Today marks a month since I last posted, and I'm excited to hear what you've all been doing with your time and your projects (I'll be attaching a comment thread to this post so those who want to check in with me about your work can - fyi: the thread will be active for three days and then conveniently disappear.)
While a month ago I too declared a fuzzy endpoint - writing a book proposal on engaged journeys, a kind of high-level how-to guide for innovators and leaders - I've been led in a weirdly different direction ever since starting work on it.
While the core intent of the book's not changed - still a how-to for innovators - the format's totally different.
In writing I found I wasn't in fact creating a prescriptive book on innovation and leadership (what I"d set out to do). Instead I found myself writing a creative non-fiction memoir!
Instead of writing about "it", the subject, I'm writing about me. Well, me-it. And because the book is unfolding on its own, meaning each section arises from the one before it, I have no idea what the content's going to be. Kind of kills the idea of writing a book proposal where the book sells based on your ability to represent it.
So discovery two: I'll be writing the book, the whole book, before I sell it. So much for the goal of finishing the book from the advance, and on an island somewhere in the Mediterranean.
While these two re-directions have been a bit disorienting, I'm actually stoked about where it's going. The excitement has lead to great productivity, and the project's been generative and deeply satisfying. Storytelling is powerful stuff.
And as I write the book I'm beginning to catch glimmers of where it's headed and can see the message taking form. And perhaps lessons embedded in story have a greater chance of impact.
Could I have thought and organized my way through to this re-conceptualized book? No way. The idea "came" to me, and because it felt right, and because it gave me a kind of thrill, and because I was paying attention to and privileging just these things, I dipped my toe in. And now, five chapters later, I can see it's exactly perfect.
Now it's your turn. How have you been keeping a fuzzy endpoint, and how has tuning into your gut and your pleasure helped shift your end goals? How are the shifts strengthening your work and are you stoked? If not, you might want to go back and check in with your pleasure.
And to lead the way I'm attaching the opening page of my book (unedited) at the end of the post.
To your continuing inspiration,
We are children and don’t know how things work or what things mean. We hardly even know what adults are talking about unless they give us direct eye contact and use our 100-word vocabulary.
We live in the world of our 100-word vocabulary. Sure, we grow by words daily, but never fast enough to understand why bedtime happens at 7, or why the creatures we find outside don’t live as well inside, say in the hamper.
Being short of words, and short of height is not a comfortable existence.
They say it will pass, and it does, but not before we’ve crafted the themes that will guide our understanding of everything we’ll ever encounter in our next 80 years. And all scripted in our 100 words.
Who says childhood’s carefree.
I am four and I’m in love.
It’s a snowy morning on a hillside, and I’m dragging my sled behind me heading uphill.
It could be any day of the week because I’m still four. I know nothing of school, and days that have fallen victim to the disjointed rhythm of 5 x 2, a pattern which will threaten the rest of my able-bodied life.
The air’s not warm, but sharp, and stiff, moved only by the rasping of snow pants as I struggle uphill.
My mother believes in wool, and knitting, and her latest creation has escaped my hood and now dangles just in front of my eyes, making it hard to see. The warmth it adds is quickly subtracted every time I brush my face with the pilled snow that clings to my matching mittens. You’d think with her large vocabulary she’d have thought of this.
The way back up is slow-going, encased as I am in that red snowsuit. I’m sweating in rivulets, but at four am not yet confident I'm not really peeing. A vague sense of nervousness attaches itself to my feeling of too tired.
Colorful, careening figures continue to whoosh past in sprays of snow. I can make out the gathering point that seems to spew them all. I’m getting closer.
And while I’m sure the length of the hill was no more than 50 yards, a modest slope followed by a gently sprawling belly, I enter that all too familiar experience of childhood – the endless moment.
Time being a tricky thing, I’m not entirely sure I haven’t always been walking up this hill, red-faced and sticky. But I’m certain I will aways be walking up this hill, and the reality of my situation makes me sort-of start to cry.
And lost in misery I don’t see the rogue sled headed my way, topped with hollering kids trying in vain to catch my attention. Too late to adjust course, the sled plows straight toward me, tilts, then tips, casting its howling pack of riders into a drift. Everything becomes momentarily still.
I am sure they are dead and I’m in big trouble.
Even when they start to move, and the situation gets downgraded to they’ll be mad, I can’t seem to start up again. Everything has finally frozen; I am one with my surroundings.
And then the air crackles behind me in a familiar way and I turn to see my mother, striding down the hill toward me. She is laughing. Her face, the sun.
It eclipses everything, her face: radiant and beautiful. It fills the canvas, the only thing I see and feel. And it feels warm, and alive. We are alive, together, and warm, she and I, the only thing that exists in this canvas of white and laughter.
I am four and in love, and know it for the first time.