Monday, 19 January 2009

The air is full with New Year resolutions

A friend attends a self-help seminar. He tells me, "Write your top 10 goals and put them up on the wall so you can read them everyday"; I neglect to tell him I used to have a piece of paper on my wall that said in big, inelegant handwriting: "Finish PhD by June". I finished it four years later.

"He made us write the 10 goals and then asked which would we like to achieve in the next 24 hours. The one you pick, that one, that is your priority, focus on it exclusively. But it is so hard. Distractions!"

"Yeah, check the blonde that just passed."

"I know, I was wiggling my eyebrows, didn't you see?"

"I thought you were emphasising priority."

I am back from Cairo - where I had a slow internet connection via timed sessions at cafes - to my London flat with its decent, untimed bandwidth. In Cairo, my life was structured around my parents' routines. My sisters, relatives and friends gave me no scope for solid blocks of time.

Now I am back to uninterrupted lengths. I don't have to handle drop-ins by my dad wanting to chat, or my mum eager to find out "just exactly what are you doing". I can sit at the computer for hours on end. Unsurprisingly, I find the lack of structure unnerving. I end up getting deluged.

I start my internet check-in with clear goals: reply to Kristof, write a tweet about that mentoring thing, and check my email. Ten minutes in, I'm a zombied-out druggie: "Who is that Chelsy Sullenberger again? I wonder what they're saying about her on twitter."

Five hours later, totally drained, I realise I have not done any of my goals.

Of course, I should learn. Add another goal to the list. "Waste day on internet": tick.

Seth Godin tells me that if the marketplace isn’t talking about me, there’s a reason. I'm boring. I need to be remarkable. But remarkable costs time and money and a willingness to be wrong.

Yeah Seth, and so does ordering something off a menu. The next time I take a chance on an expensive item off the menu, I'll call myself remarkable.

Embryonic ideas belong in a personal diary, or in a discussion forum;
much as they seem ours, they are just thoughts fused out of daily events.

Fully-formed ideas are truly ours; we did the due diligence on them.
If I can’t differentiate between the early-life and fully-formed ideas,
others will have to do that for me; and they can be quite moody.

I glance at the title of Chris Brogan's post: "Take Charge of your Career" and I am already turned off. Dude, honestly, show me someone who wants to hate his job, make less money, and have no clue what to do next?

Turns out the post is a book recommendation. Great. I overcome mental obstacles to read the post, only for Chris to add another to-do to my list.

Chris Brogan's "Cultivating a Writing Habit" nails it. He writes with so much ease, he actually writes too much. The guy has been writing all his life: he got writing awards at high school, won a spot at a writers' convention at college, plus he is an avid reader. He says, "Shipping News taught me brevity. Fight Club taught me how not to pull a punch. Slapboxing with Jesus taught me how to really pull raw emotions out of the air. Does this help my nonfiction writing? You bet it does."

Helps it too much, Chris.

Chris Brogan publishes several tweets and at least one blog post, daily. Each loaded with several ideas - embryonic ones.

An argument for NOT cultivating a writing habit!

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