Create an Intersection of Ideas

I especially like the CopyBlogger Content Excellence Challenge, August Prompt:

This month, bring some of your “off topic” passions into your content.

Now, you still need to make it relevant to your audience. This isn’t a permission slip to create content they don’t care about.

Your job is to look for unexpected connections. How can you bring your passion for Marvel comics into your fitness business? Where are the points of intersection between your love of Mark Twain and your personal finance blog?

Nearly 10 years ago, Brian called this the “content crossroads” — the point at which seemingly unrelated ideas connect. And there are always interesting things to be found at the crossroads.

The following is quoted from the post linked above, by Brian Clark. I reposted the points because they are all great points and I know they have worked well for me most of my life. I especially believe in listening to people I don’t agree with. Not an easy thing to do. Some people you don’t agree with just because of who they are. or who you think they are. Listen anyway. You don’t have to spend the day listening, just enough to know you heard them. Listening does not require you to change your mind, just hear what someone else thinks, believes and has experienced.

1. Learn for life.

To me, this is the most important and essential trait for any creative person. You’ve got to go well beyond learning everything in your niche and try to simply learn everything. Naturally curious people seem to come up with ideas easier than most, so kick your curiosity up a notch and investigate any topic that interests you. Then, learn about things that don’t interest you—you might be surprised by what you end up enjoying. You’ll also see more connections between things you thought were unrelated.

2. Change perspective.

Leonardo da Vinci believed that to truly understand something, you need to look at it from at least three perspectives. Leo did alright for himself, so maybe his advice is solid. The ability to look at something that everyone else is looking at and see it differently is the hallmark of creative thinking, and practice makes perfect. Train yourself to dispense with the commodity of opinion and examine things from multiple perspectives. You’ll be amazed at what you find when you play Devil’s Advocate.

3. Free your mind.

Many people think that creativity is something to schedule, like a staff meeting or a luncheon. While setting aside time for “brainstorming” and “thinking outside the box” can be helpful, you’re still perpetuating an illusion. The truth is, there is no box, and you have the ability to be creative at any moment. Allow yourself to recognize your own delusions and social constructs, and start questioning your assumptions at every opportunity. Better yet, reverse your assumptions and see where you end up.

4. Travel.

One of the great benefits of online business is freedom from the tyranny of geography. And the more we see of the world and different cultures, the more our minds open up and see limitless connections and possibilities. One of the worst things we do to ourselves in terms of creativity is to stay within the realm of the familiar. So make it a point to get out, do new things, and travel to new places. You’ll have to check with your accountant to see if a trip to Prague counts as a business expense, but there’s no doubt it can seriously help your business.

5. Listen.

Are you a talker or a listener? This is something I’ve really tried to work on, because I learn so much when I shut up and listen. Every person you meet has a perspective that differs from yours, and you can learn amazing things from simply listening. Just like the Medici family brought all sorts of different people together and sparked something phenomenal, you too can create a content renaissance by interacting with as many different people as possible. Don’t hang out with people who reflect your existing beliefs, hang out with people who challenge you.

Values

I’ve given myself this Copyblogger Challenge. The warm up for the year of challenges is to write about your values. I’m not in the mood to tackle something less than concrete right now. I feel frustrated, over burdened, and stuck in place. It’s my values which are in part to blame.

Values don’t always make you feel good. They can be too much to live up to. But, the ideals still matter so we just keep on trying. Once in awhile things catch up, in a good way. Then you can take a breath, feel you have done well by yourself, and … what? Self satisfaction is about it. If you go looking for, or expect gratitude from others, you’re likely to be disappointed. People may be grateful but tend not to express it, or not express it in the way you wanted.

Values have to be a thing you do for yourself, because that’s how you want to live.

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Courtesy
  • Exploring
  • Creating
  • Ingenuity

The list could get longer, but that’s enough today.

