I went out on a date yesterday afternoon with the Hubster. Our idea of a date of course was to spend the morning at the TEDxNASA conference. If you’ve never heard of TEDxNASA, go to YouTube and do a search. You will find videos of all their speakers and guests from previous years. It’s pretty amazing stuff. A lot of smart, creative people come talk about the work they do, how they solve problems, how they use creativity to make things happen. I was only able to spend half the day at TEDx, since I had to go back to my “mommy” job at 3PM and fetch the kids from school, but what I did get to hear was fantastic. And I think the two most important thing I took away from that conference were:
A pair of auditorium seats.
No, just kidding. I didn’t steal any auditorium seats (though that would have been pretty funny/gotten me arrested). The actual most important things I took away from that conference were these:
“What’s the coolest thing I could do today?”
“Whatever you think your problem is, skip it.”
A brief explaination about these. The first comes from last year’s TEDxNASA. A musician named Mike Rayburn was one of the presenters and this was sort of the theme of his presentation. You can see it here on YouTube. The idea was, think of what’s cool first, then maybe worry about what’s possible. If you could do anything, absolutely anything — no restrictions, no limitations, no one saying “That’s not even possible” — what would you do? Whatever it is, it’s bound to be something you think is incredibly fun and cool. And I like that idea. I hate doing things that are dull and boring, and I’ve tried as much as possible to avoid doing stuff like that, especially when it comes to my writing and art.
The second part of this, skip the problem, came from a speaker I heard yesterday, Daniel Burrus. Burrus talked about how to deal with problems by basically skipping them. People think they know what their problem is, but in actuallity they don’t. We’re always looking at the wrong problem, trying to solve it, when really we could focus all our efforts elsewhere. Burrus’ solution to this was to “skip the problem.” He had a lot of fantastic examples, including a recent one where Harley Davidson wanted to sell motorcycles in India, but the import tarrif on the bikes would double the price, making it impossible to sell a bike to anyone. Everyone thought the problem was paying the tarrifs. Burrus’ advice was to skip the tarrifs. How do you do that? By not importing bikes to India. Instead, Harley Davidson made the decision to import parts which aren’t subject to the tarrif, and then use those parts to build the bikes in India. They skipped the problem they thought they had and got the result they wanted.
I really liked that idea, especially when it comes to problems I think I have with my work. Problem number one for me is promoting and selling books. I hate the standard/preferred methods of promotion – Yahoo lists, FaceBook, MySpace, contests and giveaways, sending in books for reviews at websites that deal primarily with erotic romance as opposed to spec fic erotica (totally NOT the same genres). Those things are so frikkin’ tedious and boring! And such a huge waste of time for me! I have yet to see any book sales come from doing stuff like that (unlike talking at conventions, which does result in at least a few sales). And I hate wasting time I could be using to do cool things, like write stories I really love or draw pictures or podcast…
So what to do? Skip my problem – i.e. don’t market and sell my books — and focus on the cool stuff I’d rather do instead.
I did that once before, three years ago. I started the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast and I wrote and produced a short story every week and I gave it away for FREE! Did that help me sell books? No, but in the end it did solve a couple of other problems I was having. A) I went from having written only a handful of stories to having written over 170 stories in three years. And 2) I was no longer a great unknown to a lot of small press and epublishers. In other words, I had stories I could submit to anthologies and I was no longer going to end up in the slush pile because nobody knew who the fuck I was. I’ve actually published and been paid for more short stories in the last year, and they all came from Heat Flash. Plus, I’ve even been invited by a couple publishers and editors to submit stuff to anthologies. That’s them contacting me for a story, not me going to them. How cool is that?
So I’m thinking it’s time to do something similar again, maybe on a more informal basis since I really want to get away from the weekly deadline for a while. Much as I loved doing it, the podcast was starting to get exhausting. So now, the idea is to find other cool things to do, and completely skip doing the marketing and selling of my work. I think I want to see if that might just take care of itself while I go do the stuff I’m better at anyway. In fact, I want to see what will happen if I spend a few months waking up every morning and saying, “What’s the coolest thing I could do today?” and then go do that thing. Like I did this morning…
It ain’t nearly finished yet, but it’s slowly progressing. And when it’s done, maybe I’ll find a way to sell it as a print people can order. That might be cool. I’ll keep posting the updated WIP while I work on it, so you can see how things go.
But for right now, I’m going to go do something cool.