Posts tagged writing
In praise of white space & blank slates
blank-blank-space-close-up-942872.jpg

The designer refers to it as white space.

The architect: open space.

The artist: a clean slate.

The writer: a blank page.

Others may call it wasted or dead space.

And when the critics are looking over your shoulder as you contemplate your space, they might be the ones calling it out as under-designed, writers block, inefficient, or unfinished.

 

Space: an invitation with deep-seated fear

Many of us feel compelled to fill our space. We’ve bought into the idea that this it is what’s required of us. We’ve been led to believe that to behold the blank, dead, empty, open or white space somehow signals that we’re lazy or unproductive. Too often the result is that we act out of fear.

Instead we should be embracing what is not yet on the invisible sketch canvas of what’s to come. That is the invitation to discovering new-found joy.

Recently we embraced this invitation and went on a brief hiatus from Joy Venture (it’s our second such break since starting JV). In this downtime when we weren’t concerned with pushing out the next podcast, we had space to think about and do – other things. Things that were necessary, things that stretched us, and things that demanded out attention. But just as important, no thing at all. The idea of setting up margin in your life – not feeling compelled to fill your space, your calendar, your social feed, etc. – and leaving room to breathe, think about and pursue different ideas is important. These are themes worth touching on as we move forward.

 

Risks and rewards of exploring the space

Specifically we used our blank and empty space since November to scrutinize Joy Venture. There was real risk in confronting the fact that this thing we’ve poured ourselves into might have run its course – and we needed to wrestle with that reality.

  • Should we continue?

  • If so, where do we go next?

  • How might we do new and different things?

  • How do we stay true to Joy Venture’s purpose while also pursuing new voices and ideas?

 We also had to push back against conventional wisdom, which suggested we were foolish to “go dark” without new content for months. What about our followers? What about momentum? What about the timely posts you need to stay relevant? What about securing a sponsor to help us grow, grow, grow? 

To us, and specifically for the podcast, relevance has more to do with real interactions than it does regular rhythms to catch a surfing audience. We cannot do this for the likes and shares. We’re unable to run on the infinite treadmill of production and find joy in that kind of effort. We know that for most things in life less is more. We tend to cherish what’s finite versus what is in abundance all around us. We believe the work must resonate at a deeper level for people, ourselves included.

While we do look at our analytics, we hold dear the responses we get from people who take time to send us a thoughtful note. Those individual pieces of feedback obliterate how we think about the algorithms of visibility, should we ever feel tempted to allow data to dictate our joy.

 

Questions to contemplate

But this isn’t about us. This invitation also is for you, friend and follower. So we ask you, the individual who is at least moderately intrigued with this idea of discovering joy –

  • Have you embraced the white, blank, empty, open and dead space in your life? Why not?

  • Have you been feverishly filling your spaces out of obligation? Why?

  • Will you accept the invitation that space affords and create margin in the months ahead to see what you can begin to draft on the invisible sketch canvas?

  • What do you want to create that you’ve been afraid to pursue? What’s holding you back from taking the initial steps?

 

The space and time away from Joy Venture these past months confirmed its value for us, especially as others continue to discover what we’re up to and choose to listen and lean in. It has renewed us and refreshed some of our thinking about where we go from here.

All this to say, our hiatus has been rewarding and we’re ready to return to the podcast this spring with new episodes of insight and extraordinary individuals. We hope it will be the inspiration and encouragement you need to step off the treadmill of production to pursue things that matter.

Thank you for your ongoing encouragement of us as we pursue this endeavor in hopes of helping others discover, develop and spread their joy.

Failure is trendy. Don't buy the hype.
 
Beckett's #epicfail                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo credit: deshi yin

Beckett's #epicfail                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo credit: deshi yin

There was a time when I embraced Beckett’s quote. The rejection slips I received during my college days – and long thereafter – were stark reminders of the difficult road ahead of me as a young writer, one that demanded I put in the hard work if I hoped to get better.

Yet a strange phenomenon has appeared across the books, blogs and posts we read in the last few years. Failure, something that nobody wanted to be associated with, recently has become a badge of honor of sorts. People are more comfortable wearing failure on their sleeve and talking about it as part of their incredible catapult to success.

This new romanticism around failure is cloaked in a faux sense of vulnerability. Talking about past failures is much different than staring adversity smack in the face, and few are the people who stand up and embrace or even entertain the idea of failure as it unfolds.

Failure has become a popular plot line for storytelling.

It also has become a disingenuous narrative.

It seems as though 'failure is the new success' has become an acceptable way in which to masquerade our self-righteous and narcissistic ways, and proclaim our greatness as pure grit...so long as a little light is cast upon the missteps. 

That's not to say failure isn't real. Things do fail. And people sometimes do fail us. However, failure is being thrown around in ways that seem all too trivial and misguided, giving any misstep #EpicFail clout and providing us with an out or permission to quit. Worse, it’s becoming part of a narrative that ends with a predictable conclusion of success. At Joy Venture, we're of the mind that we should abandon the failure narrative and instead write a more honest one.

For example, perhaps you've seen the inspirational quote, post or infographic with Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and how his secret recipe was rejected a whopping 1,009 times. We don't buy this as a failure narrative despite its current packaging. If anything it is a story of perseverance, of finding the right people who believed in his idea, and of relentless hard work. We should acknowledge the effort for what it is.

 

Failure is not part of the joy narrative

After a few years assisting startups in two different business incubators, I became wise to a disheartening trend. Months after mentoring passionate entrepreneurs, I learned many had abandoned their "big idea" and were off doing something completely different. There are a variety of reasons for abandoning an business venture , and Gallup confirms many of the trails of startups. Perhaps they weren’t making money, or securing venture capital, or scaling fast enough, or destined to be bought out. Perhaps it was the lure of being the boss (or running from other bosses). Or maybe they simply underestimated the difficulty, determination and patience needed to grow a business the old fashion way: year after year after long and toilsome year, without of the euphoria of instant success.

In contrast, there are joy ventures.   

Again and again through podcast interviews on Joy Venture, we’re finding that people don’t fail at what they truly love. That’s not to say they don’t experience setbacks or grow in new and surprising directions. Rather they gravitate toward and lean into those things they love and what they believe they were created to do, regardless of the challenges. They refuse to let obstacles become mile markers on some imminent road of failure. Instead, they persevere.

There’s a stark difference in pursuing an opportunity and pursuing your joy. When things get awkward and sideways, we tend to go looking for new opportunities. It’s the opposite with joy: here we don’t find ourselves cutting bait and running the other way.

While opportunities and ideas emerge within the context of pursuing your joy, they don't define your joy venture. 

So what are you pursuing: opportunities or joy? The end result or the act of doing something meaningful?

 

Persistence pays off

My early and ongoing lack of success as a writer didn’t plummet me into despair or encourage me to quit, it focused my resolve: Write more. Write better. Find my voice. Learn the rules. Break the rules. Discern who would be responsive to my quirky style of prose. Stay engaged and don’t give up.

By doing this, the literary and academic journals that I admired were starting to publish my work. It didn't happen in 12 weeks or even 12 months. Instead, it took 12 long years. To characterize those dozen years as failure is to discard everything learned and the discoveries that emerged during that time. It was and still is a joy venture. I just didn’t know to call it that at the time.

Romanticizing failed opportunities is easy – anyone can do it. Take a different path.

Joy, on the other hand, is about discovery and development. In essence, it’s always a work in progress. Pursue it and you’ll have a treasure trove of stories about the journey and the progress – the kind we all yearn for and desire to share with others.