Courtesy can be the hardest value to stick with. It sounds simple. Being polite to others. Thinking of others. Putting others first, in moderation. There’s the tricky part, moderation, and deciding where that line is. Where does courtesy and putting others first cross the lines between selfishness and self-sacrifice? It’s a personal choice, more likely based on feelings than facts.

Start the challenge (it began in January so this is a late start in November) yourself.

From the Copyblogger Content Excellence Challenge:

The exercise is to write out a list of 5–10 values that matter to you. Keep this list somewhere handy, and look it over from time to time.

You might write about:

  • What the value means to you
  • A quick memory or story
  • Frustrations with the value
  • Mixed feelings about the value

This writing is just for you, so write about what’s real, not what you think you should write.

Six Steps to Starting a Creative Blog

Whether it’s a creative blog, a lifestyle blog, a business blog… most posts with this title end up disappointing me. They are all about getting a domain, setting up your site on their web host and starting WordPress. I’m never looking for those things when I click on a post about starting a blog.

I want to know what makes a creative blog tick, what keeps it going, how they find juice for new ideas and what inspires them.  So, as a long time blogger, however good I may be, I will give my own version of how to start a creative blog.

1. You need a focus.

One niche idea which you can sustain (and promote if you are hoping to get noticed). Finding the right idea is more important than anything else. Your niche is what will keep you going when you run dry, lose patience, or give up on keeping your site. It is also how you will find kindred spirits among the masses of people online.

2. Brainstorm ideas.

Before you buy a domain and set up web hosting, push yourself to come up with a list of at least 100 posts you could make about your niche topic. Don’t skimp and don’t settle for half baked post ideas. Really work your brain muscles and make a great list. Think about the type of posts you would read yourself. Take a look at other people writing the same topics, not just online. Come up with an excellent list – posts you almost want to stop and start writing right now.

3. What can you sell?

Yes, it does come down to commercialism at some point. If you are going to create a site it will help you to see it get readers and make some money. Traffic alone won’t sustain you and reader comments occur far less often these days. So you will be happier if you can find your numbers coming from another source and money is nice.

You may think you have nothing to sell. But, put on your thinking cap and see what you can do. Think digital content. If you have art, illustrations or photographs you can sell those, or create digital downloads with your art on calendars, stationery, etc. You can sell information by having a paid membership site – but you need some authority in your topic for that. You can sell patterns for craft projects. See what other people in your niche topic are selling. As a last resort consider putting together an ebook and offering that to your readers. (In my opinion, ebooks have had their day in the sun).

You can also sell a service to creative people. Like workshops and courses they can download or have sent to them each week in email. You might offer to proofread for other writers. You might offer yourself as a reviewer and social media poster for book writers. Avoid making yourself a spammer but a lot of creative people would like help with the marketing side of things.

4. Build your site.

Design your site before you start looking at themes and templates. Get an idea of what you want – then find a way to make it work. If you are new to running a site consider Blogger, it’s simpler and you can always convert a Blogger site to WordPress later. (There are a lot of good plugins to make the change over easy). If you want to use WordPress, don’t use WordPress.com. It’s ok, but it is only ok and has a few too many limitations and options you can pay extra for. If you want WordPress, get WordPress on your own domain.

A website is all about navigation. Content may be king but navigation is what will make or break a site. Keep it simple, easily found and make sure it all works. Navigation starts by having a link back to your own site as a “Home” link in the navigation bar. Categories, tags and labels are also great to help people find their way around the contents of your site. Don’t forget an “About” page to tell readers who you are, what you are writing about, what you’re selling, and what your plans are for the site.

A pretty picture is nice but not enough. Make your site look nice but keep it readable. Pick fonts which are not too light or too complicated. Pick colours which keep your site readable. You can find out a lot more about readability and standards for things like alternate tags in image files.

There is a lot of work, planning and DIY (learning) behind a site. Invest in a good guide book, and if you use it, you aren’t likely to regret it. Try to build your own site because it can be done, without paying someone else to do it for you.

