David got his steps in while being home-bound and restricted in NYC. At first, he walked around his apartment for hours each day. Then, when it was allowed, he started walking the New York City streets while wearing a mask.
That's dedication! That's grit! It might be a few other things, but I admire his resolve.
But this isn't a story about steps; it's about discovering something that is important enough that we become unstoppable. What would you put in that category and how might you like the targets of your grit and determination to change?
If you made one small change in the right direction, I bet it would make a big difference. Like the Butterfly Effect.
For me, I need to get a more assertive hold on my various health issues. I have an appointment with my oncologist in a few hours and it's time to be decisive. I've been dinking around the corners and welcoming delays and inaction (some of it covid related, sure). But this is something that is keeping me zoned out and inactive. Barriers be damned. I'm ready to get this surgery over with and re-health back up to whatever my new normal can be. I've got some projects waiting for my focus and concentration (which is low right now).
Is there something that you could recommit to that would help put things on a clearer track forward
I attended a Startup Advantage zoom session yesterday that offered a few interesting tips.
The talk was called, Get Uncomfortable: A Mindset for Innovation and Disruption. It was lead by Randall Stevens, CEO of AVAIL and co-owner of two large coworking spaces.
He related his ideas to a large disruption we're all living through right now: covid-19 and its reverberating impacts. Here are the key points:
Stop, slow down, or change what you can and should. This means that, even if decisions are difficult, we need to adjust some things. And as leaders, entrepreneurs, and community members, it's our responsibility to have eyes wide open and act accordingly.
Tell a new story. You might have a product, service, or skills that could help people and organizations right now - especially right now. Think Zoom. Think NTI technologies. Think grocery delivery services. But to add value and operationalize this capability, we need to tell a new story so that potential users or customers, who might not be thinking this is something they need or could trust, see the potential for how it might add value to their work or life.
Create features FOR the moment. Any disruption - whether broad like covid or specific to one location or industry - calls for some things to stop and new things to begin. What are the services, messages, tools, or features that would best serve the moment? I decided to start this blog at this time partly with this in mind. That people might need suggestions and encouragement for how to best enjoy their lives and careers during this major disruption. How to have fun in a fog kind of thing.
Meet your "customers" where they're at NOW. Things have changed. Needs have changed. Bank accounts have changed. The structure of family life has changed. Recreation has changed. Goals and aspirations may have changed. Don't expect people or organizations to restart right where they were in January. Start thinking about how to best help and serve them based on their current reality.
This is not rocket science, but it is helpful to think about at this time. I'm going to use these suggestions to assess how best to ensure the success of my writing, the Lexington Writer's Room, and my other endeavors. I hope you will, too!
Just a short and reflective post today. It's Friday, June 19th - Juneteenth. And while I've known for many years the top line meaning of Juneteenth, I'm glad that my awareness is deepening regarding its modern-day significance.
Today I'm thinking about several big challenges. Racial bias and inequality. Increasing divisiveness. And a terrible pandemic very much affected by this inequality and divisiveness. And there are other challenges that pain me, disturb me, and worry me.
On this blog, I write about misadventures - those times we play full out to handle surprises and barriers. When we tap into strengths we might not remember we possessed. I often apply this idea to fun things - travel or personal goals - like biking across America.
I think we'll need to offer the same type of grit help to make our town/state/country/society/world better. And like other misadventure stories we'll recall years from now, it will be the full-out efforts we gave and the positive impact we had on others that we'll relish.
It's ok that things will be messy and unpredictable. That's how progress happens. Human systems are chaotic and trying to predict outcomes when many individuals and circumstances are at play is not a good use of time. Forward movement is highly dependent on, and sensitive to, each of our small actions. It's the butterfly effect in action.
And it's the journey and keeping it moving on a directionally correct path that will serve us best.
Here's to messy progress wherever it is needed most. And here's to each of us figuring out the small and large ways we can best contribute to progress.
I don't know about you, but I get pretty nervous when faced with a new-to-me mother nature situation. Last week, I was watering the plants in the back yard and two adult cardinals started chirping at me. They seemed upset, not that I speak cardinal. I realized that the large hydrangea bush had a wee fledgling in it.
The little bird hopped around and tried to fly. It flew into the wooden fence on the other side of our yard, which is just 15 feet away. I shut off the water and moved away but watch. I didn't know if I should DO something. My first instinct (generally wrong) was that yes, I need to get the little bird back up into the big tree from where it presumably fell.
I grabbed a rake and wrapped a towel around the end, so it would be a soft perch. Somehow I thought that if I extended the rake, the little bird-brained cardinal would realize I was here to help it and jump onto my express ride back into the tree.
You know that didn't happen. The parents got closer and pitched a fit. They looked ready to dive bomb me. The little bird kept trying to fly away but could only get a few feet off the ground.
The moral to this story is: Google before you do anything.
A quick search confirmed the error of my initial approach. Leave the bird unless something bigger is about to eat it. The parents will continue to feel the fledgling while it is learning to fly. It will never return to the nest.
For three days I kept checking to see if the bird was still in our back yard and alive. Because we have a very small yard surrounded by an 8-foot fence, I worried the fledgling didn't have enough space to get aloft. I worried the parents would give up if the bird did not learn quickly enough. I worried some other creature would kill it.
After the three days, there was no sign of the fledgling. Dead or alive. A promising sign was that the parents were gone too.
I choose to believe that the baby cardinal made it out and is an accomplished flying machine, versus that it was consumed whole by something else.
Did I impact its chances? Am I a big dummy? Probably. You likely know how fledglings work and what to do.
Every first offer a tiny adventure (or misadventure) and it's fun explore and learn about how other creatures live.
Now, if someone could just tell me whether I've killed my chances of getting broccoli from my broccoli plants if their leaves are filled with holes and no broccoli-the-vegetable looking shoots are shooting?