Why Your New Years Resolution Are Going To Fail. (Oh, and Happy New Year)

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Look I am as sick of writing New Years’ Resolution posts as you are of reading them. This is the time of the year when we bloggers can’t think of anything else to write so decide to get high and mighty and tell you why you suck.

But let’s be honest, we never learn. Every year we come back to the same guilt and shame and announce to the world via Twitter that this is the year that we lose weight or take up running or whatever. Continue reading

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Brad Pitt, Where Ideas Come From and Why Everything Should Be Sacred To The Writer.

I am not in control.

You are not in control.

This may be the most important thing I’ve learned as a writer. It’s what I would tell anyone who creates anything. Whether you’re writing a blog post, preparing a sermon or painting. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid who is making masterpieces out of stuff that’s lying around or whether you’re a  seasoned novelist who has written 20 New York Times’ Bestsellers.

You aren’t in control. And as soon as you realize that, the sooner you can start making some really great stuff.

Even when you come up with an idea. It’s not really your idea. Yeah, you were maybe the one who one who write it down or had an inkling to suggest something, but honestly that doesn’t mean it’s yours. Where did it come from? That’s what I like to call an elusive question. One that the more we attempt to answer, often the further we are from finding an answer.

Consider this in some ways, an elusive blog post.

When I write I often try and have some ideas or seeds ready to go. So if I’m out and about and I notice something or hear something or wonder something, I will jot it down. It doesn’t matter what it is or whether it fits into something that I’m already working on or whether it’s interesting to anyone else. If it hits something in me, I’ll make some sort of record of it. Maybe I’ll take a picture and make a note and reference it in Evernote.

I’ll usually give it a tag of some sort e.g. Elaine’s Freakout or Franco, General Hospital or Numb Slog.

Descriptions and tags that right now mean nothing, but someday may just be the missing piece of the jigsaw that I’ve been looking for.

Remember to make a note about whatever this thought that comes to mind is, even if it’s 3:25 in the morning. This is so important!! I’ve had ideas that I’ve thought were genius and I wouldn’t need to write down, disappear like a dream. There are foggy memories of having a great idea that become faint mirages. Something but now nothing.

I’ve thought of jokes in my sleep that I literally remember thinking I can’t wait to tell Britty this joke when I wake up and realizing the joke is terrible. Remind me to tell you my Brad Pitt joke next time I see you. brad-pitt-young

But it doesn’t matter. I wrote it down. It may come in handy someday, even if just to use in a blog post about how crap an idea it was.

Nothing is wasted. Everything is sacred to the writer.

Then maybe later I’ll be writing a blog post about a particular topic and I’ll review my tags and I’ll see if there are any interesting connections. Connections that if I was trying to intentionally arrive at, would never stick. But when my stance in the world is to be alert to what’s going on around me, you’d be surprised at the things that fit together eventually.

Also, it doesn’t have to be good. In fact, it should probably be really shit. That’s where the good stuff tends to come from. Another in fact; usually the things that you think are really great and are going to go viral, don’t get much response and the things you’re so embarrassed about sharing, resonate on some weird level with people.

The best ideas too, come from the least expected places. Often I do my best writing in the shower or sitting on the toilet. They common factor here is not some weird fascination I have with my bathroom but that it’s here that I’m often disconnected from my phone or my computer. Those things become a distraction where Twitter stops me from pondering and being in awe and just being silent.

The silence is where the best noise comes from.

I don’t understand it either.

Again, we’re not in control.

And that’s it really. Sure we need to actually sit down every single day and do the work. And sure, we need to edit it and maybe we can to learn to find our voice by taking a course. But the ideas, rarely come from simply trying harder.

And the more you do this, whether you’re any good at it or not, the more you’ll want to let go. The more value you’ll see in those frustrating days when everything you write is just BLeurgrhhgreathhgghhghsdgjh!!!!! It’s not a waste of time, it’s necessary. Like a good sculptor, our job is simply to chisel away until we find something that has been there all along.

We’re not creating it so much as we are discovering it and giving voice to it.

That’s the important work.

