If not now, when?

Creating Passionate Users is urging readers to “make something amazing, right now.” Ignore the constraints, lose the excuses and, as that old slogan goes, “just do it.”

There’s much to be said for this approach, particularly if you’re surrounded by ditherers in a hidebound traditional organization.

However, as someone who moves in entrepreneurial circles, I often find myself in exactly the opposite position. I see people leaping madly from project to project, enterprise to enterprise, today’s idea to tomorrow’s fancy. They don’t seem to produce much of anything, and often they acquire an alarmingly overdeveloped capability for…leaping.

Fortunately, there are some opportunities to do new things which are at once intoxicatingly challenging and realistically structured.

One of them is Seattle Mind Camp. Now in version 3.0, this is a 24-hour gathering of 250 self-selected technology types who take over a building full of meeting spaces in order pose and address questions all day and through the night. Inventions, friendships, and even companies, have emerged from previous Mind Camps. I expect I’ll have something more specific to say about Mind Camp after I’ve done it (Nov. 11-12); if you’re interested, sign up (50 spaces are available as of this writing) and I’ll see you there.

Another creative-but-structured challenge is the month-long NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of aspiring novel writers participate, and fortunately they don’t have to spend all that time together in the same building. Instead, online and local support groups are formed in which writers cheer each other along. And each writer gets a page on the NaNoWriMo site to track word count and make exerpts available for others to read.

I’ll be “doing NaNoWriMo” for the first time this year. My plan is to overhaul and expand a New England crime fiction novel I’ve been working on sporadically for several years. This is the perfect opportunity to apply some of the novel-structuring techniques I learned in Matt Briggs‘ recent class offered through Media Bistro.

I expect that as I scribble my way through NaNoWriMo I’ll think back often on two old college friends, Ed and Michael. Ed, even at that age, identified himself as a writer. Michael was already a well-recognized folk and jazz musician. We frequently got together when Michael had a gig in town. As we walked along Chapel Street one night after one of Mike’s performances, Ed launched into an amusing comparison of the musician’s life with that of the writer. His bitter conclusion: “I can’t invite beautiful women to come over and watch me write all evening!”

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