Here your see my upcoming book (August 2021) on Creativity and Play in the Workplace. It’s a working cover, with a working title which I hope to change for the better near the time.
The book explores the intersection of creativity, play and the workplace, aiming to equip the reader with actionable insights so they can start their own creative revolution at their workplace.
The starting point is my own experience that in order to innovate, you need to create the appropriate environment which includes processes, leadership involvement but also creative fitness, so when the time comes, you generate the most original ideas.
We are at an advanced stage of the book, right in the editing phase, but I’ve had the chance to speak to several different people and I’ve come up with some key insights.
How to write a book and not die trying
A work in progress
Years ago I wrote a book. A Phd thesis to be exact, roughly 100.000 words. I had experience in writing for a newspaper, and also managed to write an Msc thesis in two weeks (20.000 words). I had started a Phd fully confident in my writing skills, reasearching a topic of my own choice with great hopes and tones of enthusiasm.
Fast forward 5 years, I have long passed submission time and arrived to the University location for a three month stint to finish writing up. And what had been boiling all throughout the research phase, hit me on my face, hard. I met the hardest form of writers block I had ever encountered. I spent days, weeks and months procrastinating, hiding in my flat, not talking to anyone, and specially, not writing a thing.
Three months became almost 18 months, and the once smiley, gregarious, happy me was replaced by the anxious me. To cut a long story short… I only got out of the mess “with a little help from my friends“ (Beatles song), from the one who became my accountability partner until I built writing momentum, to the one that helped out with corrections, and those who reviewed graphics, or index, etc.
Eventually, I handed in the thesis, and eventually, I graduated with a PhD in education. But I learned much more than research methods and my topic. I had unlocked a will power way beyond my own nature, and I had learned to ask for help.
The book calling
As I shared, I had a very hard time writing my thesis. I struggled all throughtout the process, so knowing that you may wonder: why on earth will you put yourself again in the situation of writing a big piece?
I will summarise the circumstances of my previous experience:
.- The task was huge (aiming at 100.000 words of research content, no fluff)
.- I was not confident with my English skills
.- I was isolated (part, the nature of a phd, part, my own nature, although I asked for help at the end)
Well, the short answer is because I know this time will be different. And before I explain why I’m so sure about this, I will give you the long answer.
After years learning and reinventing myself in different fields, I have committed to increase global creativity quotient. This requires that I research a little more, but also, that I have a clear message to share with this purpose. A book is helpful in both fronts.
I had started writing bits and pieces here and there, but I was going nowhere. Enter Covid-19, shaken my world in different ways, and definite decision to take action is made. Summer 2020, enter the scene Eric Koester’s “Book Creators” program. I cannot recall how I landed in his youtube channel, but I binge-watched the whole Book writing series, and applied to be part of the program. And here I am.
Why did I join? Because it was the opposite to my previous experience:
.- the challenge is to write a 20000 words of raw material, that later will take form and grow up to 25-30.000 words, in an iterative process that takes 4-5 months. So task is smaller, broken down, with weekly assignments, very paced. You just need to turn up every week and focus on the task at hand. They have a tried and tested process that take people from zero to completion, and 95% is publication ready. Even if you are not ready at the end of the semester, your book will have progressed quite a bit, and you know “done is better than perfect”.
.- every author is assigned a developmental editor from an early point (week 5 of the program), and the process involves more detailed editing later on, from editors to betareaders.
.- every week there is a lecture with Eric, 2-3 guest lectures, and the opportunity to interact with other authors in the program during those sessions. On top of that, there are virtual library sessions, in case you want to schedule ‘writing time’ at the same time than others. Plus, you schedule a weekly call with your developmental editor. There is also a support person for general coordination of the program. Not to forget a couple of calls with Eric himself at the beginning, and during the process. You are definitelly not alone in this.
As a bonus, I should add:
.- the process focuses a lot in learning, making connections and telling stories. Writing an interview in the form of a story is a skill of its own, but that is at the core of the program, and it opens up a new world for me, coming from academic and free flow writing.
.- the program includes the possibility of publishing and marketing the book, with lots of support also from the get go.
The book writing
So how am I doing so far? Well, having a full time job and a family gets me busy, but I try to make it to the lecture and one speaker night a week, and keeping the weekly assignments even if at the minimum. I have to confess that i started researching the topic and potential interviewes ahead of the beginning of the course, because I knew I would have a tight agenda.
I have interviewed two fellow authors and one of the speakers, and have received pointers and good leads from peers too. One of the things I enjoy most about our cohort is that there are participants who are still in high school, to seasoned professionals and everything in between. It is a very fulfilling experience.
The program is fast paced, and can be overwhelming for some. The trick is not worry about ‘the program’ nor ‘the book’, but focus on what you have on your plate for the week. Basically: Trust the process. They have tried and tested it for a few iterations so far, moving from the classroom of Georgetown University, to other universities, to an open program like the one I’m participating in.
Even though I don´t know the majority of the guests in the speaker series, I like to turn up because they are all interesting people who are doing things, which is inspirational. Also, I get to learn about things that are unrelated to my topic, but being my topic “creativity”, and “curiosity” one of its pillars, expanding my knowledge base is fantastic to develop my own creativity.
As for writing, the program acknowledges the different writing realities. Instead of requiring a daily writing commitment, which is the usual recommendation, it makes you think on the type of writer you really are (not the one you would like to be): habit writer (you turn up every day), episodic writer (when inspiration strikes you deliver, but is not systematic), and deadline writer (long last minute sprints to deliver). And the size of the assignment is such, with smaller milestones and deadlines, that it is possible for all types to meet the targets. And they have tested it.
I have been surprised by the generosity of quite a few people that didn´t know me at all, to share some time with me. Not only I’m learning a lot, it is a very humbling experience and all I want it to make it their worthwhile, and give back tons of value in the book. I warn everyone that is going to be a short book, a first attempt, and I hope not the last. I want to change the workplace, but I may go after education next 🙂
I’ve had tried the story plots in order to write stories out of raw interview material, and it is so broken down that I found it tricky at the beginning but very satisfying, and I’m looking forward to write something more.
Will keep you posted.
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