Writing as a Character; Personal Startup Capital

Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2023 by Sri. Tagged JOURNAL

A few things that are on my mind for Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

Using Character as an Information Strategy

I've been writing publicly about my productivity experiments since 2005, but I am concerned that I'm overloading people with details. My writing tends to follow this form:

  • Experience led to an Insight
  • The Insight leads to an Interesting Hypothesis
  • The Hypothesis suggests an overall System Concept
  • The System Concept is explored with an Experiment
  • A Report is produced with tentative Takeaways

I think this format works for things like Groundhog Day Resolutions Reports, but it's not very accessible during a sandwich break. It's not very considerate either of people who don't have a lot of time, particularly those people with ADHD like my newly-diagnosed self. The irony is that for all the writing I do about productivity that's ADHD-friendly, it's in a form that demands a lot of attention.

A solution I'm considering is to use character writing as the anchor for my writing structure rather than the "investigative designer" format I described above. The insight comes from a discussion in the DS|CAFE writing group where I noted that articles with a lot of asides tend to overwhelm me since I can only handle one additional concept on top of the one I'm focused on, and I often become fatigued and have to stopTextbooks, for example, tend to introduce lots of unexplained terms right up front and this gives me a huge headache. And yet, with rapid fire television comedy I don't experience this fatigue at all. What's the difference?

I think it comes down to having a character that serves as the anchor for all that extra detail. You might not totally get the reference, but you can "read" the emotional tone and perhaps at least recognize the kind of reference that's being made. One of my favorite shows is Gilmore Girls, which has a really dense script that I enjoy because I really like figuring out where people are coming from, and I have an enormous capacity for it. To be fair, this is a show that put a lot of men into temporary comas when their girlfriends force them to watch it, so it is not universally appealing. But I think the relatability of character is what I need to go for. That's what I think I've lost. As a bonus, I find the notion of writing to express a relatable character much more appealing than writing for your target audience. The former is something I've paid a lot of attention to in my personal development. The latter is an abstraction that means nothing to my ASD-patterned brain which hates assuming anything.

External Motivation is like Venture Capital

Since kicking-off this year's Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR) I've been thinking of ways to mitigate the ADHD-related challenges I've faced for decades. The big insight was that yes, I need external motivation in the form of people to talk to about my work. One of the directives I set was to NEVER WORK ALONE, EVER, recognizing that I am really unproductive without a partner who is also invested in the outcome of what I'm doing. But how do I find people interested in helping me with my projects? What's in it for them?

The proposed solution is something I call "Expeditions" in the GHDR 2023 kickoff, which are gathering of people who coordinate through DS|CAFE for limited-time limited-focus collaborations. The idea is to combine HIGH MUTUAL INTEREST with VERY LOW COMMITMENT beyond agreeing to do something for an hour or two. On paper this sounds great, but in practice I still need to find people. I really need something more compelling to draw people in, even with the built-in audience of our coworking peeps in DS|CAFE. Perhaps I need to rethink the problem more of a limited startup, seeking capital in the form of time commitments from "mutual investors" who are willing to put some skin in the game. In practical terms, I think this is just spending the time to write a great brief, akin to the 2-minute elevator pitch, so people can immediately visualize the rewards. I had thought that merely identifying the "Expedition" concept would be enough, but I think I need to think of of shiny preso materials.

I don't particularly like doing this work in a vacuum, though. To make these materials I need external motivation in the form of an interested collaborator with mutual interests. The best I can do is share more writing on this journal and social media outlets, using the daily writing to refine what I'm trying to offer to people who don't really know me as a character trying to build an expedition-based sanctuary for curious and conscientious people.

In the meantime, what I can do is continue to write. I've started a new Concrete Goals Tracker - Writer Edition design brief that outlines what important activities contribute to reaching people. It's a form of treading water or running on battery power until I can get those first few expeditions defined and crewed.