March 10, 1998
I rolled out of bed at 11:45 (after having been up all night), grabbed some ice coffee, and called the bridge number, expecting to mostly just sit back and LISTEN to Bruce's Creative Producing Think Tank TeleCourse.
However, either because it was the first of its kind and nobody really knew what to expect of it, or because it's in the middle of a work-day, Bruce and I were the only ones there. Bruce declined my invitation to take a rain-check and do it another time, explained to me what this call was about, and the two of us went ahead.
Here's what this TeleCourse is about: each participant takes 5-10 minutes to explain what his current project is, where he is with it, what hurdle he's trying to get over, and what he needs to do next (and perhaps why he hasn't done it already).
Then the other participants throw out suggestions & ideas, some silly, some insightful, some completely in the wrong direction, and some entirely on the mark! Sometimes I suppose it just takes an outside eye to have a clear perspective and a fresh take.
My project is writing a book called "How To Win A School Election." The subject is the same as the title. I have emailed 7,000 students on AOL and have received (and answered) over 600 long, thoughtful, surprisingly very insightful letters from students with an experience or observation to share. The over 8% response rate has convinced me that there's a natural market for this book, and that it can help a lot of people as well as make a lot of money. My problem has been, now that I've developed a 50-chapter table of contents as a roadmap and written a great introduction plus about 50 pages, that I've started thinking big -- a big agent, a big publisher -- and I've lost the renegade writing edge in favor of research poisoning -- I'm spending all my time and energy answering emails instead of continuing writing the book, and I've set such lofty goals for it that it's now a pretty scary task to continue with the text -- that is, instead of writing an underground thing for a bunch of students, I'm now (in my mind) writing for a big agent, a big publisher, etc. and I'm not quite as confident and intrepid as when the project was smaller and more easily controllable.
Bruce's great brainstorm-ideas included putting myself in the mind of a student by going out and doing student-things, hiring someone else to do the writing and resigning myself as an editor, writing backwards, writing my favorite parts first, making a list of what I like about the project, thinking about the deeper psychological aspect of why anyone wants to win a school election in the first place, finding celebrities and politicians who would write something for inclusion in the book, figuring out how I could really mess things up and shake the trees, changing the length so it's either half as many chapters (twice as long) or twice as many chapters (half as long), and MOST HELPFUL -- thinking about just ordering, editing, and commenting upon the 600 emails instead of folding them all into narrative form in my own voice.
Even if none of the ideas hit the mark entirely (although they DID!), just the PROCESS of looking at the project with a clear, objective eye, and giving off-the-cuff suggestions with the risk of being dumb, was tremendously helpful!! It made me start thinking the same way, instead of being caught up in the details, and it encouraged my own thinking to step back and see the big picture rather than look down the tunnel I've put myself into. That is, I was headed straight down a hallway, and Bruce pointed out the many doors I might not have noticed all around me.
I'M ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED THIS IS A WONDERFUL THING!! I'D STRONGLY ENCOURAGE ANYONE TO JUMP INTO THE BLANK SPACE AND GIVE IT A TRY.
I won't presume here to attempt to describe Bruce's project, and the doors I may have pointed out for him, too, but I hope that bouncing my take off him, purely from his 5-minute description/overview, may have also sparked something helpful for him.
I really think it's not the ideas that are sent your way which make the difference, but THE SHIFT IN YOUR THINKING. Your brain starts going "no, I'm not sure I agree with that, but I might try this..." (on that broad level) and all the sudden you've got a new direction and purposeful mindset.
Thanks Bruce!!! Can't wait for the next one!!!
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