I've always loved drawing on whiteboards and bringing complex concepts together as a simple graphic. But it seems to be more important than ever in our information-saturated world. Sometimes a picture can cut through the clutter faster than words can. And no-one has time to read a thousand words -- especially on the screen of a smartphone...
We are all born to build things, in one way or another. For some of us, it’s being unable to pass a set of Legos without fiddling with the blocks, or being unable to resist the urge to throw just one more spice into the soup.
For me, it’s making art, even if it’s a cruddy watercolor I painted on the beach while watching the kids or a surreptitious sketch of a stranger at Starbucks while waiting for a client to show up. As a formally-trained fine artist, I have to chuckle that my most prolific medium these days is PowerPoint. As much as I love to write stories in .ppt format, it’s not nearly enough to satisfy the craving.
Kids do it every day because they lack the fear of failure. How freeing to be able to make missteps as an adult, learning (and hopefully laughing!) along the way..
Note: in the midst of drafting this post, I was forced to put the principles of the book in action. My laptop OS died a miserable death and I had to reformat my primary drive and rebuild it from scratch.
It wasn’t my definition of a good time, but it could have been a lot worse, and in the process, I rediscovered my inner geek, the one who used to rollback to DOS 2.1 when a DOS 3.0 install didn’t take, and lamented the day my command line went away.
It was a great feeling to switch from automatic to manual, and to feel as if I was fully capable of controlling my own computing destiny (after a litany of missteps, of course). The only difference between these days and my DOS days is that it would have been impossible to do the installs & updates without using my backup laptop alongside to pull up online documentation, Microsoft tech notes and support threads...
Telegrams: My grandmothers lived half way around the world, without telephones, when I was a kid. My mom (a former newspaper editor and headline-writer extraordinaire) would make composing telegrams (Happy Birthday, New Baby, Significant News) into a game -- how to convey an important message in 15 words or less?
Google AdWords: Today, my far flung cousins have cell phones (no landlines or email!). But I find myself writing in the short form more than ever. I've been tweaking Google AdWords campaigns for clients and I must admit that the restrictions of the medium only make it more fun. It's hard to ramble on about your value prop or insert more marketing fluff when you're writing on a postage stamp. Which is the beauty of it.
Twitter Haiku: Since I don't switch ads out daily, and still want to tone my extra "marketing flab" I've started a new fitness program: writing Haiku via Twitter (or Twaiku).
ATCs: Fine artists have long touted the advice "if you're in a painting rut and you paint small, paint huge for a change. If you paint huge, go to miniature". In January, I started painting ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) for that very reason.
I doubt I'll become a true miniature artist (my brushes are way too big) but I'm up for the journey...
I took my sketchbook on a recent tour of south India. With a jam-packed itinerary, I didn't get to paint anything serious, just sketch scenery from the window of a bus or train (and paint it in afterwards).
It was disappointing not to create a "masterpiece" with the rugged scenery and vibrant colors I saw, but the process of rapid-fire sketching was a reward in itself.