Structured Serendipity #10
By Graham Bell
Writing about Writing
I like to write. But, despite enjoying doing it I still have frequent bursts of writers' block. No wonder it is such a well-known malady with endless online tips and articles on how to overcome it. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to read the articles than it is to start writing.
Lesley and I share the blog writing. So it was my turn. A week ago I had a load of ideas ready to turn into a blog. But somehow their meaning or relevance evaporated when I sat down to write. I could feel the dreaded writers' block kicking in. And that made me think that I needed to write about writing and the mental labyrinth I can move through when putting pen to paper – or its digital equivalent.
We like to do different kinds of ‘public’ writing. Our newsletter INSIGHT ADDED is designed to be brief, accessible and informative, focused on leadership development. We are also doing long form writing for proposals – the kind of writing that you can get your teeth into and begin to sweat the detail over an extended period. Our blog is designed to be the ‘public personal’ where we ‘muse-out-loud’ on the keyboard and then out into the public domain. Trying not to make it sound self-indulgent, while also making it personal, is a fine line to walk.
Reading and writing are inextricably linked. It is reading what others have written that often ignites my own thoughts and ideas. I still marvel at the astonishing and international range of high-quality writing we have instant access to today. I know there is a ton of junk on the internet but there is also writing with depth and insight that provokes us to think more deeply about a seemingly endless range of topics. So, despite the trivia – and, actually we all like a bit of trivia to lighten the mood – we can now routinely read high-quality writing from a range of sources that only a few years ago would have seem unimaginable.
Balancing what I read with what I write is hard. I definitely read a lot more than I write which I think is the correct balance - but might it be tilted too much in the reading direction? I like to mix-up my reading between paper, screen and audible (yes – I do think that is a form of reading) with news, novels and factual. I aim to read a book a week, keep up with the latest in leadership and business trends and confess to being a news and newspaper junkie. Almost regardless of what I am reading I find that my brain is activated and more ideas for writing are generated. The best writing always challenges us to ask more questions.
We structure our newsletter to help others put together a blend of sources on a key leadership idea. But our aim is that this leads not to more writing but to improved performance and behaviour as a leader, regardless of the reader’s age and stage. And we try to make it broad-based. One of the downsides of digital ease of access is how so much is pushed towards us – instead of broadcast, we have narrowcast. This can move too much towards reinforcing what we already believe instead of making us think wider across bigger and deeper fields. Never underestimate the power of structured serendipity!
Distilling Global Learning
Our goal - with an international plethora of resources available to us – is to funnel down and distil what we are learning to make it relevant to us here in Scotland and give it a Scottish perspective.
And that brings me full circle to my final point. In wanting to make sure we have that Scottish slant ‘just right’ we have been doing more reading of the work of Scottish authors. I don’t think I am being biased when I say that Scottish writing – across many genres – can hold its own with the best in the world. Not all of it, of course. But much of it really is good. So better reading, writing, learning and doing – and relevant to us here in Scotland. Sometimes unblocking writers' block helps you see what you really have.
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...the man who never reads lives only one. George R R Martin
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