Sunday, March 29, 2009

getting things right with getting things done

I have more than a passing interest in organisational and productivity tools and concepts. Most of my life, I've made repeated attempts at finding the synergy between being productive, organised and creative and I've used many tools in the past to find the magical formula that works for me.

It's not always simple as I'm also easily bored with too much routine and tend to knock my life out of whack - usually unconsciously - just to shake things up and experience a new direction. This means that I will have a system down to a fine art and be ticking along with it really well and then voilá! A new life experience and pattern changes the "rules" for using the tool and I'm thrown for a loop and subsequently get myself into disorganised trouble once more!

It's kinda fun for awhile...that chaotic roller-coaster ride...but really annoying if left like that for too long. The internal war for balance between chaos and order, forever rages in my dramatic heart.

From when I was a little girl, with a penchant for sticky-taping complex numbering systems onto the backs of my extensive collection of books; to early adult hood with various fetishes for tidy pantries, linen closets, Debden Day Runners and Palm devices; I've climbed back on - and fallen off - the "Organised & Productive" wagon many times. I envy people who can stick with it consistently over the long haul but for me its a lot more ad hoc and spontaneous. No one system ever stays with me ubiquitously and I'm always on a learning curve, or quest, to find one more that will match my current life choices. Oh - and I am a ridiculously slow learner too btw - so a 2 year stint of no cohesive organisational tool to speak of, when I already know the value of having one, is quite "normal" for me!

That being said, I swoon with delight in an office stationery store and you would most likely find me buried in the planners and organisers section (both digital and paper), perusing the wares with a kind of crazy, lustful glint in my eye. I love the look, the feel, the innumerable possibilities available to that Organisational, Control Freak part of me, with that kind of stuff!

Getting Things Done is one methodology that I love and that I often talk about in this blog. I have mentioned in recent weeks, that I have fallen off the GTD wagon these past two years. Essentially, one of those right-angled Life turns I made in recent years, subsequently changed how I used the system and because of that I lost "faith" in my original trusty Palm Tungsten E2 and when it died, its successor, the very plain bottom of the pile Palm Z22. Palm was my tool of choice for capturing and processing the stuff in my head, until I lost focus and wasn't as reliant on it as I had been due to my changed life-style patterns.

I still use my plain no-frills Palm! Don't get me wrong. I will still put an appointment into the calendar and I use the Memo function pretty much ALL the time because I can hide the private stuff. You know? Like personal medical information etc. I love the notepad too for quick jotting of phone numbers and the like. It is a brilliant device. I love all these aspects of this technology and will most likely continue to use an electronic organiser for that sort of thing for many moons to come.

Where I've fallen down is in managing my Tasks Lists on the Palm. I just don't look at it enough to keep my next actions in front of me. I "forget" to trust it as my external reminder system. There has been a breakdown for me in using the Palm everyday for the everyday stuff. I'm not entirely sure why because it is the most logical device in my mind for this sort of list making efficiency. However, there are a few issues with my little basic Palm that may be contributing factors. For one thing, The model I have chosen seems to be really clunky for directly putting in the information. I can't sync it at work as my PC there doesn't have the software installed and I have yet to find out if I can have permission to do that. The interface of the Palm software, on the computer, is a bit cumbersome too. It's just not fluid enough and a little bit unattractive so of course I don't use the context task list functionality on it like I used to with the old E2 back in the day.

Solving this dilemma has required a multi-pronged approach in figuring out exactly HOW I currently operate and finding a complimentary tool which will be a natural context task list capture tool without sacrificing what I already use the Palm for. It has to be quick to use, almost instant. It has to be mutable and easily up-dated. It has to be highly portable and light. It has to be as simple as possible. It has to be cheap. It has to be Stupidity Proof!

I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday cruising the web and reading up on lots of GTD ideas for capturing those ideas and next actions or project ideas. Notebooks are fine to a point but I refuse to get a crook shoulder, carrying around the lumpy Day Planner type diary or even a largish notebook. I did that years ago for a long time and my back and shoulders thanked me when I finally gave up the heavy paper and leather planners grafted to my side!

I had designed and used a small list styled notebook once before and had spent hours sectioning it off into list headings... but of course, there is always a certain amount of wastage of both space and paper with this idea. It didn't last very long! Too fussy not to mention really messy in the end! It did have a few pluses going for it - being the immediacy of its availability - always at hand - and easy to check up on etc.

