Posts Tagged ‘Creative career path’

Flexible Focus #60: Writing Tips and Tools

by William Reed on July 7, 2011

Put Your Passion on a Platform

If we don’t stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”~Peter Marshall, Chaplain (1947)

Although we often associate the word platform with politics, in fact it has a far more profound relevance in how we live our lives and pursue our passions. As most of us are not running for election, we do not need to use our platform to debate an opponent or win over voters. A platform is a point of view, a perspective, a place to stand. Without a platform we simply drift.

One of the best ways to develop a platform is to write. Whether it is a diary meant for your eyes only, or a published platform for the world to see, the very act of putting your thoughts in writing gives your thoughts wings, and sets your mind in motion. Writing not only gives shape to your thoughts, but the process of writing makes you a proactive producer, rather than a passive consumer. Writing puts things in perspective by requiring you to take a point of view, while at the same time considering the points of view of your readers, an excellent recipe for flexible focus.

Although we all learn to write in school, few people continue to write, and many resist the process as a tiresome task. Even people who want to write often experience writer’s block, a state of mental congestion in which words jam and fail to communicate what is inside wanting to come out.

Oddly, chances are that you are never more fluent when it comes to talking about your passions. But when you try to write about them, you often find that your thoughts have clipped wings.

One of the reasons for this is the feeling cultivated in school that writing is something that you will be graded on. Poor spelling and awkward phrases may brand you as uneducated or incoherent. It may seem safer to stick to speech, rather than committing yourself in print.

And yet putting your thoughts on paper is one of the best ways to put your passion on a platform, because it is lasting, and reaches much further than your voice. Your writing can be the core element of your personal brand.

Facilitating the Process

The fastest way to fluency in writing is to form the habit of logging your thoughts in a notebook, capturing your ideas in key words, images, and visual metaphors. Your brain takes to a notebook like a duck to water. it is your space, your playground, your mental mirror. No need to worry about grades or grammar, just enjoy the power of the pen.

I have explored this process in depth in my Creative Career Path column in such articles as, Idea Marathon, Making Your Mark, and Doodle for Your Noodle. Without a vibrantly flowing river of thought running through your life, any efforts you make at formal writing will sound stilted and forced. Imagine if a company of actors put on a play without any rehearsals or practice. The results would not be pretty, and yet that is the approach that many people take when they sit down to write without the habit of daily practice.

Once you have become comfortable putting pen to paper and generating ideas, the next step is to engage in writing to an audience. Whether through a blog or an article, or more formally through a book, you are better served if you make use of writing tools which can enhance your ability to say what you mean in a memorable way.

Words gain more power when addressed with alliteration. Taking care to select the right words can help you craft your style in a way that is both conversational and concise. Because your passive vocabulary is much larger than your active vocabulary, it is important to reach into the full range of words which you already know, but may not be accustomed to using. The best way to do this is to make use of tools like Thesaurus.com. You will be surprised to see how many ways there are to say the same thing with a different nuance.

To enhance your writing experience, Scrivener is an excellent tool, available for Mac OSX, and with a beta version for Windows. Scrivener is a complete writing studio, with all you could possibly want to organize your research, format your documents, keep visual notes, manage text statistics, search your documents, or edit and add comments. It is a writer’s dream.

The Mandala Chart itself is an excellent way to organize ideas around a subject, or create an editorial calendar, allowing you to see the big picture, the fine detail, and the integration of your material with flexible focus. Another excellent tool for organizing your ideas is PersonalBrain. You can create your own 3D idea maps on your computer, or publish them in the form of a Webbrain, such as I have done for this column with the Flexible Focus Webrain.

If you want to write or present yourself professionally in print, then there is no better resource than Roger C. Parker’s PublishedandProfitable.com, a step by step resource guide to planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a book or any other form of writing. Here you will find templates, white papers, expert interviews, articles, worksheets, and a wealth of resources for writers. Roger has also lent his wisdom on Writing for Business through his Author’s Journey series on Active Garage.

Published writing increases the size and quality of your interface with the world. It has never been easier to create and cultivate that interface through software tools and leverage your work through social media. Give wings to your thoughts, and see just how far it can take you personally and professionally.

Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing

by William Reed on January 27, 2011

Moving out of your Comfort Zone

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible.

