Thinking Outside the Email

I’ve spent many of my non-work waking hours working on a presentation for a conference next week. I’ve four conference proposals bouncing around in my head, gently duking it out so that they self-select before I accidentally throw myself into writing several more things than I can really handle this coming year. I’ve got a fun presentation lined up in early June with Rob Engelsman. In short, I can’t stop making things. (Help?)

Every so often, my mind wanders to contemplate how many things people are making at any given time. Trust me: this sounds like a harmless activity, but your brain will begin to implode after about two minutes. It’s a truly human quality to be driven to make stuff, however big or small, visible or hidden, tangible or conceptual the final product might be.

So instead of making your mind cave with exponential numbers, I implore you to think about how many things you made today. Who benefited from what you made? Are those things complete? Will you revisit them after today?

(My short list of making today: my bed, a Grooveshark account, most of a presentation, a to-do list, half a shopping list, the beginning of a packing list, four Google Calendar events, something on the order of 40-50 emails — more on this in a second, a thank you note, a paper airplane, mashed chickpeas with roasted eggplant and feta, toasted coconut and dulce du leche yogurt, four photographs. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s just a start.)

I’ve been thinking more and more about the energy I put into the things I do and where and how that energy manifests itself. I want to prioritize the moments where I can put myself into production mode, but in the past few weeks, I’ve consciously put aside time to think instead. It’s okay. Thinking begets making, and making begets thinking, but in many cases, the thinking I’m doing is in writing. In writing, I’m exerting energy for a very specific cause, or for a particular person/group of people.

In both an email exchange and in a meeting today (with two different people in two different parts of the state, mind you), I was asked how I have time to blog and where I find things to blog about. It’s a great question. Inspiration is everywhere, but more importantly, writing is all around me and I’m doing it constantly. For the most part, the things I’m sharing with one person could (and should) very well be shared with more than one person.

This is where my current advice to myself fits in: I’m incredibly dependent on my email and on my Twitter account throughout the workday. That’s writing, the latter of which seriously factored into my #digiwrimo goals for this past November (though it became a consideration of quality, not quantity by the end of the month, but I digress). Email? That’s another creature altogether. Much of that’s behind closed doors, yes? For a small select audience? Well, yes, but my defensive self doesn’t write anything online anymore without the thought that it might be forwarded, shared, or screenshotted. Read like no one’s watching, write like everyone is.

My attitude? I’m putting effort (don’t kid yourself, you probably spend most of your day dealing with emails, too) and much thought into what I’m writing, with the little shoulder angel that says “Will this actually be read with care akin to the way I am writing this?” with every keystroke. Nowadays, with every email over two paragraphs, I’m taking the stance that I might very well turn my part of the conversation into a blog post (perhaps with a bit more context, but the bulk of the content is already there). Heck, that’s probably going to be my blog post tomorrow and pretty much every day this week. Why should I keep my thinking locked away?

I do want to have time to engage in more free thinking and, by extension, free writing on this blog, but my dirty little secret is that my best free thinking and writing comes from targeted questions. I’ll turn inward a bit and let some of my emails free. Run little emails, run! There’s a big old world out there for you to see!