Then I remembered Pocketmod from a couple of years ago and searched it out again. It's been quite cleverly updated so I played around with it for a bit and learned a lot in the process of printing and folding of the little "book" made from one sheet of paper. There was still a "problem" with that though. The pocketmod is designed for American Letter sized paper...which is slightly smaller than our standard A4 paper here in Australia, so my pocket mod needed trimming and for some reason, things never quite aligned like I wanted them to in the printing. It always came out messy and scrappy looking! The widget on screen for customising some of the pages also didn't appear to work on my computer/printer set up. That was frustrating!

About ready to give up, I ducked over to YouTube, while following some pocketmod links, and happened across this variation on the pocketmod theme. And AHA! moment. I figured if I could put my various context task lists as headings, instead of the days of the week, it might actually prove to be a useful tool for me.

Experimenting in Word, I learned how to align the text in such a way that when the page was printed, and then subsequently folded, the wee headings for my task lists were neatly at the top of the little space created by the folds in the paper. When folded as per the "db pocket planner" method on YouTube, no trimming was required, it opens out for "at-a-glance" viewing of my different lists and it's really easy to quickly throw in a notation. I even printed the headings on the reverse side to recycle the page when the front gets too full or messy. I figure I may only need to print a fresh page off every other week or so. Its a simple matter of refolding the other way to use the reverse side of the paper! Very frugal! :)

Of course, I don't even really need to fuss around with printing out the headings on this tool. The simple fold and write method could work just as well. There is for me though, a innate need for a little bit of sophistication which has a sharper than average edge to it. The headings typed onto the sections look good. It has a less "scrap-paper" kind of feel to it by typing in the headings. That's just my personal choice though. For every day use...writing the tasks, quickly, by hand with a pencil is going to be the usual method of capturing things. The printed headings just gives it a bit of personal tool cred for me is all.

It looks great. It's so insanely simple and best of all...I felt really pleased and excited to have found potentially, the "right" tool to help me get back into GTD. Even if I don't use this system permanently and end up with another one down the line - I do have rather high hopes this basic little "book" will prove to be an invaluable aid and addition to using my über basic Palm. I'm hoping to upgrade both Palm and mobile phone to an iPhone in a couple of years so I want to ensure I have a workable strategy for capture and action reminders until then.

One of my biggest failings these past couple of years has been capturing the stuff I need to process and think about. To get it out of my head into a place I trust. Even something as simple as forgetting to put a blimmin' shower cap on the shopping list has been an irritant of growing proportions of late: I'd only remember I needed one when I went to grab the very old loose one in the bathroom! Ugh! So last night...on my "@shopping" section of my little capture list, I wrote "shower cap". For things like this, that vague feeling of "I've forgotten something" will hopefully disappear forthwith! :)

The list will live in my wallet so its guaranteed to be with me pretty much all the time and within easy reach. The idea is that it's a working document always in flux. At present I'm using pencil so that done tasks can be erased to leave room for new ones.

It may seem like it's fussy but I don't think it is, really. At least not yet! I "thought" my original notebook idea was going to be simple too but it also had some pretty strong limitations. The use of a pencil does help though. Like for instance - I just went and did some grocery shopping, I got what I needed from the list (including that bloody showercap! yay!) and when I got home just erased that part because items on other sections of the list are still pending.

I could probably fuss around by typing the lists into the main doc in Word and then deleting the done items off and reprinting and refolding, but that doesn't seem very 'Green' or all that efficient in my circumstances. That could change though too, as I ease into a rhythm with this new tool. Maybe anyway. Time will tell if this tool is workable for me over the long term. It's true that the size of this small booklet limits the number of things you can have listed at any given time. I'm not sure yet if the size will prove to be a major disadvantage and I am already suspecting it could.

This is, however, meant as a quick reference tool for the various contexts I'm most likely to be in, like going shopping, running errands, stuff to remember to take to work, things to do with and for the kids etc. It's a mutable, transient capture device to jog my memory. Anything more substantial than a discrete next action is likely going to need recording into a proper project planning tool. I'm looking into Ta-da Lists for that kind of thing at the moment. Baby steps etc.

The key should be that I instinctively trust this little pocket list as a sort of "external brain" so I don't actually have to contain any of this information inside my head. And when it boils down to it that is the crux of the GTD mantra! DON'T keep it in your head! Put it - the stuff you think about - somewhere outside of your head where you know you'll see it, and be free to decide (or do) later when the time is right.

So beta testing of my new 'pocketmod variant context task list capture tool' is off and running. I'm excited to try it and that's a good sign. If it doesn't work - it's back to the drawing board to figure out a new option! :) Edison Theory in Action!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Diigo Update

I've been using Diigo for nearly a week.

