“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway
I have decided that 2013 is my year to learn.
Let me explain: Recently I applied to Award School, and my application was unsuccessful. The rejection put me in a tailspin. I was in a funk, essentially, feeling unfulfilled creatively and like I needed a challenge.
I love writing. I have been a professional writer for more than 10 years, but sometimes, due to the complicated content management systems, my role feels more like technician, which involves cutting and resizing images, HTML coding, web design. I far prefer picking up a pencil and being creative, than messing around with complicated computer systems that sap my creative being. I prefer conversations to corporate meetings, and working with ideas to churning out ad executions.
When I stumbled upon a Skillshare course, run by Mark Pollard, focused on ideas generation, I felt excited and challenged for the first time in years. I Google stalked Mark Pollard, checking out his impressive blog and credentials. Yes, I could learn a thing or two, I thought. And the course was only $20. What did I have to lose?
The first week of the class was challenging; I already had a holiday booked on the same weekend that the first assignment was due, so I spent a rainy camping trip boring my friends with a million questions about social change, Guatemala and charity donations. Once back in civilisation, I backed up my initial brain dump with lots of research. Ideas are one thing, but if there is no audience, or no insights, then would the idea actually have a viable business model?
Fast forward through lots of reading, video watching, mind mapping, procrastinating, staring into space, and writing nonsense words. I got an insight into the type of heavy research work that a digital strategist faces everyday and, to my surprise, I didn’t completely hate it. Yes, even looking at Google Scholar and AdWords. I’m a bit of a geek anyway, my friends call me ‘Wikipedia’, but I really didn’t have an understanding of what digital strategists actually do. I have newfound appreciation and respect.
Mark suggested some methods to create ideas, and I tried them out. I really treated the whole course as a workshop, and a way to pick up techniques that I can apply to my day job.
Still, I’m not saying it was easy. Far from it. I had to silence the inner critic and work at the task. Ideas didn’t pour out. Part of the process was to not be afraid to let something wild out of the bag. But sometimes my brain felt like a sputtering motor, not a purring Ferrari. Still, it got a little easier the more I worked at it.
I was lucky to be enrolled with far more creative and talented students from all over the world, as it helped me to push myself. Some students work just blew me away. One regret is that, I spent so much time working on my own project that there were many student works that I missed out. I’m still coming to the site to check out the latest updates. (One of the perks of Skillshare is you can continue on your project after the class is over, just to continue the exercise).
I’m not entirely happy with the work I submitted, but I think it was a good start. One of my traits is I’m a perfectionist, so I can keep working on things forever, never finishing them. I forced myself to make the deadline and then put the pencil down. Sticking to the deadline forced me to push myself, and resulted in some late nights. On the whole, though, I’m satisfied with my project as I think it was potential for many applications beyond this project. It provides a service, and doesn’t force people to change their behaviours. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to donate, to avoid any barriers.
Now that the course is over, I have taken some of the techniques that I learned, and applied them to my work. I am also running an ideation session at work, to teach my peers about ways they can unlock their creative mind.
I’d definitely do this course again, and I’ve got a few others on my watchlist. Mark runs a strategist one that I’m definitely going to check out. Hopefully I’ll run into some of the same students there!
Bring it on 2013, I still have a lot to learn.
Check out details of the course, and my final project at this link. Stop Wishing You Had Ideas and Have Them: 2-Week Mental Workout