Posts Tagged ‘pursuing passions

22
Jul
08

Why I Write

While the topics I write about vary in subject and opinion, my underlying reason for writing hasn’t changed. I’m passionate about words and ideas. And writing is one of the easier ways to share those words and ideas. Writing isn’t simply something I do but rather something I am.

When I started this blog it seemed another avenue for sharing, another way to express myself. But somewhere along the way, I started writing for an audience, second-guessing my words and ideas, debating whether someone else would find them of interest.

These thoughts have kept me from writing much on this blog for the last few months. I could take the easy route and blame it on my increased workload and the demands of everyday life, but that isn’t the truth. Instead I kept silent, waiting for the moment when the words would start to flow again. Now comes the time to face the hard facts.

I’m selfish when it comes to my words. The more I shaped my words around a potential audience, the less the words meant to me. The more I looked for “relevant” topics to interest my audience, the more I felt I was following in the footsteps of others instead of exploring new territory. The more my site visits went up, the less attention I paid to the words that wanted to escape.

I started this blog under the premise of examining the bold words of others, and while I may continue to do so, I think it’s time I generated a few of my own. I think it’s time that my writing reflected who I am instead of who I think potential readers want me to be. I’m not dismissing the content I’ve generated to date. Instead, I believe I can do better.

For my writing to regain its meaning, I’ve decided that the usual measurements will no longer suffice. I no longer care if I write something I want to post every day, but I will write every day. My writing may be long, it may be short. Ultimately, it will be just right. You may hate it, you may love it, but that can no longer be a driving factor behind why I write. I write because I love it and that is enough.

10
Mar
08

Finding Ideas in the Noise

While the main topic of this blog is the use of words, underlying the words are ideas. It’s one of the main reasons I come to conferences like SXSW and attend presentations like the one by Jason Fried of 37signals. I want exposure to ideas that differ from my daily routine. So I intentionally look for people who know more than I do or present an opinion different from the one I already hold.

In this instance, I know some people are less than impressed by Fried & Co. Regardless of your opinion, I think their ideas are worth considering, if for nothing else than how clearly and intelligently they present them. Yes, you may not agree, but you won’t be the worse for having been open to the possibility of their ideas adding value.

Early on, Fried highlighted words that they try to keep out of 37signals’ conversations because of the negative feelings they generate: need, can’t, easy, only, and fast (e.g., “I need this feature to go to market.”; “That’s easy to do, right?”). Consider this idea for a moment: words have power, so imagine the impact of identifying words within your network that get in the way of getting things done. However, I’m not a total fan girl.

I was struck when he said that words are the cheapest and the easiest thing to fix versus, for example, doing a complete redesign of a website. I can see why initially, one might agree with this advice. Unfortunately, unless you suddenly uncover the secret sauce for how to write about you and what your company may do, the words aren’t cheap or easy. I also found it funny that after putting “easy” on his list of words they avoid, he described words as being easy to fix. Although, he did say later that we don’t pay enough attention to the words and too much to the pixels.

To me, the concept that the words are the easiest solution makes the assumption that the original idea is accurate. If the new words are still describing a fallacy, they haven’t addressed the issue that drove the need for new words. Instead, the new words create an illusion that the problem is solved. I think before you can determine if new words solve the problem, you have to determine if the original idea is worthy of them.

I’ve seen many clients struggle with this problem. They want content—brochures, websites, white papers—that defines their brand, but often aren’t 100% sure of what that brand represents, which makes finding the right words a challenge. If you don’t have a goal of increasing the value of the conversation, you’re potentially distracting the very people your trying to reach. When you choose words with care, I believe that your attention to detail will show. You may not appeal to everyone, but you will appeal to the people who are best suited to you, which takes me to the other highlight of Fried’s presentation.

Fried walked through why 37signals takes the approach that they’d rather have customers grow out of their products versus attempting to grow into them. What a novel idea. Haven’t we reached the point where the notion of cradle to grave business stopped being realistic, or desirable for that matter? I’m surprised at how frequently I run into people that buy into the notion that competitiveness and success requires being all things to all people, ultimately not really appealing to anyone.

What if you took the approach that you either want people to love you or hate you, totally skipping over indifference? I think this attitude makes pursuing one’s ideas, one’s passions, a simpler feat, not necessarily easy, but more straightforward. Your ideas and words become focused on creating an experience that attracts people with similar goals. However, the trick remains to stay open and accessible, even to the ideas you disagree with and to the people that hate you.

For me, keeping these ideas in mind does make choosing the right words easier. I suspect you’ll also find that pulling out useful ideas from the noise becomes easier as your focus settles on what matters most to you.

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