It's been interesting so far if a bit of a mind meltdown just for the sheer amount of reading one COULD do if you really got into this application!

All over, I've found it okay so far. It does take a lot of getting used to the interface for a very slow only basically web savvy lay-person like me. Just explaining Diigo to people with basic computer skills is actually quite difficult. You do have to pick your crowd to market the idea. Eyes glaze over and the concept either scares people or they simply don't quite understand what you mean.

There has "always" been for Social Bookmarking and I think it's been pretty much the "Google" of its time that site. I never got into at all! I simply couldn't quite make head or tail of it and yet now I reckon it's probably a much simpler type of social networking and bookmarking application than Diigo - by far. Go figure! I picked Complex to start learning from huh? That'd be me *smirk*

Diigo does have some quite cute features though. The ability to make public or private sticky notes and whack them onto a webpage, much like you would in a text book you are studying, is quite clever. It is a bit freaky to come across a webpage of a friend and find their comments stuck all over it though; that could take some getting used to. It is nice to have the exchange of ideas and the interaction of others though even so. I do wonder if the wars of the future will be started over a virulent disagreement in virtual sticky notes now though ;)

The issue of "Private" as opposed to "Public" is still a little muddy for me using this. I am careful now to check that any messages sent to friends are appropriately set at the privacy level required for the content. I'm also still getting my head around making some websites I visit private due to the fact that they're a login for a personal webpage etc. Such as logging into Blogger here to write this blog post. I guess I'll figure that all out in due course. They will have to make the public/private aspect a whole lot clearer though I think. At present it's confusing and you have to already know in advance to check the privacy settings, otherwise you could make a very embarrassing faux pas.

My next goal with Diigo is to begin ascribing the articles, blogs and links I have accumulated into defined "Lists". This is very similar to assigning specific subject folders in your Bookmarks or Favorites. I imagine this will be a bit time consuming as I do want to attempt to keep the lists relatively uncluttered and more overarching themes rather than have too many precise headings. I hope that is possible anyway. Given the scope and range of the material I have in Diigo, it'll be interesting to see if I do actually have common themes for topics.

Tagging is new for me. Those who read my blog here know I am a "hopeless" Tagger of blog posts. The reason for this is that I could come up with so many key words for an article as to render the tag list an exercise in repetition of the actual content of the blog! My Kingdom for an Auto-tagger! Diigo does actually attempt to do this, by having some suggested tag titles you can simply click into the tag window. It does make it a bit easier but they're not nearly comprehensive enough for me yet! Again - my propensity for bogging down with too much detail rears its ugly head.

The Friends Online function is a bit dodgy for now. A green dot is the only indicator that a friend is online at any given time. The rest of the time the dot shows a nice boring grey! :) That's okay but I guess applications like GTalk and Facebook have spoiled me somewhat in that I want to choose to IM someone once I know they are online. It seems a bit...well... old fashioned now, not to be able to IM someone when they're showing up as being available to chat to! It's a bit like not being able to say hello to your friends down the street even if you can see them.

I still have to get my head around the incredible amount of reading that has come my way just from having a couple of people aka "Friends" connected to my Diigo. You can "follow" the bookmarks of any of the friends you have or groups you've joined. I've joined just one group so far. This means your Diigo "dashboard" can be updated with a significant amount of very interesting material you'd never have seen otherwise - well maybe have never seen perhaps. I have approximately 200 bookmarks in my Diigo. That may not be as impressive as some I should think but I do have to ask myself "Do I NEED this much information?" I am insatiable when it comes to learning new things but I'm seriously questioning if this could all just get too confusing as to which stuff deserves my attention and which doesn't.

As it is I have three or four paper books to read - one of which I am half way through - approximately 50 Blogs in my Bloglines, a large number of e-comics, e-books and about 60 "short-shorts" by Bruce Holland Rogers on my computer to catch up with and, now, a rapidly growing number of interesting blogs, articles and bookmarks to peruse in Diigo. My reading opportunities have exploded in recent months!

David Allen, when asked about the modern obsession with "Information Overload" is quoted as saying:

You don’t manage information overload – otherwise you’d walk into a library and die, or the first time you connect to the web, or even opened a phone book, you’d blow up;

He's of the opinion that Information Overload is simply a matter of making decisions about what we want to focus on. What we want to focus on is simply a matter of what context we're currently in. Essentially, context is a combination of Time, Location and People and Priority Needs. The key is to do that which is obvious to do given these indicators. Therefore, if I'm in Diigo, I need to have some way of very quickly deciding what is worth reading, commenting on, annotating, slapping a virtual sticky note onto or ditching as a "waste" of my time. THAT is what's going to take some getting used to - that solid, decisive action'ing of the stuff coming at me each morning when I open up my Diigo Dashboard.

