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Writing Without A Net

October 9, 2017

Hey, you’re a clown fish. Tell us a joke.
– Finding Nemo

I was worried. I’d been writing for almost a year and my blog, this blog, was doing okay. I’d kept up my stated pace of publishing daily Monday through Friday. Still I worried. Each night as I sat down to write the following day’s entry, I had to convince myself that it was going to be okay.

When Cortez reached the new world, he burned his boats. Therefore his men were highly motivated
– Hunt For Red October

In the movie, Sean Connery plays a Soviet submarine captain who decides, with his senior staff to defect. One of his men has a change of heart and suggests that they go back. Connery’s character explains that he sent a letter to the Kremlin announcing his intention to defect. He wanted to make it clear that they were fully committed and there was no going back.

I have a friend from high school named Shawna. We went to high school a long, long time ago. And were it not for facebook, it’s unlikely we would still be in contact. Last year Shawna decided she was unhappy with the way her life was going. She decided to change her life, goals, career from top to bottom.

She’s now a “life coach,” a volunteer leader for the Seattle Seahawks fan club, and seems a lot more happy. But, she fully committed to her lifestyle change.

I had a list of topics. Actually, I kept two topic lists for my blog. One was the list that I created to pull ideas from on a daily basis. As I thought of interesting topics, I’d add them to the list. Soon, the list included dozens of topics. Sometimes I had a complete idea, other times just a fragment. But, they all went on the list. As I sat down each night to write, I’d open the list and find a topic.

Even with that exercise, I was still afraid. I was worried I’d run out of topics. What would happen if I couldn’t think of anything to write? So, I added to the topic list.

But, I had a backup plan. It was another list. This one was of “Management Rules” I’d come up with over the course of a 30 year career. There were 16 rules in all. I didn’t write about them even though they were topics with which I was very familiar. They were my backup plan.

I figured that if my topic list failed, I at least had 3 weeks worth of content while I was trying to figure out where to find inspiration next. My friend Dave Brady called me out.

I think you should write those 16 topics.

What? Why?

Because until you do, you’ll never really be committed to your writing.

Dave was right. Eventually, I eased into them slowly. I picked a different management rule each Friday and wrote about it. As my safety blanket got smaller, my anxiety increased. Sure, I still had the topic list, but I was eating my seed corn. And it scared me.

Eventually the Friday came that I wrote the last Management rule. I had no backup plan. I wish I could say that over the previous 16 weeks, I’d grown in confidence. I hadn’t really. I still used the topic list. If anything I clung to the topic list even more.

Each December I would compile a list of all the topics I’d written on that year. And I had the list of topics for the future. Like someone learning to walk again, my steps became more sure and I became more confident. I found myself going to my list less often. An idea would strike me during the day and I’d write about it that night.

My writing started to take on a flow and an ease that I hadn’t had before. I started to trust myself. It’s been over a year since I looked at my topic list. The last time I pulled it up, the topics seemed old and tired. Some of them were definitely “safe.” None of them were timely.

It was at that point that people started to show an interest in my scribblings. The feedback and the popularity of my writing increased dramatically once I started working without a net.

You can find 16 Management Rules that Make No Sense, here.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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