Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

Photo Credit: -bast- @Flickr

Photo Credit: -bast- @Flickr

Last week in D.C., I learned what bitter disillusionment can do to the unsuspecting professional.

While pitching AWP’s work to an agency, we got the usual questions about who, what, when, where and why

Yet, one particular person insisted on asking us questions to try and make us look stupid or, worse yet, useless.

When that happens, that person is not interested in finding out  what you’re about. They are trying to prove a point about something that has little (if anything) to do with your work.

There are always two groups of people who gather in response to new ideas: people who love it and people who want to find reasons not to love it.

Granted, nothing is perfect.

Nor, is it meant to be.

But, if you find yourself in the latter camp – do yourself a favor: initial (and unwarranted) bias has little, if any, use.

Ask a question. A real question.

You’ll be surprised how often real questions don’t get asked. Real questions find out value. They probe for purpose and insight. The odd thing about that? People forget what they are looking for in the first place.

Therefore, they’ll meander around until they think they find out what they want to know. If you want to know about the “value” of someone’s work, ask this: Why did you create this?

Airing dirty laundry

When this happens, you lose credibility with the person you are questioning. For example, in one meeting, one of the members chose to bring attention to the fact that there are other advocacy groups and projects that campaign in the name of human trafficking (the project we were pitching).

OK – and? Is there a quota? From the gist of his not so subtle and completely hostile statement – he was doing the following:

  • Airing his dissatisfaction of (what he deemed) the effectiveness of such campaigns
  • Questioning the usefulness of our work

There’s very little tact in such a tactic. When you take that route – you unavoidably do this:

  • Lessen the likelihood of me wanting to collaborate with you
  • Cause me to question your own professional validity in the project

If you are genuinely interested in what makes someone’s work different from others (or if it makes a difference) be simple, ask: How does it work?

Apples and Oranges

Despite the fact that AWP is an arts organization – the art part is actually secondary and the social justice advocacy work is the primary definition of our projects. What’s that mean? No matter what, we can connect with lots of agencies that work in the realm of our initiatives. We create advocacy tools.

So, instead of focusing on how we’re different, let’s try: What are your goals?

Just because I am an apple and you’re an orange – we’re still fruit.  So to add, ask: Who do we want to connect with?

What should you keep in mind as the answerer?

  • No return volleys allowed
  • Respond with a question if you are not sure what they want to know
  • It’s not necessarily personal – they’re probably just bitter
  • Stick to the facts
  • Beggars can be choosers – you can always choose not to answer

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Churl at Flickr***this is for all the high school seniors out there who claim they “hate” writing or claim they suck at it***

My sister is beginning the phases of college applications. We’ve been going back and forth about how to begin creating the guts of a personal statement. When you haven’t had a reason to be insightful or think about your life in terms of a past perspective – the idea of doing so can fry your brain.

Below is an email I sent to her. It may actually be helpful for those of you (currently) struggling with personal reflection:

I suggest before we talk (if you can), have a chat with a few of your teachers. Feel them out for suggestions on what you could write for a personal statement. You are going to have to write one anyway for college apps, so you may as well start funneling ideas now.

Quit making excuses about not being able to put your ideas on paper. That’s lame. So, stop it. Take responsibility for your own weaknesses and resolve to improve upon them. If you expect to survive college, keep in mind that no one is going to help you write the tons of papers you will have from classes.

There’s no Mom (or me) that’s going to proofread or critique. If you can’t be bothered with learning how to write well, then you can’t be bothered with trying to learn anything.

If you want to write something people can read, you need to practice.

Did you ever start keeping a journal?

If you want to begin the process of expressing yourself (as you claim to have trouble doing) – you have to practice it. That means, learning how to be insightful. Insightful people learn from their mistakes, take stock in the emotional process and understand the “bigger” things in the world around them. If you want to start doing this, quit whining about not being able to do it.

There is no formula for good writing. You have to put in old-fashioned hard work. Not everyone is born with this ability, others have to work at it. It might even actually help if you read something besides a Vibe magazine. Read some personal essays by the likes of Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison…hell, read Oprah’s magazine. Mom’s got one at the house.

You need to learn about different writing styles and how they resonate with the idea of a “personal statement.”