When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. We make frequent reference in this series to flexible focus, and how this is a process of mental and physical engagement. But it is not meant to be painful or uncomfortable. I have written in my Creative Career Path Column about how the Mandala Chart can facilitate this process by Moving from Matrix to Mandala Chart.

The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it will break it. It is the fear of breaking which causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

Mind-Mandala-Body

The key to expanding your comfort zone is to understand the process of engagement, and learn how to consciously navigate your way through it. To help visualize this, I created a Matrix which you can download called, Mind-Mandala-Body.

The horizontal axis shows the degree of engagement, from Shallow to Deep. However, the nuances change considerably when you add a second dimension with the vertical axis from Mind to Body. The two cross in the middle at the Mandala.

As an example, think of how you engage with Music. When you listen to music, you are in a more or less passive mode, engaged at a relatively superficial level with your mind or senses, and the result is that you Enjoy the music. As you learn more about the music, the style, history, instruments, and musicians, you engage at a deeper level, but still mostly in the mental and sensory realm, which is where you Learn about the music. When your engagement involves the body, either through movement of your kinesthetic sense, at first your engagement is shallow while you Practice the music. As your engagement deepens, you engage both mind and body while you Perform the music.

To understand the role of the Mandala in this Matrix, you might substitute the words Method, Tool, or Technique. The Mandala is all of these. It is also a way to connect the four zones, as well as the two axes, with Mind and Body able to engage freely in various ways.

While the Mandala Chart may seem to be more of a mental concept, as your engagement deepens it shifts to an experience, a sort of Body Mandala through which you engage with your instrument and your environment.

The Body Mandala

The Body Mandala is not just a metaphor. It is actually a physical way of experiencing and engaging your body in movement, and the discipline for learning how to do this is called Nanba: the Art of Physical Finesse.

This might make more sense if you have actively engaged in a sport, played a musical instrument, or practiced a martial art. Then you know from experience that when you play well you get into Flow, and when you play badly, you get stress or injury. What makes the difference is your mastery of physical finesse, the ability to engage intensively without forcing, twisting, or disconnecting.

I have found that my own experience with this has heightened my appreciation for the imagery of Cubism. When I am engaged in practice or performance of Nanba movement, Aikido, or even Tap and Calligraphy, the mental-physical experience somehow makes me feel like a Cubist man. I have no idea if the artists of the Cubist movement felt this way, but their work is the best visual expression I have ever seen of the kinesthetic experience of the Body Mandala.

You can also see this by observing animals such as birds, insects, or fish in movement. They are masters of physical finesse, and can teach you a lot about flexibility without forcing.

Because all of this comes to life in experience and engagement, it makes sense to find something to which you can apply it to in practice. It can be something as simple as taking a walk, but instead of just your usual stroll around the block, head out in a new direction and walk for a couple of hours. You will be surprised to see how much it brings you to your senses.

Flexible Focus #37: Navigate with Nanba!

by William Reed on January 20, 2011

Introducing the Nanba Diary

Earlier in this series and an article called Mobile Mandala, we introduced an exciting new iPad Application called the MandalaChart for iPad, which is available in the iTunes Store.

That article introduced the concept behind the Mobile Mandala Chart, and now there is a site which not only introduces how to use the application with an English Users Guide, but also has a Contents section which will host templates and contents for the MandalaChart for iPad, helping you catalyze your creativity at a new level.

We are proud to announce the first of these templates, a set of 30 Mandala Charts for the iPad application called the Nanba Diary. These pages explain how the MandalaChart and Nanba Diary work for you.

Moreover, there will be other contents packages and coaching programs to follow!

Nanba: the Art of Physical Finesse

Of course before you can Navigate with Nanba, it makes sense to learn more about what Nanba is, a Japanese art with an amazing range of applications to enhance movements, which I call the Art of Physical Finesse.

This is distinctly different from the conventional approach to physical fitness, though it can certainly enhance it. I have already written extensively about this in my other columns, so I will include the links here and encourage you to explore this fascinating world made possible in the collaboration of the Mandala Chart with Nanba, the Art of Physical Finesse.

Moreover, I am using the Nanba Diary myself on a daily basis, and in combination with the Idea Marathon, and I plan to create further content including video podcasts to make this world all the more accessible.

Meanwhile, here is where you can go to find out more about how to Navigate with Nanba!

Physical Finesse. Discover how you can apply the Secrets of the Samurai to your Daily Movements.

