My friend Jenny is an insanely talented and hysterically funny writer, as evidenced by her crazy-popular blog, The Bloggess (warning: her blog is seriously irreverent and profane), and her New York Times bestselling book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened (yet another warning: her book is equally irreverent and profane). Jenny's humour is observational, and her ability to point out the ridiculous in just about every situation is as close to prodigious as I've ever seen.
One of the things I love about the way Jenny works is that despite the fact that all of her writing is done on a computer keyboard, she always has a tiny notebook on her, to jot down notes or observations or ideas as they occur to her throughout the day. It's awesome to watch: I'll be with her somewhere, or we'll be hanging out with a group of friends, and if a sign or a funny image suddenly appears, she'll quietly pull out her notebook, write down a couple of words to remind herself about the situation later, return the notebook to her pocket or purse, and resume her day. It happens fast -- blink and you'll miss it -- but it happens. In fact, just yesterday we were on the phone, and she said something wickedly, insanely funny that had me in tears (I don't honestly remember exactly what, tearfully hilarious situations arise with Jenny a lot), when suddenly, I stopped gasping for breath and said seriously:
"Dude, that was really good. You need to pull your notebook out and write that down."
"Already on it," came her voice on the other end of the line, and I could hear her pen scratching on paper. A second or two later, our conversation continued.
I love that despite all the technology at her disposal -- she has an smart phone where she could type or email a quick note to herself, after all, and I think she was actually sitting in front of her computer while we were talking -- she chooses to go analog with her ideas. I love this, because that's how it works for me: when I'm struggling with a writing concept, for example, or I need a jolt of inspiration, I invariably find it when I step away from my screen -- take a walk, say; or begin writing longhand instead of on the computer -- I have the breakthrough I was looking for. In fact, sometimes I think inspiration works the same way as connection: connection can certainly happen online, but sometimes you need to be with someone face-to-face; similarly, I wonder if inspiration and creativity necessarily requires a bit of offline time as well.
I wonder if those of us who do the majority of our work online -- and let's face it, that statement covers a multitude of professions -- would do well to cultivate a few offline creative habits. Maybe the way to boost our creative work online is to spend some considerable time doing some of it offline.
Unrelated (or maybe not), yesterday when I was taking a walk to clear my head, I was thinking about an email I'd received earlier from my friend Laura Mayes, who had asked me to send her a photograph of my workspace for a project she's working on. I did, and suddenly thought that it would be really cool to see the workspaces of all of the people I follow online. So when I finished my walk (and shot the image above), I came home and threw together Where Bloggers Blog, featuring the workspaces of bloggers all over the world.
Want to play along? Submission guidelines and how-tos are here.