Getting through this burgeoning virtual reading pile is weighing on my mind. I don't like things weighing on my mind. It makes no sense to feel guilty about stuff I DON'T HAVE TO DO. I might want to do it...very much... but to feel guilty for not doing it takes away the pleasure and the freedom of the choice and the desire. Diigo could very easily become more obligation than a pleasurable indulgence for infotainment.

I'll definitely continue to learn how to use Diigo effectively though despite this real challenge to keep things in perspective. I can see enormous potential for schools, universities and Adult Learning Centres in the use of this technology. The ability for students to share information and collaborate on their learning through conversation and exchange of the vast resource that is the web is promising and exciting to say the least. Knowing how and why to use this social bookmarking technology is not a futile exercise for geeky tech-fashionista's but a cutting edge means for keeping up with the pace of virtual change in our lives. It's another tool. Something to think with, learn with, do stuff with, create with. That's ALL it is and ergo it needs to be used respectfully and creatively and skillfully and the last bit only comes with repetition and practice of course!

Once I know how to use Diigo effectively, there is the possibility I could teach others how to use it here in my corner of the world. And therein lies Diigo's biggest weakness of all actually...that for the ordinary folk of my town, many will need to be shown how to use it rather than being able to "just use it" straight out of the box so to speak.

Diigo has some cool features for sure and it's kind of fun to use if you really WANT to learn how to use it. It is however, cluttered, a bit scary for the web technology illiterate and some of its privacy functions are confusing and uncertain. So a matter of "Keep on keeping on", just in case its worth it. I believe that might be possible at the moment! :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

From the Diigo Ugh to the Diigo aHA!

I've just done something "unusual" for me!

Normally, I'm very careful about the kinds of things I download to my computer. I tend to trust only the stuff recommended by trusted friends or I do careful research first before I hit the "Install Now" button on any new application for my beloved "Preciousss" (aka my MacBook).

Today, however, on a complete whim at the suggestion of a stranger, I downloaded the Diigo Beta toolbar.

I hardly know what it's supposed to do really but I'll plod along until I have it all figured out.

Basically, Diigo (pronounced Dee-Go), is a new Social Bookmarking tool - I think! The tag-line for the concept is "You are what you annotate"...ergo, the stuff you read and research, subsequently bookmark and make commentary on can be made available to friends and of course the world - if you so choose. Now people can define themselves not just by how they chat in IM, how they Tweet in Twitter, how they network in Facebook or Myspace, or how they look and behave in Second Life... they can define their online identity just that little bit more by sharing what they read and watch on the net. Being the Wannabee Geek I am, this is a rather delicious prospect. I quite like the idea of people knowing I like reading The Long Now blog or watch the occasional TED talk! Makes me look super hip, with-it cool. Well? Doesn't it? ;)

This is - so far as I can tell - a sort of Web 2.0 version of a Book Club. A really, really BIG Book Club mind you. Or, it's like going to the library, (those big buildings they have in cities with lots of books made of paper in them - I jest of course) - you go along to read books there but can also end up meeting the love of your life behind the Humanities section - well, we live in hope yeah? :) Diigo and other Social Bookmarking websites are like this I suspect. This is literary sharing on a very grand scale.

The interesting thing about the internet is that for sociability, it is probably easier, faster, and more efficient at helping people reach out and make friends than it is in Meat Space. It's true! The judgments of physical appearance, social etiquette, the cultural protocols of simple first meetings are eliminated somewhat from the equation. On the net, you simply open the conversation, not with "Hi, my name is .... What do you do?" to more like "Hi, Did you read the new XKCD comic today?".

The conversations are more focused and immediate and the interactions are less fraught with self-conscious noise. At least that's how I see it for me. I don't have to worry about my tendency to see myself as I think I'm being seen through a strangers eyes! Ugh! That is such a horrible waste of emotional energy and I've tried hard - very hard - to scrap that bad habit of mine albeit only marginally successfully. The social web relieves me of some of that kind of personal torture! The veil of the computer screen predisposes, what I believe, is my TRUE self to emerge through the power of words!

Diigo is yet another tool in this social revolution. None of these things will ever replace the intimacy of first life contact...yes, yes, yes...I do understand all that! I really do! But it does make first meetings so much more entertaining, less charged with anxiety, and it's really easy to choose who you want to spend your time with! You can quite literally "shop" for the right crowd for you on the net. That last bit may prove to be a bad thing though in time. We will see!

