Tag Archives: Thinking

Collaborative Writing

Writing is supposed to be done alone in a cold garret somewhere.  The writer tortured to some degree by the blank page.  Characters, storyline, theme development all taking up a great deal of space in the writer’s thoughts.  Is that still the image?

 

How about the place of the reader?  Should a writer develop ideas based solely on personal interest and preference, or in some consideration of the potential reader?  Particularly in this medium, which is so immediately public.  And yet, only so much so as the blog’s SEO commands.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I used to wonder about writing as part of a group.  I did take a play writing course in high school where we often worked in teams on pairs.  Sometimes this led to better pieces and sometimes to drivel. How does the division of labor work out?

 

I warmed to collaborative writing in the business environment.  It helped that I came across a writing partner with similar sensibilities and a more developed (at the time) methodology.  One or the other of us would usually take a first stab at writing the first draft after a brief discussion of need or intent and then we would sit together and hone it.  Move sections about, sharpen wording, tighten the message so that there was plenty of white space.  White space is very important in business writing.  In the early days, I thought that she spent too much time honing.  But I learned better editing.

 

I came to realize that my interest in fiction was actually useful in this writing environment.  Story is necessary here, too.  Not as in making something up, but in creating a clear arc; keeping the focus of the piece clean.  Every detail isn’t necessary, in fact too much detail is detrimental to keeping the reader engaged in the message.

 

We are writing about this issue.  This is a bit of the background for why we are writing.  This is the solution.  The adage to start in the middle has merit here, captures interest.  Keeps things moving.

 

A strong conclusion – with a call to action.  Here is what we want you to do with this information.  In business writing the reader is highly important, if not properly considered then the message may fail.  Collaboration of minds and writing styles can make the effort more effective.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Pursuing Ideas

I have trouble getting my mind to quiet down.  Tick, tick, tick it goes – all the time.  Sometimes it is a gibberish jumble and other times laser focused on a single topic.  I think that is part and parcel of writing since writing begins with the formulation of an idea.

 

What makes a person a writer is the compulsion to write, to put that idea on paper (virtual or real) and pursue it, build it, launch it, nurture its growth.  Sometimes that idea that started out as a tangle of gibberish becomes a viable, wonderful thing.  And sometimes that laser clear idea collapses into useless mush.  For now.  (I don’t fully discard any post that I’ve started, it might have a seed for a future idea.)

 

Walking and driving distances are great for mulling ideas but lousy for capturing them.  I now try to remember to keep a recording device in the car on long trips, and can find myself chanting a couple of sentences when hurrying home from an amble.

more Jisco West

Waking up slowly is also fertile idea time.  My mind likes to tell me the things it has been pondering while asleep if I let it.

 

Sometimes repetitive tasks can bring forth a good thought or two that have been wandering in the back of my mind while my hands are busy.  It can be annoying when the thought gels in the morning when I’m getting ready for work so all I can do is jot it down on my way out the door.  And hope that I can pick it back up at the end of the day.

 

I like the discipline of posting regularly as a bit of pressure to complete an idea.  Although there are periods when too many ideas don’t pan out.  And nothing that I have previously completed appeals to me at the moment when I should post to meet my self-imposed deadline.  Sometimes my post meets the writer’s version of software developer’s minimum viable product.  And sometimes a post that I felt came together quite well is received with a thud or echoing silence.

 

What the writer writes isn’t always what the reader perceives.

 

Or maybe I am overthinking.  What is the right amount of thinking on any one topic, idea or issue?  My hat is off to the person who gets the answer to that one right more often than not.

 

Now that I am rounding up in a couple of months to completion of my second year blogging, I have been thinking about objectives.  (Different pursuit of ideas.)  My first objective was to set up a blog and see if I could sustain it past the average of 4 months.  Counting my first blog, I have certainly met that objective.  Then I thought a year was a fine goal.  Met, check.

 

As I became more familiar with the blogosphere, I realized that I wanted to find a community of bloggers, and I have managed to find or be found by others with similar interests.  Not quite a community since there is little cohesion beyond the fact that we are all blogging on WordPress.

