13 October 2010

Kangaroo in the Library, polymer plate etching by Annie SmidtNo, this is not an impassioned plea to stop your consumerist ways and utilize our publicly-funded resources instead. Rather, I thought I’d point out that I added a page to the site here, called “library“.  It will grow as I find more good stuff, but I spewed out a bunch of mini-book-reports to begin.

I’m really grateful for all the ideas, inspirations, ass-kickin’s, confirmations, brain-fist-fights and comfort and joy I get from books, blogs and various other digital goodies — so it seemed apropos to share. (Damn, spellcheck, “à propos” is one English word now, really?!)

And, of course, there’s no time like the crispy days of autumn to curl up with a nice book, or a blog post on Instapaper. So, pull up an inglenook and enjoy.

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2 September 2010

Making Ideas Happen bookcoverLast time, I wrote about the idea of making ideas happen in reference to an art project I was working on — rather, am still working on. I stole the phrase from the title of Scott Belskey’s book that was, at the time, sitting in my bathroom, as yet unread. I’ve since read it, so, let me speak a little more knowledgeably.

Book report time!

This is one of those books that, I think, is going to come as a revelation to those who’ve not yet accepted the impending creative economy into their hearts as their one true saviour. It will come as a revelation to those who haven’t yet figured out that you actually have to be organized and creative to get anything done. (And I’m not saying the latter lesson isn’t a hard-won and life-long battle for many of us.) However, for many of us modern creative entrepreneur types Making Ideas Happen is preaching to the choir to some degree.

It’s got some good ideas, and some good stories, and distills a lot of the important nuggets from productivity gurus while eschewing the fussy details that make their methods too difficult in practice (David Allen, I am looking at you).

The two most memorable and, I think, lastingly useful things I take from this book are:

1 » You need a community to help make your ideas happen. The creative genius in isolation is a rarity or a myth. Community helps you refine your ideas, edit yourself, find partners and collaborators when appropriate and aids in launching your ideas when they’re ready to meet the world.

This is something I need to be reminded of constantly. So many of my ideas die on the vine, or on my whiteboard, because I don’t tell anyone about them. I don’t have any accountability and I don’t have any cheerleaders. Like many people, I avoid critiques for fear of hearing something less than glowing — when, in fact, it’s exactly that kind of “constructive criticism” that could make my ideas better and make me stronger as a creator. It’s a catch-22 in fact. We avoid community involvement with our ideas from lack of confidence, but we could gain so much more confidence by sharing our ideas with the community and reaping the benefits of support and collaboration.

Once Mr. Belsky pointed out this need for community in the ideas > happening process, it became so obvious, but I’d never thought about it in such a simple yet meaningful way before. When you stop and think about the people you know who are successful and productive, those genius people, you start to realize, they’re not working alone! They tend to have charisma, have people around them, have support and enthusiasm. They also have their critics — but they’re confident and supported enough to be ok with that. Ah. People. Networking. Community. It’s all becoming clear. Get out of the house more!

2 » Taking notes of everything said at meetings is stupid. You should just write down your action items, and do it with a sexy pen on sexy paper.

This, well, I was already doing that, and thinking there was something wrong with me. People around me seem to be always scribbling furiously while I just sit and make eye contact and listen carefully. I feel so much better about the whole thing now. (Though, as we all know, and have been taught by Mr. Fried, most meetings are a waste of time anyway.) If I may slip into regional dialect for a moment, the wicked cool thing about idea number two, is that Mr. Belsky’s company/organization Behance sells really designy notebooks for taking notes in his perscribed format, and you order by Pantone color.

So, yes, in summary, I do recommend Making Ideas Happen. A lot of it will seem old hat to a lot of people, but in a reinforcing and perhaps even inspiring way. Yes! Down with reactionary workflow! Yes! Down with worrying about things beyond one’s control! Yes! Down with interruptions! Yes to “just ship”! Yes to “respect-based self-marketing”! Pick it up when you’re feeling at a loss for what to do next, or how to prioritize or why nothing’s getting done. And do try to look past the poor cover design.

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