I'm not entirely sure I'll become a devotee of Diigo though despite all I've said above. I have a lot of places on the net where I can share quite a bit of my online self with strangers and friends alike. This application does fascinate me though, and if its going to make finding information, sharing information, learning, studying, researching, and simply making new friends "easier" then I'll give it a jolly good go anyway.

At present, I feel like I did when I first landed in Germany last year - more than just a little lost but having just enough of the language to get me out in a pinch. Diigo is very "difficult" to get right off the bat. I'm pretty web application savvy for the most part but it can take me time to adjust to new UI's and tools. For those with barely any Web 2.0 knowledge of even applications such as Skype or Facebook, Diigo may seem like an off the scale learning curve requiring a doctorate rather than basic web skills! It's going to take me awhile before I fall in love with this thing - if I ever do!

If I do "get it" - Diigo that is - I'll be very excited and let you all know how cool it is!

BTW - just an aside: I raved about Dropbox a couple of months back. I am still using Dropbox and it's become an absolutely fantastic sharing tool for larger than average files than email will often allow, with far-far-away friends. A remarkable and incredibly useful application and worth getting. I've been sharing comics, music and bat likes to read ahead on my "The girl who couldn't cry" story, (coz he's my friend and he's allowed ;) and he has been very good and not made any edits to the doc without me knowing so far! hahaha).

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Feminine Getting of Things Done

The GTD Times, a blog I've recently only started reading due to the fact I "found" it by accident on Twitter, raises an interesting point about the massive GTD craze sweeping the corporate world. Namely, the dearth of women at the top of the GTD "game".

Now, granted, The David Allen Company does have women, good women too, who regularly spruik the GTD mantra but there are very few of them outside of the DAC in this field of productivity development.

I have read Getting Things Done and I even followed it very closely for a couple of years. I still want and aspire to follow the basic principles of GTD but I've yet to develop the external capturing system I will trust enough to rely on. My PDA lost its impetus around the time of my personal surgery, back in 2006, and so now my use of its various list and calendar functions is sporadic to say the least! It was a case of I didn't need to use it for three months so it left my field of vision so to speak and now my brain won't trust it enough to pick it up again - at least not as many times a day as I USED to use it anyway according to "good" GTD practise!

In principle, I adore the GTD system! It's all about list-making, something I have done practically all my life. It's good for doing the myriad of daily tasks I do in my life. I'll probably always find 'The List' my tool of choice for keeping track of my tasks. I do tend to forget to make my list "next actions" though - I often put project headings on my to-do list rather than the discrete actionable items as is espoused by David Allen for the GTD practice of context list-making (GTD proposes using contexts rather than the usual to-do list suspects. So actions near or on the computer would go into that list and actions requiring you go somewhere on the errands list etc.).

So? Why aren't there more women in positions of corporate power and change telling the world about why and how they use GTD? Why is this such a male dominated craze? Does GTD tap into a genetic predisposition in men predominately more than women? Is it a chemical brain enhancement thing or is it simply that women don't so much talk about their GTD as simply go into the flow of it and "get things done" just because they have to and talking about it won't change the fact it has to be done anyway!

Is that last impression a standard stereotypical one of females? Why do we assume so easily that women are such fabulous multi-taskers capable of juggling more duties than Shiva has arms? There is some evidence that women's abilities to snap from one task to another quickly, are indeed built into our physiology and brain structure. The two hemispheres of the female brain have more connective tissue between them and hence more synapses firing across the left and right halves of the brain. This means we can switch from the use of different parts of our brains more efficiently and quickly. Logic and creativity can be lightening quick and so intuitively woven into the fabric of female thinking and consequent actions as to seem like they're capable of doing multiple things at the same time - and for some - incapable of being nothing but emotional about it too!

The interesting observation about females and GTD is that GTD is so linear in its approach to doing stuff. I like linear! Linear is goal orientated. Linear is objective. Linear gets you from point A to point B by the most efficient route and you don't have to stop to ask anyone directions along the way! The logical, clean, objective, goal-focused, zen-like objectivity of GTD is like nectar to hoardes of men. They eat this stuff by the spoonful!

Actually, I reckon GTD is something like a car. Forgive me if this sounds very "Blind men and the elephant" but... have you ever noticed how men and women IN GENERAL approach the subject of motor vehicles? Men can be singularly dotty about their cars! They want to know the working parts, they want to know how fast it goes, they want to feel the sublime pleasure of sitting in a vehicle with power roaring under their bums, speeding them in a blissful cohesion of power, torque, thrust, design, art, colour and sound to "somewhere" way over the distance. Men tinker with cars, they get to know the inner workings of their cars intimately and can discuss with other men for HOURS the technical details of this love affair. The right car for a man is like a Holy Grail of sorts - a synergy of quest and the attainment of Perfection!