Nanbanote. Videos, articles, and information about how to practice Nanba movements. Some of this is in Japanese, but there is also plenty to explore in English, particularly in the articles section.

Nanba: the Art of Physical Finesse. An article appearing on my Creative Career Path Column.

Nanba Webbrain. A 3D MindMap about Nanba, which will be a central source for downloading information about Nanba.

Nanba Diary. A way to integrate the Nanba Mindset and Training with the Flexible Focus in the Mandala Chart, especially if you are an iPad User. Not only that, it can also be another good reason to get an iPad!

iPad Creators Club. For all of the other reasons, by all means visit a new site and club which I have just launched. More on this to come as we launch it this week and put it into orbit.

Flexible Focus #31: Mobile Mandala

by William Reed on December 9, 2010

Flexible Focus is Physical

One of the best ways to benefit from the Mandala Chart is to put it to use, engage in it physically. If you step into it, like Alice through the Looking Glass, you will discover that it has many new dimensions to explore.

There are four primary ways of doing this:

  1. Engaging more deeply in the 8 fields of life
  2. Taking action on your thoughts
  3. Presenting or writing about your ideas
  4. Using idea capture software and tools

The best way is to combine one or more of these for full engagement. This means writing, speaking, and working your way through it until you give your ideas shape, life, and substance so that others can benefit from them. The seeds of your ideas may be mental or intuitive in origin, but their implementation is very much a physical process.

The Best of Both Worlds

The Mandala Chart is a tool to facilitate flexible focus, and we have already looked at templates for the A-Chart and B-Chart, the Mandala Business Diary, the eMandala Chart. Now there is an idea capture tool that runs on the premiere platform of all, the Apple iPad. MandalaChart iPad is an App that will be released in mid-December 2010, available for purchase in the iTunes Store, for JPY 600 (about USD 4.00).

This is in many ways the best of both worlds, the tool and the technology, thanks to the portability, connectivity, and sheer elegance of the iPad. MandalaChart iPad makes it easier than ever to capture, present, and implement ideas, view and edit templates, and create a true zoom lens for your life.

Its first version will just support text, but the next update will feature hyperlinks and images,  and it only gets better from there. The first version supports A-Charts and B-Charts, so that you can start with the standard 3×3 view, zoom out to 64 frames, or focus in depth on a single frame. You can also store your files in folders.

There will also be a page where you can download free templates, as well as purchase templates and template packets on particular topics. The MandalaChart iPad App will support multiple languages, and you can preview the page for English-language instructions.

You can download a jpg image called Mastering the Mandala Chart, created in the MandalaChart iPad App, which is also a summary and overview of this Flexible Focus series.

If you live in Tokyo, we will be featuring the Mandala Chart iPad, as well as other creativity applications at a special event at the Ginza Apple Store to be held on January 20 (Thu) from 19:00~20:00.

Where this is going

The MandalaChart iPad App is a qualitative and quantitative leap above what came before. It will be an enhanced experience of flexible focus, digital navigation, idea capture and sharing.

It can be the perfect place to store your notes and action lists from articles in this series. Reading leads to understanding, but only action leads to results. Go back and review other articles in this series, and see if you don’t find points that you had forgotten about, or have yet to take action on. Having your ideas all stored in one place will make it easier to find them. Moreover, the MandalaChart iPad App can be a springboard for action and implementation.

Its only limitation is that it only runs on the Apple iPad. The Apple iPad has proved to be hugely successful, approaching sales of 10 million units. There are lots of reasons for its popularity, and this App will add one more. If you are still sitting on the fence, or know someone who is thinking about it, the place to send them is the Apple iPad Page.

From Matrix to Mandala

Templates and content that will be created for the MandalaChart iPad App will help you move along the path From Matrix to Mandala Chart, the subject of an article I wrote for my online column Creative Career Path.

The essential idea is that the reason why it is typically so hard to connect thought and action is that we experience lack of certainty stemming from one of two things. Either we are trapped in the limitations of logic, which ignores emotion and countless other factors; or we are trapped in the ambiguity of intuition, which is easily swayed by wishful thinking. The article proposes that the Mandala Chart is the perfect bridge between logic and intuition, incorporating both through fuzzy logic.

The MandalaChart iPad App is a significant step in integrating idea capture with idea implementation, just as flexible focus is in integrating thought and action.