I know many writers use a prompt to get going. Although I hardly qualify myself as a writer, I always use a prompt, even if it is something as simple as a reaction to something I heard somewhere.
Does coffee count as a prompt?
Lately, I have found that all my writing comes from articles I read and the authors get me to thinking. This is good, right?
So I’ve coined a term for this style of writing: Riffing off. This word accurately describes of how I write. It’s kind of like ripping off, but more than that – I take what someone starts, expound upon it, and maybe make a little headway on furthering the issue.
There is no copyright or legality here. Just like Shakespeare, my made-up words are a gift to the world. Feel free to riff off at will.
I took this class that Disney offered about customer service. The first thing the instructor asked is for everyone to raise their hand. Everyone did. With all the hands still in the air, he asked the class to raise them a little more. Hands rose slightly higher. Now how hard was that? The class collectively reached just a bit higher with a minimal amount of extra effort.
This is a core concept Disney practices to ensure all their guests have the best experience visiting their parks.
That lesson has stuck with me for years.
When you get into your day-to-day work, often you want to rush through, not expend any more energy on a project than you have to, or want to get on with something else. But how big of a difference can you make if you would try 1 or 2% harder?
Conversely, back about 20 years ago I read an article in MacWorld that said if you do not open all the windows in the Finder, you save seconds of processing time every day. You’re making your Mac faster. In fact, over the course of a day you might even safe as much as a couple of minutes. Those minutes add up to hours, days and so on over the course of a year.
When you apply this principle to everything in life, how big of a difference can you make? How much change? Make things better?
Little things can be powerful forces.
Before I could graduate, I needed a few more hours to complete my degree. I took a couple of studio classes in the first summer term of 1989. One was a sculpture lab, which I loved. The class was small, and I quickly struck up a friendship with an architecture student. Being a senior as well, we would often get into deep conversations about life after graduation.
I will never forget one talk. We both agreed that we would never go out and sell our services. Our good work would begat more good work. Word would spread like wildfire and all we needed to do was sit back and let our creative genius solve all the world’s problems. Talk about naive.
As a professional over the years, if there is any one thing I have learned is that you never stop selling. Whether it’s your services, your ideas or yourself. To be a successful practitioner of any creative art you must constantly be selling mode. You take chances, make cold call, network, write blog posts, connect with people however you can, all in the hope that you will land make a solid connection.
It’s not easy. Especially for introverts creative types like myself, who dream of being able to sit back and have people knock on my door.
If you know what’s good for you, you never stop selling. Even when you have so much going on you cannot possibly manage anything more, you have to keep selling. At some point, the well will run dry, so even though you cannot possible squeeze anything else into your day, you’ve got to replenish the workload.
Over the years, I have found that I like being a salesman. I like meeting potential new clients or partners. It’s fun to compete and even more fun to win new business. I don’t know that I could go out and sell things I do not believe in, but when I go out and talk with people about my work, it’s as easy as bragging about my children.
The 22 year old version of me would be aghast at all of this. But if there is any one piece of advice I can give young creatives, is get out there and learn to sell.