Women - in general remember - treat cars like tools in a box of other tools. It's a necessary tool mind you but it's got to be pretty and functional and we don't care all that much about what's under the hood so long as it gets the kids to school on time - every time - and can assist in the art of whipping up dinner for 10 at the drop of a hat! Pragmatic, useful, necessary, and it "just works" etc. We like our cars to just "go" and don't usually care that much if there's a number of working parts under the hood that need any kind of TLC on our part...that's the mechanics job!

Women are just as disorganised or as organised as men. As ironic as it is, that there are few females in the echelons of GTD power mongering in recent years... it's also just as head-scratching that there are so few male Professional Organisers. Those who help others get sorted of their clutter and the arrangements of their closets and pantries! The two skills are not dissimilar in objective but the process by which they're done is very different indeed. Both are about stuff but one is about mental clutter and the other is about physical clutter. One helps ones self get sorted, the other helps others get sorted - interesting huh?

It's not that women or men can't do what the other can etc. We're not very, very different as such... women can do and are extremely good at putting the data collection of GTD into place - loving their "car" - and getting a tonne of things done as a result; it's just that there seems to be a slightly different set of priorities in place for the practical application of these tools between men and women. Men seem to get excited about the process of discovery and the ideas at play within the GTD game plan. Women seem to enjoy the end game aspect of getting things done - aka. better relationships, both with stuff and with people! Certainly, both are not wrong! Quite frankly, women don't NEED a game plan so much as they just need a method to achieve an end - any method will do so long as it's simple and doesn't require too much time. GTD has a baaaaadd habit of being time-consuming if you get into the game-plan aspect of it too much! I know a few men in my life who would rather spend a freezing winters night tucked away in their shed tinkering on their cars than actually driving them around with the heater on!!!

But I've been sucked into the time-consuming tinker side of GTD too - and I'm a girl! Go figure! :) It's possible for girls to be grease-monkeys' too you know, it's just a bit "unusual" due to genetics and social conditioning of the genders! Girls treat things as extensions of relationships for the most part. Boys treat things as they do because they like the wholistic sensual appeal of those things. Girls talk to other girls, and sometimes patient boys, about their ideas on relationships. Boys like talking to other boys and sometimes knowledgeable girls, about their ideas on things.

That's why I reckon it's so rare to see women talking GTD!

But then again... maybe I'm wrong...

So I tend to believe that women are into getting things done but men are into Getting Things Done(Tm). The difference isn't in the philosophies so much as in the practice. It's more about what we're each looking for under the GTD hood

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Edgy thing!

I have it right now... a deep underlying sense of tension and vague anxiety sitting down in my being like a lump of exposed and foul-smelling flesh in the sun.

Where does Edginess come from? Why is it that some days we can feel like a "Cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof", jumpy, uncertain, fearful and yet have no basis in fact or reality for that feeling. Is it just a mutable kind of energy in the "atmosphere" or the collective consciousness? I noted a few other people exhibiting a kind of edgy tension in their clipped sentences and brusque approach today. Then again, that might be a kind of empathic sharing of our emotional states too! It's now known that that is possible. Was I just picking up on The general Office Vibe today?

I have ticked the boxes for things past, present and future that would or could be making me feel this way right now. The list reads like a pin cushion of tiny needles, none of them that threatening on their own, all of them together, more than a little daunting.

We had a staff meeting today and I got lumped with more "stuff" to sort out and do - but this edgy tension was there at the was there before I knew I had extra work to do. That's not it.

I have a presentation to give on Volunteering to students at the local school, tomorrow...maybe that is it? But normally, I don't overly stress about public speaking so much - "Just wing it!" is my strategy for public speaking - even if I'm a bit unclear on my stuff. Speaking to groups is nerve-wracking of course but I've done it enough now, to have a kind of "She'll be right" attitude to it. It doesn't necessarily phase me just that much. At least I think it doesn't!

There's something else that is clanging about deep in my psyche which is giving me this anxious vibe! I make a list of possibilities for Edginess:

* I feel overweight. Check! I can feel the kg's creeping back on yes! I don't like it.
* I need to go for a walk. Check! I can't right now but I do feel guilty about not going for a daily walk right now.
* I miss a friend. Check!
* I have a family member undergoing a new situation. Check! Yeah... this one resonates. It does feel like this could be the clincher as to that knife-like sense of agitation I can sense inside of me today.
* I was angry today. Check! If I'm honest about it, I was annoyed and irritated at work today during the staff meeting about a minor issue and have only just acknowledged and admitted to feeling angry. I can at least, let that go now.