 

Not being content with blogging for the sake of blogging, I have been wrestling with the open question of ‘now what?’.  I don’t have an answer for myself.  I will keep pursuing ideas to blog about while I pursue this larger idea.

 

Any suggestions?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Running Inner Commentary

There was a noontime broadcast this week for Chicago’s current heroes – the team that won US Little League Champs, Jackie Robinson West – that reminded me of the worst trait of commentators.  Their inane blather to fill the air while we wait for the event, or the next stage of the event.  I’ve only watched Netflix or streamed shows on the computer for the past year and so I had forgotten.  But then it made me think of something else that I think is interesting.

 

There are parts of the brain that keep up a running commentary – did you remember to bring your phone, haven’t made an appointment to get your teeth cleaned yet, oops your cousin’s birthday is coming up.  This is the part of the brain that sometimes doesn’t want to cool it so you can sleep.  The part of the brain that spews your self-talk.

 

Notice how my brain commentary examples are slightly or definitely of a negative bent?  Your failings – real and potential – on a permanent loop inside your head.  Yippee.  Or how about; so busy, can’t keep up, busy, busy, busy.

 

sometimes my thoughts resemble my niece's zendoodle

sometimes my thoughts resemble my niece’s zendoodle

All of it just about as useful as the filler from those news commentators.

 

Do you ever stop and listen to these thoughts looping through your head?  Somewhere in the past few years I did start to realize how unhelpful these thoughts usually are and started to challenge them.  When the thought ‘you can’t do that’ came up I asked why not.  When they said ‘busy, busy’ I asked how productive.  And so on.

 

Not every day, but regularly enough that I think it has made a difference.  Of course sometimes I have to agree because I really do need to make that appointment for the dental cleaning and my cousin’s birthday is coming up fast.  Now if I could just get the thoughts to look up the number for the dentist and make the call.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Many Things Can Your Mind Juggle?

Back in my early adulthood, I thought I was overwhelmed when I had a couple of issues at the same time; say one personal and one work issue.  Mind boggled.  But I slowly adjusted and found that I could handle a couple of different issues at the same time and maintain regular stuff as well.

 

Then I had kids and had to mentally juggle my stuff, house stuff and their stuff.  Sometimes I missed a few balls, but I did pretty well because there became an ebb and flow to activity that followed the school year.  My mind could rest a bit here and there.

 

I’ve had periods, sometimes years, when I had to adjust to constant mental juggling, without the relief of that ebb in activity.  Mostly I think I met the challenge.  Often by letting less important things fall to the wayside for a bit.

 

I was told once, by someone who should know, that our minds are suited to holding 7-9 thoughts or ideas in short term memory.  Any more and something has to go to long term memory or get dropped off the mental cliff.

 

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

So this idea of time management (and information management) is more than being in the right place at the right time with the right tools, it is conquering your short term and long term memory capabilities – because I know plenty of people, particularly women, who are trying to shove 25 items into their short term memory and feeling frazzled as a result.

 

I just rewrote my current to-do list of reasonably important tasks, appointments and such.  (Yes, still using pen and paper because that act helps me to keep everything clear.)  I am scheduling a roof replacement that has been on my list for about 3 years.  (The contractor said he has seen worse roofs, but I don’t want to get backed into that corner so getting this off my list will be a relief.  The next heavy rain won’t make me cringe.)

 

A few things were completed and didn’t have to be carried over onto the new list.  And a couple of things came up in the intervening time and had to be done without even making it onto the official list.  I remembered a few things that should have been on the last list, but got lost in the nether regions of my mind.  Plus a few new things.  So the list is longer and looks like I haven’t gotten anything done.  (Sigh.)

 

How many things can you mind juggle?  And do you live with the constant sense that you are forgetting something?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Wrong Pickles put you in a Pickle

My son goes through about a jar of pickles per week.  Dill spears or slices.  This week he accidentally picked up a jar of bread and butter sweet pickles at the store and only figured it out after he had opened the jar and taken a big bite out of a slice.

 

Now not only is he highly disappointed that he has the wrong pickles and irritated with himself that he didn’t pay closer attention, he has to figure out what to do with the pickles that we have before I’ll buy a jar of the correct pickles.  Drat & aggravation.

