Tag Archives: achievement

NaNoWriMo 2011

Writing with a broken pencil is…

pointless!

Somewhere along the way I learned that no writing is pointless. I would give a good deal of credit for that to College Professor William Bailey who required every student to keep a daily journal. One sentence per day was the minimum and we were told not to worry about grammar and spelling. He wasn’t going to collect and grade it anyway. I suppose  this would seem pointless, but his objective was to get us used to writing and make writing a somewhat natural activity.

Perhaps the creators of NaNoWriMo were in Professor Bailey’s class. They are sponsoring “thirty days of literary abandon.” In short, participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in one month (November).  That’s an average of 1667 words per day.  Last year 200,000 tried–30,000 succeeded.

And, no, I don’t think any of the 30,000 made the New York Times Best Seller’s List. That’s actually not the point. As the creators of this effort say,

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

How can you not love that? You write a lot of “crap,” but when it’s over you get to call yourself a novelist.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that last year 1800 K-12 schools participated and not surprised to discover that some participants actually have had their work published.

No, I probably will not be participating this year. But I do love the concept–and note that this doesn’t just apply to writing. Sometimes you just get started “valuing perseverance and enthusiasm over the craft.”

The word for the day is “intensity” and the question is “What could you accomplish in thirty days if you had it?”

 

Don’t Blame The Teacher!

Here’s a link to an interesting article in the Bangor Daily News:

Moving Beyond ‘Blame The Teacher’

Much as I enjoyed the article, I also ended up frustrated because–try as I might–I could not post a comment! Reading the comments already there made me want to add:

One caution is that we not move from blaming the teachers to blaming the parents. To do so would be to miss the point of the article. You can bet that the schools cited here did far more than is reported in this article. Ultimately, the ENTIRE system was affected. The article perhaps didn’t go quite far enough in describing this. One sentence that needs changing:

“In education as in industry, progress toward quality will require collaboration among administrators, teachers and their unions, the parents and the students themselves.”

Of course Demings wasn’t the only “guru” promoting this thinking, but there was a simple elegance to his approach. The approach forced us to stop finding people to blame and look at the systems those people are working under. Very often those systems punish the very behavior and outcomes being sought and reward the undesired ones.

I was a practicing systems organization development consultant during those years and can attest to the success of the approach. Organizations with red bottom lines were in crisis and desperate for a fix. Those who saw beyond blaming often achieved incredible turnarounds. The need to make a profit can be incredibly motivating.

We might start wondering when we face a similar crisis and the need to teach and develop our kids becomes similarly motivating.

What’s the number for 9/11?

Some years ago before the 9-1-1 emergency system was commonplace, I was involved in a situation that created some momentary anxiety and actual panic. One of the participants was scurrying around carrying a portable phone and screaming, “What’s the number for nine-one-one? What’s the number for nine-one-one?!” It took a few minutes to convince him that you dialed 9-1-1 to reach nine-one-one.

Because the incident turned out to be less than critical his question became a source of humor and he took a fair amount of ribbing for quite some time. “Did you ever get the number for nine-one-one?”
Some years later those same numbers became important for a different reason and, of course, many people called nine-one-one on nine eleven. And now, ten years later the country pauses to honor and reflect on that event.

There are lots of numbers involved–including the number of lives lost, the number of emergency personnel who responded, etc. As I think about those numbers one number stands out. Continue reading What’s the number for 9/11?

Do What?

I like that we celebrate Labor Day by not working.

My morning email included yet another email diatribe from an acquaintance who is clearly addicted to forwarding email. Dealing with his email isn’t really much work–I will usually give it a five second scan and hit the delete button.  Since I’m not working today (mostly) I gave it ten seconds. This one was a real rant and rave about the Social Security “problem” and politicians in general, closing with:

YEAH, OK, SO WHEN DO WE GET P—— ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ALL THIS CRAP?

95% of people won’t have the guts to forward this. I’m one of the 5%, I Just did.

He added the red for emphasis, I deleted the expletive. Perhaps because it’s a relatively leisurely day, I found myself a bit amused by the message. Permit me to paraphrase his words into the message I heard:

“I am so mad over all this crap I’m doing something about it–I’m clicking forward and sending this email to a bunch of people who probably don’t want it. It took a lot of courage for me to do this.”

I’m quite sure the world is a better place now–thanks to his courage and willingness to take on this huge task.  Call me a coward. I didn’t forward his email.

While I am a firm believer that there are times when “the work is the reward,” consideration should be given to what that work accomplishes. I know quite a few people who are (by their own admission) extremely busy. I occasionally want to ask, “What are you accomplishing?” On the occasions when I have, the reply is most often a blank stare.

I do ask myself that question fairly often–because it’s very easy to kid yourself into thinking you’re working really hard when all you’re actually doing is being busy.

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.