Feeling edgy inside is an indicator that all does not sit well in your perception of things. Digging in to find the core reasons for one's anxiety and agitation is a skill and one that requires a lot of forthright honesty, analysis and observation. It's about deciding on the things that you have seen or are seeing in the world around you and noting how you're reacting to them emotionally.


Shouts the non-analytical world! Feelings, emotions, states of Being are just there to be as they are with no qualifying analysis or excavation! So say some!

I'm not very good at doing this. I do feel the feeling but the analytical thinking kicks in very shortly after that and whilst I can confuse the logic and thought for the feelings themselves sometimes, I am getting better at honing in on the actual feeling and acknowledging it for what it is.

I've felt edgy this afternoon but I've yet to really know exactly why - despite my list above with all of those things contenders for first prize in my Edginess Quiz. Maybe it was something else that was said, done, or simply a lack of perception on my part about what is happening in my world.

But, SOMETHING made me feel this - I want to know exactly what it was.

Does it matter in the long run if I DO know?

For me it does! I learn more about my inner processes when I can make sense of the cause and effect of that interconnected loop we call Life. I experience, I feel, I experience. Knowing how one affects the other potentially gives me a better chance of having better experiences and taking more responsibility for those symbiotic feelings. For me - emotion IS experiential and experience IS emotional.

So for me, analysing my emotional state brings clarity and coherence to my world. I accept now that I feel anxious and edgy. What I want to do is dig deep within to find out exactly why so that I know how to handle Edgy in myself - and others - in the future.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The pure essence of Being

Roughly around this time three years ago, I helped bat name his 'Genius'. We stumbled on the rather strange name for his innate and wonderful gift as "Being Muse".

It's an odd conjunction of words for a man really.

A Muse is generally considered in classical mythology as female. The Muses were the 9 daughters of Zeus and each brought a special focus to the culture of their mortal subjects below.

Ironically, I named this blog 'aMusing my Genius' only a week or two before we named bat's Genius. Muse was already on my mind apparently, so either, it was a synchronicity that the two of us would employ Muse as a theme in our lives or it was a simple case of associative thinking on my part that happened to be applied by bat to his Genius purely out of his generous nature to my suggestion. He's still not 100% sure that this name we found for his Genius is the "right" name but it rests there even now, in a kind of gentle, subtle, hood-ornament adorned kind of way as to describe the energy of his ephemeral and difficult-to-define gift.

Dick Richard's call to naming ones Genius required one to find a verb to express the action of the gift you carried. The THING that the gift does. This word invariably ends in "ing". There are many words in English that end in "ing", but within the context of searching for a name that will define with singular clarity one's gift, it can make finding that word incredibly difficult.

In bat's case, he IS a sort of male version of Muse. His gift inspires, cajoles, leads, dances, tricks, eludes, conspires, and injects Art into practical reality. Sleight of hand, the sprinkling of spices into a symphonic meal rich with flavour, a trickster who teaches, a wise teacher who seems like a young child too old for his years; 'Being Muse' is a conundrum and sprite who gathers up all the yearning creative spirit of their protege and draws that elusive miracle of Art out of them into the world.

Being is the NOW. When one is being, one is what one is and cannot be anything else outside of that essence. It's not even as corny or as clichéd as Shakespears Hamlet lamenting "To be or not to be?". Being is simple, uncomplicated, unreserved, it's purity in the here and now without another thing besides.

Being Muse. Maybe it's not really the name for bats innate Gift - his Genius - as explained by Dick in that book that began this relationship three years ago! I don't know. Only bat will know when a better name comes along that resonates in his soul like the clear tones of a brass bell tolling from a steeple on a hill.

It is in part, due to bat's gift that I still write in this blog today. 400 posts and rising, I'm slowly building a library of thoughts and stories, musings and rants in part inspired by the conversations, and passing jibes of Muse. My strange and convoluted friendship with bat these past three years has inspired some of these thoughts. Not every artist can claim to know their Muse by name :)

Writing here is also in part my own innate Gift. I called my own Genius name "Constructing Coherence" back then and even now, it still has that slightly pretentious ring to it. It's clumsy but then so am I for the most part. It's convoluted and hardly inspiring but it IS what I "do". I AM about trying to build a view of the world that makes complete sense - at least to me anyway. I am about pasting concepts and ideas together into coherent forms that build new perceptions and new ideologies - new analogies even. I don't always succeed but I am always at's just what I do and it's impossible for me to do otherwise.

aMusing my Genius is the tool I use in the construction of my personal brand of coherence. It is in text that I feel the power of my gift flowing through me. I may not always construct my sentences well but I do occasionally build something that does make sense. I may not always speak clearly in this forum, this blog, but I do build a picture, in words, of the whole. I may look under rugs and beneath floorboards to seek out hidden aspects of truths, slotting these dusty concepts together like building blocks to create wobbly towers of possibility and epic dreams.