DSC03781

I have done this very thing – ended up with the wrong item due to inattention, I read the info on the shelf but didn’t check the label on the item that I picked up.  Figuring it out at home putting the groceries away or worse just when I go to use the item.  It’s a pickle for sure.

 

It is like your brain rushes ahead to the next thing.  Like pulling in to your driveway and not being sure how you got home.  Or not registering someone’s name when you first meet.  The opposite of mindful in-the-moment.  Not quite absent minded.

 

It would make a bit more sense if we were in a hurry at the store.  I had an action packed day last week and had trouble adjusting my thoughts once I got to my last meeting in the evening.  I had to tell myself to breathe a couple of times before I could settle in.  A blip in attention would have made sense then.

 

What is the weirdest thing that put you in a pickle in a moment of inattention?  And any suggestions for what to do with bread and butter sweet pickles?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Near Complete Lack of Curiosity

I never fail to be stumped when I encounter a person with a near complete lack of curiosity.  I can’t even bring myself to say that the person may have a complete lack of curiosity.  I have to qualify it, and hope that the person has some curiosity about something that I just don’t see.  It just doesn’t seem possible to me that a person could have zero curiosity.

 

Sure there are things that I am not interested in at all, or so I believe right now.  I would have said that was true about beer until last June when I sat through a talk that my son wanted to attend and the panel brought up the history of beer and tied it to some things that I am interested in.  Heck, I find myself feeling curious about math at times now that my niece is so taken with the topic.

 

But there are people who just want to be told to put that there and twist this a half a turn and move on.  They don’t want to know why.  They don’t want to know how the thing came to be in front of them or what will happen to it after it moves on.  Huh.  I am curious why that is, what is it about their make-up that left aside the wonder?  I can’t fathom it.

Nov 1997-Are they gone yet

Sure, curiosity killed the cat but lack of curiosity narrows.  Or at least it seems to me.  I would like to have a conversation with someone who has no interest in learning new things, who is content within their comfort zone.  Has that person ever had to deal with big changes?  In my experience life brings alterations, from tiny to seismic, fairly regularly and my curiosity has helped me to get resettled.

 

What importance do you place on curiosity?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Chasing a Thought

drivingI was driving a distance recently, which gives me plenty of thinking time.  I brought my little recorder with me to capture any ideas for blog posts.  And then, in the moment, I told myself that this one is so good I am bound to remember it.  Ha.

 

I knew better.  I really, really did.  I would be well off if I had a dollar for every time in the past I wound up wanting to kick myself for not making some note about an idea worth pursuing later.  Now I’m just sitting here trying to draw the right memory back out and not get tangled in the regret of what I should have done.

 

There is no excuse, the recorder was inches from me, easily accessible.

 

Sometimes I wonder if we do this to ourselves on purpose, set ourselves up in small ways to get tangled in foolish regrets?  To prove the old saying that ‘to err is human’, to keep ourselves vigilant when the bigger opportunities come along – what do you think, I’m just spinning here?

 

Now I am left chasing the idea of a thought.  Trying to play word association – sounded like, what CD was I playing…  Not even a hint at the moment.  Maybe I can get it back by pushing the quest to the back of my mind.  I often get solutions that way, if I can distract myself with something else.  I know that pushing too hard to remember something just pushes that something farther out of reach.

 

It feels like this happens to me all too often.  I can be in one room and think of a couple of things that we need at the store and by the time I get to the kitchen where I keep the list, the things that came to mind have kept on going.  So I find myself chanting them with every step.

 

How about you, what thought did you recently misplace?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The 7 10 Split

The pins are as far apart as they can be and still be on the same lane.  It is still your turn, and mathematically speaking you can pick up this spare.  But it takes skill, calm and a confluence of several factors.  Bowling as life lesson, not just beer swilling league fun.

 

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

I bet if you start to think about it, you will remember one and then another and another instance when you had two elements that were supposed to be working together or part of a larger whole in some way that were far apart and working independently to inhibit the larger goal.  (Passively, as in the case with the pins, or less so.)  There are ways to get these elements back into the larger plan, but it could take cunning – at the very least it will take time and effort on your part to figure out a solution and implement it.