Because in there, when you least expect it, is where you find the great.

Books that changed my life: Having To Say Something Vs Having Something To say

This is a post on a topic that I haven’t spent a lot of time writing about of late but it is something that I have been pondering on a lot recently.

The question of creativity. The dreaded blank page.  Where to start. You’ve been there I know you have. I found a great book that has helped me immeasurably with this and I want to share some of what I’ve found in it with you.

The book is called “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young Ideas

Essentially there is one key aspect of James’s technique that has changed everything about how I look at creating.

If you are like me you are a procrastinator. You know the work you have to do but somehow you can’t bring yourself to actually sit down to do it.

It’s the age old question for anyone who has some sort of work to do. Do you..

Have to say something? Or..

Have something to say? (Thanks Rob Bell)

Is the task you face having to sit down and come up with a great inspiring blog post everyday, or writing a paper, or coming up with a book idea or having to think of a new sermon series because it’s due in a few days?
Or…. is the task you have, being so excited by an idea or a thought, by something that you noticed on a walk or something you read in a magazine or a sign you saw on your drive home that caught your attention or a picture that made you think about ‘that’ in a different light, or a story about someone giving their life for someone else which opened your eyes to a new way of thinking about generosity and what that means for your marriage, or a word which when you had the original meaning explained to you made you sit up and realize there was a whole new meaning to ‘this’?

So you made a note of it, or took a picture, or created a folder, or memorized it, or held it, or picked it up, or took it home and placed it on your mantlepiece.

Then after a while you began to discover how a few of these things that seemingly had no connection came together in a way that you couldn’t see coming. This connects with that, and that can be illustrated perfectly by that postcard you saw in the shop.

So when you go to sit down you’re not staring at a blank screen but bringing all these connections and ideas to the table, ready to surprise and delight us.

Are we hoping that inspiration strikes us every morning when we sit down to work or do we have an openness to the world where we are constantly being alert to those ideas or images or words that make us think, “that’s interesting”.

Maybe we use it or maybe we don’t. That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it was enough in that moment to be of interest.

Editing comes later. Being aware and collecting begins now.

So that when the time comes to do the work, we’re ready.

So when we sit down to work, our blank white screen is already full of color.

Why I live Tweeted the Grammys

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Two nights ago, I did something that I have never done but always intended to and live tweeted an awards ceremony. On Sunday night, as I am sure many of you know, the Grammys took place and so I decided to join in with some of my favorite tweeters/bloggers/writers and have a bit of fun.

What’s the point of this you ask? Here’s a few reasons why I live tweeted the Grammys. Continue reading

There is a bit of Dougal in all of us.

father-dougal-mcguireResistance doesn’t think, “how can I use the fear of failure or the fear of success to stall her from working.”

It thinks, “how can I use the fear of failure and the fear of success.”

If we were afraid of only failure then we would be able to justify working using success. So if I think “I might look stupid but at least I could help one person see something fresh”, then it’s worth it.

So resistance evolves to include the fear of success too.

“If this goes well I may be asked to take on more responsibility, which I’m not ready for” or
“If this post gets people talking and coming back I’ll need to write something just as good or even better”.

Notice how the fear of success quickly turns into the fear of failure.

We might need to come up with other great ideas, or we might need to surprise ourselves.

The good news is that this frees us up to be generous. When we focus on the potential failure or success we are focusing mainly on ourselves. We’re afraid of looking stupid or getting people’s hopes up and then feeling stupid when we let them down or make a mistake.

The antithesis to this is generosity where the only goal is to give without expectation of anything in return. You can’t feel stupid if you don’t care.

I can write a blog post that resonates with people and that’s fantastic so I work to make that happen again. But I do so by simply doing the work and putting it out there because it’s the right thing to do.

Whether it connects or not isn’t so important; it’s part of the active strategy to keep being generous.

Surprisingly though when we keep doing that, eventually something sticks. Something you write encourages someone or even better, the hope to do their own work. If you stop being generous eventually you’ll become so self obsessed and paralyzed with fear that you stop working altogether.

And your work is far too important to us to let that happen.