5. Start talking to yourself.

Write your first post, to yourself. Give yourself goals and a to-do list as your first post. Afterwards start using an editorial calendar to keep on track with goals and ideas as they come along. Use the draft post feature to keep ideas saved as posts while you work on them.

Everything you would have written as a first post would work as your “About” page, the introduction to your site and yourself.

6. Write your second post.

Pick your favourite idea from your list of 100+ post ideas and write that post. Proofread it before you publish it. Don’t take too long to write it, don’t make it overly dramatic or particularly perfect. (You can always go back and edit it later).

Post and go look at your blog, from the reader side (not the admin/ edit side). Admire what you have accomplished and plan what you will do next.

Have you Experienced Pareidolia Today?

Pareidolia is the ability to find pictures in inanimate objects like rocks, potatoes, linens, the moon, inkblots, and anything else. Most often people will see faces but it can also be whole bodies, animals and cultural icons. You could look at dots of this and that on the wall and find an image represented in them. No one else may see it the same way you do. Overall, it’s one way to pass the time while waiting for the bus, doctor, etc.

Another form of pareidolia are sounds heard and attributed to mysterious sources, like ghosts. Some ghostly noises could be explained as our own perception of the noise/ sound.

What have you seen a face in lately? Think about the idea today and see what you notice in a different way.

The word is derived from the Greek words para, meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, which is a more generalized term for seeing patterns in random data.

faceclock facetub Sources for more information:

What is the Heaviest Thing?

What is the heaviest thing you can think of? Start with real things and move your way into creative imagination.

Would a grey whale be heavier than a 100 year old oak tree?

What if the tree were growing at the bottom of the ocean and the weight of all that water pressure counted?

What if the grey whale were swimming in outer space for years, weightless but then crash landed on Earth with all our gravity?

Carry on with your own ideas or start with your own ideas and see where (and how far) they take you.

Toys Travelling Around the World

Over the years I’ve seen a few of these objects being sent around the world and photographed’ projects. Rubber ducks, stuffed toys, even a bra have been among the objects. Is there a name for this? Seems there should be by now.

Can you come up with something creative and uniquely you to send around the world on a journey like this?

Source: Give Your Stuffed Toy a Break and Make It Travel Around Japan With Unagi Travel | When On Earth – For People Who Love Travel

Personality Insights from Your Writing

This was such an interesting test. I don’t agree (or like) everything it had to say about me from my writing. But, the sample I chose was about art, so that may have biased the results. I’m going to try it with a couple of other articles I’ve written. Maybe some from years ago even just to see what kind of results I get overall.

You are unpretentious, boisterous and explosive.

You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys. And you are laid-back: you appreciate a relaxed pace in life.

Your choices are driven by a desire for well-being.

You are relatively unconcerned with achieving success: you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents. You consider tradition to guide a large part of what you do: you highly respect the groups you belong to and follow their guidance.

Source: Personality Insights

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My History as a Web Publisher (Blogger)

When I started a blog, back in 1998 the early blogs, the very best of them, were all done by creative people who loved words, colours and design. Some of them wanted readers, fame, popularity and most of them got it. Blogging was new. Blogs were inventive, creative, an adventure. No one questioned what Google would like because Google didn’t exist. Blogs were something magical, seeming to exist outside of time and space and even reality (if they knew how to work the code). This was before Blogger, WordPress or any other blog software or client.

I was not a coder, or a programmer and my HTML was very limited. I bought a couple of books to learn HTML. I made progress. I had a rudimentary blog up, but they weren’t really called that yet. You were as likely to call them a web log or an online journal as anything else. Images were new and changed so much about the early web logs. Most people did not put up a site because it was easier to just play on the networks like the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and the newsgroups (which were eventually moved to Google, becoming the backbone of Google Groups).  I joined newsgroups for ASCII artists.

This post will be continued as I feel like writing more.