1. Keep a journal.
Start ACTIVELY being insightful. That means reflecting on how you spend your time. Write about your thoughts, no matter how mundane. Write about things you think about – why are you thinking about them? You don’t need a special book, so don’t dupe yourself into buying one.

2. Write something at least 4 times a week.
There’s nothing special about the number four, but it’s better than just writing something twice a week. This will also force you to constantly (and consistently) monitor your thoughts, moods, actions, etc.

3. Vent with clarity
The purpose of journaling is to write about how you are feeling. The point is to grow. There’s no point in trying to mature emotionally if you are going to write about how “Mom pissed me off” or “I hate that I can’t do what I want.” Try to answer the questions to your own problems. There’s no right or wrong answer, so don’t try to look for one, that will just impede your writing.

Did I leave anything out? Share your thoughts. Is there more to it when writing personal reflection?

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Human Graph - 20 by Nep (Flickr)

Photo Credit: Nep @ Flickr

Ratings are odd. Why bother? They’re fuzzy, aggregated opinions. It means someone, somewhere came to a conclusion about something else. So, if you are beholden to ratings, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.

You’re dumbing down your strengths. You’re also limiting your ability to become interesting.

Using ratings pressures you to reside in the conventional and the ordinary. They insist on a static, linear definition. There’s no real risk in ratings because they rely on what already exists.

Things that are new and bold don’t have comparisons. They’re provocative. But, they’re risky because they don’t have definitions.

Ordinary stuff is rated because it’s comparable. It uses the same old definitions. Think of the thresholds and limits that ratings carry.

Therefore, what’s the point of limits when you are trying to envision yourself as something else? 

What’s the purpose of reinvention when you are relying on ratings?  

After all, the limits are there for those that want to be compared. The definitions are for people who aren’t looking to create new meaning.

So, don’t rate yourself. Embolden yourself to become something else. Something beyond comparison.

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shoppingI decided that it was a great idea to shop for a dress on New Year’s Eve. My boyfriend and I were going out to dinner with another couple and we had to “dress up.” This is funny because my boyfriend and I aren’t the dress up types, but we don’t embarrass anyone if we are told to look nice.

So, anyway, I told myself to find a dress in a color I like that’s in my size. It actually didn’t have to be a color I really like, because I don’t have favorite colors or signatures hues that I wear all the time. I wear what I like. That’s it.

Also, it didn’t matter if it was real pretty (or not) because it’s New Year’s Eve. Everyone’s getting pissy drunk or having too much of a good time to notice if you are wearing an ugly dress. And, if they aren’t having a good time, maybe you are in the wrong place.

So, actually, I just needed to find a dress in my size that I could stand wearing again.

I walked into the Forever 21 – a virtual madhouse, barely short of stampeding women. I don’t feel silly shopping there even though they market to teeny boppers and barely legal twenty somethings. I also know that despite the name, the people shopping there probably haven’t seen 21 in quite a few years, nor do they feel like they will be “forever 21” wearing the clothes.

I go there because I know I can find something cute for under $30 and be able to wear it to death before it turns into a Forever 21 rag.

I spot a dress (or what I think is a dress) with puffed sleeves and heather tan coloring. It’s also got pockets on the front. Cute and functional – I make a beeline.  It’s not “New Year’s Eve Party” festive, but it’s “You can dress me up” festive.

And, that’s all I need.

Alas, it’s few sizes too big. I don’t care. I need a dress. If it looks ridiculous in the changing room, I can scour the floor for some other ideas (provided I don’t suffer a stampede).

It turns out the dress looks great. And, I prefer the larger size because of the way the dress swings when I’m wearing it. Plus, it’s in a color I can wear to work  and not look like I’m ready for Happy Hour at 9:30 in the morning.

I’ve got my dress and few sparkling cheap things to glam it up a little. All this done under 45 minutes (this even includes the time I spent casually browsing after I picked my dress). When I get home, the tag describes the “dress” as a tunic top. Even better, I can wear it with jeans. My boyfriend says I look lovely and we had a wonderful New Year’s Eve.

So, sometimes when you just begin with a fuzzy idea and don’t think too hard or expect too much, wonderful things can happen. And, when wonderful things happen, you sometimes get a whole lot more than you bargained for.

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