When I write in this blog, that is when I am Being. I am utterly in this moment, building the words to make sense of something indefinable and indistinct. I literally stick together metaphors for concepts and ideas that redefine and reshape the original. I am a story-teller crafting a world of ideas from these tools we call Words. It is my essence.

Finding a name for the personal and uniquely special Gift which only you have in all the world, is possibly a Narcissistic exercise in self-aggrandizement or... it is a key to unlocking potential yet to be expressed and explored. Life isn't meant to be the former but it does ask us to know ourselves well enough that we can do the latter. I'm still on my own personal journey of discovery of what it means to "construct" and to "cohere" in the fundamental every day of my Being.

I hope you find the path that's right for you too.

The girl who couldn't cry: Chapter 7

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

The dream she had that afternoon changed things. She dreamed she was sculpting something from wood. A tree, old, extremely large, but utterly dead was in front of her. She could feel nothing from it and it pleased her. The tree was caught in a giant lathe. Ari was tiny in comparison. She climbed a hover-ladder and began to carve into the trunk of the tree. All she was using was a small woodcarving tool, a laser carver that melted into the wood cleanly and precisely. She looked down the length of the giant dead hulk of wood and smiled. This was her life's work. She would carve into that tree a ring for every tear she ever wanted to shed and couldn't. The tree would become her last remaining spiral before she died.

When the supper bell rang later that evening, Ari was sitting on the side of her bed. She wanted to make the dream come true. She wanted to sculpt her tears and leave them behind her as a lasting reminder to the world. She went to the communications console on the wall panel.

"Ariadne Modification Sector 12 request please?” She pronounced into the speaker. The blue communications 'On' light lit up.

"Yes?" came a stifled male voice through Perspex and metal.

"I want to sculpt a spiral in wood. May I be provided with a dead tree, a large lathe and wood carving tools please?" She asked with the complete knowledge that it - or something close to it - would be provided to her no matter how strange her request.

"Yes Ariadne Sector 12. Tomorrow we will send in a Counsellor to obtain further details about your request. Do you need more paper in the meantime? Charcoal perhaps?"

"Yes" she replied simply.

"It will be in your room when you return from your meal. Enjoy your evening Ariadne Modification Sector 12." The disembodied voice trailed off and the communications "On" light faded out.

…to be continued. (I hope)

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Quest

All human beings are on a Quest once we are born.

As children we instinctively, but without being able to form that instinct into words, know what it is we are here to achieve or simply do. In the mire of social responsibility and in the encouraged internment of our fantastic and "silly" dreams, some of us lose this knowledge and wander aimlessly seeking that which is our purpose.

Not so much a Quest, as a living death sighing about the past and fearful of any kind of future.

The blessed few who discover their life's work for which they have been created - their Personal Legend - go through a series of stages on a Quest of a different kind. The challenges on that journey test their level of commitment, courage, fortitude and the strength of their desire and will to achieve the end result - a treasure of great value.

The intrinsic worth of the treasure isn't the point of this Quest. What makes the treasure so worth everything is what you learn along the way to finding it. In fact, in Paulo Coelho's 'The Alchemist' - you cannot ever hope to find the treasure you seek unless you travel through the obstacles and learn what you need to learn along the way. One thing leads to another, leads to another and it is a matter of accepting and listening and heeding the signs as they build upon one another.

How do we find our Personal Legend - the one thing we are put here to do against all the odds?

Ask your heart. It has always known what it wants. It's the thing you have dreamed about and wanted since you were a child. Want it - with all your heart - and the Universe will do everything in its power to make it yours. For when you are living what you are meant to be and do, you benefit all of creation throughout time and the Gift cannot be wasted.

I may be a bit late on the uptake but reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist yesterday in one sitting, was a profound experience that I can't shake off as mere cute new-age mumbo-jumbo. This small story is a modern fairy-tale containing truths of unmistakable human significance. Wisdom borne of experience and distilled in the fires of Love.

Thank you Mr Coelho for your gift.