One sentence at a time

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Shaking off the shackles of writer’s block (as any writer knows) is not easy, but I’ve learned that anything worth doing is rarely as easy as it seems when you start out. Occasionally, just starting out is the difficult part.

I decided to use the strategy my own coach, Scott Lewis, taught me when I first complained to him that I wanted to write–knew I could write–if only I knew how to get myself to do it. He asked me to commit to two minutes of writing a day and report back to him the following week.

Two minutes of writing a day? “Are you kidding?” I thought. “Anyone can do that!” I took the challenge. The first night I stared at the computer blankly. What to write? Being one of those people who takes her commitments very seriously, I looked around my room and decided whatever my eye landed on at the moment would be good enough to morph into the opening, and probably closing, sentence. (After all, two minutes isn’t much time to write more than a couple of sentences.) From the second night, I was writing for 10 minutes, and after that, I was pounding the keyboard in oblivion for two hours, not two minutes, a night.

I wrote my way out of my block the last couple of days by just sitting down and writing the next sentence, and then another. I figured if I didn’t like the direction it went, I’d be revising it sooner or later anyway.

It worked. That and a little help from some tunes of my favorite divas of ’80s dance music–Tina Turner and The Pointer Sisters. Why not? I left my plucky boomer protagonist, Chicken Cacciatore, in a quandry about pole dancing in public. All she really needed was some inspiration!

How to nourish creativity: Google knows how

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I just received a forwarded email from a friend on the East Coast. It’s a series of photos showing all of the “fun” employee-oriented perks at Google headquarters: “decompression capsules,” slides that take you from one floor to another, pool tables and video games, massage chairs, a cozy library, only 4-6 people per work area and other amenities that, I guess, make the rest of the country’s employees green with envy. The conclusion of the email asks, “When do they work?” and “How much do the employees pay to work there?”

Few could argue that Google is just pampering its employees.  These “perks” are just a few of the ways Google encourages the creative productivity that has made it great at what it does. It’s one of the finest examples today that the American Dream is still alive and doing well.

While living and working in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to visit a number of different offices in the tech and marketing industries. In creative industries, they recognize the need to give all employees an environment in which the ideas flow, because you never know where, when and from whom an innovative idea will emerge.

While the offices I visited didn’t have everything on quite this scale, all of them had elements of these features incorporated into the work environment. Nearly all had cozy living-room style lounges where you could go off to de-stress and hang out. All of them provided a variety of free snacks and drinks for employees, and games like pool, table tennis and darts were in evidence. Some had bars where Friday evening happy hour could start an hour early. At the marketing agency where I worked, there were white boards in nearly every office and rolling white boards in the open creative department area. Play spawns creativity and it’s a good idea to have something to write on when a brainstorm ensues.
Mental and physical health, too, is a big priority, because these people work very hard, putting in long hours when a project is on deadline. They deliver. In their spare time they go hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock-climbing in addition to doing the usual partying like the rest of humanity. And when they are not working or recreating in the beautiful outdoors, they are busy supporting the economy by buying and playing with the latest tech toys other Bay Area folks have invented while working in similar environments.
To those who work in lackluster cubicles with unhappy, complaining co-workers, it must sound like a dream, but in the Bay Area, this is how business is done. I don’t think employees in the rest of the country are complaining about Google as they clandestinely log on to the Internet while they are “supposed” to be working! Its too bad they have to sneak around to have a few minutes of leisure to clear their heads.