 

I bowled on leagues on and off for years and I’ve been involved in volunteer groups, training sessions and plenty of office situations and only just this morning had the realization that there are parallels in these set ups.  From a higher level strategic point of view, there are similarities in the solutions.  I, or you, have to figure out the trajectory that will bring the elements together and keep the game going.  Now in life we probably don’t want to violently knock one element into or against the other – particularly since quite often these elements will be people.  Co-workers, vendors, colleagues, partners.

 

Sometimes the straightforward, ‘hey where are you at with your part of this project’, approach works like a charm.  Sometimes a bit of cajoling and sometimes it is a grueling game of inching the parties closer together.  It can be an endurance test for us, a question of keeping up our energy and resolve – keeping our eyes on the intended end.  Mentally testing out different solutions for alignment and success.

 

Then stepping up to the lane, ball in hand, squaring our shoulders, positioning our feet, eyes set on the pins at the other end.  Stride up, swing the ball and let it go.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Importance of Persistence

We admire someone with stick-to-itiveness, a person who single-mindedly pursues a goal.  Persistence does not mean adhering to a specific path, but keeping eyes on the intended goal.  Methods can change, as well as participants; even some aspects of the goal may be altered to achieve the essence successfully.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

 

Let’s say that you and your co-workers were sitting one day discussing a particular issue that affects your ability to get tasks done and a new person says that they know about software that will make the task much more efficient.  Excellent!  You share this information with your boss as soon as possible, but she lets you know that there just isn’t money in the budget.  Blast, now what?

 

Well, you and your team mates could just continue to discuss the problem periodically and lament the stupid budget limitations.  But you are persistent.  You and your buddies split up some tasks to convince your boss that the software is the best answer.  Some people do research on the software itself – how it works, some alternative software platforms, reviews from people who have used the software.

 

Another part of your group starts to track the time lost on the task using the current process, not only time within your team but within the organization as a whole, perhaps on the part of your customers as well.

 

Now you can go back to your boss with a great deal more information that includes information to calculate the cost of keeping things the same.  You don’t necessarily have to compute these numbers (you probably don’t have enough of the data to do so anyway) but now the company can take a clear look and make an informed comparison.

 

Hopefully your persistence will pay off with a new solution to the methods in your task.  If not, regroup and start to plot plan C.

 

“Plenty of men can do good work for a spurt and with immediate promotion in mind, but for promotion you want a man in whom good work has become a habit.”

~Henry L. Doherty

[We’ll purport for the sake of the modern age that Henry was not excluding woman in his thought on purpose, merely making assumptions of his era.]

(I must admit to rerunning this post from last year at this time, from my old blog.  This wind seems to be blowing all thoughts from my head.)

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Directionless Progress

Let’s face it, sometimes it really isn’t clear what our next step should be – in our career or in life.  We can ask friends, coworkers and family for assistance or suggestions and we will get varying opinions and conjecture but it is up to us to create the direction.  Since we expect life to be ever advancing and improving we put a lot of import on making the right decision about direction.

 

Maybe it is our years in school that give us this impression of life as continuing advancement.  We have to learn the basics to build on with later, more specialized classes – calculus won’t make sense until we know the fundamentals of math.  Each grade builds on the information gained in previous grades, and school goes on and on for what feels like forever.  But life doesn’t really work this way, so in that respect school hasn’t prepared us at all.

DSC03746

If only it were as simple as a video game where the arrows show up ahead as you drive to tell you the next stage of your route.  Instead we have to explore, experiment and experience occasional false starts.  Or seem to stay in place while the world moves forward without our active participation.

 

If we don’t have clear direction, can we really make progress?  If we decide to change direction does that negate everything that we did toward our old progress?  Who is to say that all of us are meant to click into a certain track in our early twenties and follow it through thirty odd years of a career without any pause or deviation?

 

I haven’t taken anywhere near a traditional path (assuming traditional is that set 30 year career track).  I think that I’ve done all right with my progress despite some meandering directions – mainly because I have learned so much along the way.   In fact, since learning has been a main goal, I could say that I really didn’t meander in my direction in that respect.

 

How do you define progress for yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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