March 27, 2006

Monkey on Your Desk? Morph It, Mosh It, Write It Up

published this at 7:55 am

Boring, Broken, or Both.

“The only thing an intelligent child can do with a complete toy is take it apart,” a kindergarten teacher told me. “An incomplete toy lets children use their imaginations.”

–Todd Oppenheimer, Schooling the Imagination (About the Waldorf Schools)
Finding Ideas Outside of the Box logo 2

Some days it’s a “have-to.” A monkey crawled on your desk that you don’t want to fix or write about. You’re face to face with something that is boring, broken, or both. You can do the grown-up thing. Dig in, reach for a bandage to fix it, and get things done. OR You can do what a kid would do–pull it apart to see how things work.

Be a Genius–Morph and Mosh It

Take it a part and see what it’s made of. That’s what Leonardo would do. That’s what most curious kids would do too. Don’t put a band-aid on it. Morph it into something else. Mosh parts of other things into it. Make it into something new. Here are some ways that you might do that with that problem or a boring idea that you have to write about.

1. Find the parts. Breaking things down into manageable chunks makes the most boring, broken, or beastly task less powerful. It puts you in charge. It also gives you a chance to see how things fit.

2. Identify which parts need attending to and which do not. When we look at a whole, the details can be a distraction. Push those details out of the way. Pick three things that deserve attention and focus in on only them. Let me track this with two scenarios.

3. Morph it. Arrange and rearrange the parts you have identified. Decide how those parts fit best together. Do it as if you were rebuilding a toy–What if this went here, or here, or here?

Think of the outcome each time your rearrange things. This sounds like a lot, but we’re only talking a few seconds here.

4. When you have the parts where you want them, look for a pattern in what you’ve got. What you’re looking for is the big idea–the whole behind the parts you’ve made. This is the “putting things back together” stage.

If you can’t find a pattern in what you’ve got, rework your parts until they gel. It won’t take long now that you know you’re looking for a cohesive whole.

5. Mosh it. Add some spark from the outside. Ideas from outside the situation add energy and change the way you feel about the task at hand. Re-introduce the details that were there, if they’re pertinent, but be sure to include something totally new.

Write It Up

Can’t avoid it any longer. It’s time to write things up, but that boring, broken or both “have to” is under your control. Now you have a plan for what you want to say or do. So writing should go easy on you, and the little voice that would have been whispering in your ear, “I hate this. I hate this,” should be quiet too.

Looking at this process on paper may seem a lot, but actually, it takes far less time than most folks I know spend thinking about how much we don’t want to deal with that “have to” on our desks.

And the payoff is you feel so good when you’ve made that monkey go away, and you know you’ve thought it through so that the hairy guy isn’t going to come back.

I hate monkeys on my desk.

–ME “Liz” Strauss

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Critical Skills 1: Strategic Deep Thinking
Start in the Middle 3: Alligators and Anarchists
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Writing–Ugh! 10 Reasons to Get Jazzed about Writing

Filed under Content, Outside the Box, Successful Blog, Writing | 9 Comments »

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9 Comments to “Monkey on Your Desk? Morph It, Mosh It, Write It Up”

  1. March 27th, 2006 at 9:00 am
    Joe said

    Hey Liz,

    Are you looking over my shoulder? I thought I was the only one to see that Monkey…

    I have a list of posts and ideas that at this point need some Real Work, or they will never get written.

    Thanks for the inspiration,


  2. March 27th, 2006 at 9:02 am
    Brian Clark said

    Great post! Somethime I know what I want to write about, but don’t know “how” I want to tell the story. The pattern emerged after re-watching a movie Friday night. So, my lastest post ended up a total mashup of seemingly unrelated people and circumstances, but I think (I hope) it still gets the point across.

    Sometimes you just have to roll with it. :)

  3. March 27th, 2006 at 9:04 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Joe,
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. I thought you heard me there. :)

    That’s what I’m here for to make your life easier. Be sure to ask if there’s something else I can do.

    Don’t miss “Writing–Ugh! 10 Reasons to Get Jazzed about Writing”

    That might help too!

  4. March 27th, 2006 at 9:06 am
    ME Strauss said

    You’re so right, Brian.

    That’s a sign of creativity–to be able to pull ideas from everywhere and put them together into a new whole. You’re already outside the box. No wonder you left those lawyers where they are . . . :)


  5. March 27th, 2006 at 9:09 am
    Brian Clark said

    Ran away screaming is more like it. :)

  6. March 27th, 2006 at 9:11 am
    ME Strauss said

    Yeah, I understand why that might be–everything to them is a box.

    Why don’t they tell you in college to also look at the people you will have to work with in the career you’re about to choose?


  7. March 27th, 2006 at 11:21 am
    Joe said

    Hey Liz,

    I read that yesterday, which is why I at least had a head start. That and I forget the name of the post about writing the ideas down to have a place to start.

    That’s why I come back all the time, so you can’t sneak up on me. :-)


  8. March 27th, 2006 at 11:28 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hey Joe,
    I’m glad to see you here all of the time.
    Like I said, it gets lonely inside of this computer. These bits and bytes just don’t talk my language. They don’t listen very well either. :)


  9. April 3rd, 2006 at 10:40 pm
    Successful Blog - Critical Skill 2: Mental Flexibility Test said

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