Picture the Intangible to Build It

It is impossible to create anything that you have not clearly imagined.

How does your imagination work?  Do you have a process that enhances your effectiveness for achieving pragmatic results?

Steve Wozniak at home

Image via Wikipedia

I was interested to learn that the creative genius of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was his gift for visualizing technology, something he learned from his father.

Visualize From Beginning to End

Instead of thinking in terms of equations and formulas, Woz learned to picture the physical structure of what he was creating – from the basic technology building blocks (atoms and electrons) all the way through to the finished product.

This works not just with technology, but for any creative endeavor that starts with the intangible.

Whether I’m presenting to a live audience or writing for a virtual audience, I’m always guided by a mental picture – usually one that is circular in nature. I start with a positioning statement of some kind, support it with key points, and circle back to reinforce the initial statement.

Darren Rouse of Problogger uses the metaphor of a sandwich to describe his thought process on blogging- one which is quite similar to my circular image.

While Darren’s picture is arguably more tangible, I prefer to simply think of a well-written article as a linear progression that is wrapped within a circle (instead of two slices of bread). It’s clean and simple and works best for me.

November has become synonymous with NaNoWriMo  – an annual opportunity for aspiring novelists to achieve substantial progress on their novel.  As a non-fiction writer, I have nevertheless learned a few pointers from the discussion surrounding this event.

One accomplished novelist shared this: The first sentence cannot be written until the last sentence has been written.  I interpret this as seeing the beginning and end with absolute clarity – then filling in the blanks as you write.

To do that, she suggests starting with characters – which makes sense, because they are what make a novel come alive. She goes on to suggest imagining the setting as a character too.  Now that gives you something to think about.

This reminded me of how the creative process has worked at Apple. When Steve Jobs and his team imagined a picture of “a thousand songs in your pocket,” suddenly building the first iPod was much easier.

They knew what they had to work with, and had a clear vision for what they wanted to build.

What Are You Planning to Build?

My next project happens to be a book to help mainstream small businesses make the most of social media and Internet marketing – a diverse group that typically expects practical examples and a step-by-step approach.

While I have a clear picture of my audience and the content I plan to share, I’ll admit to previously being challenged with the best way to organize it. Now I have a picture.  It’s a linear progression of smaller circles wrapped by larger concentric circles.

Everyone creates. Consider how you can do so more skillfully by visualizing what you are creating – from beginning to end, and with extra emphasis on those two critical parameters.

That picture will guide you and allow you to then let the creative juices flow – making it come alive in ways you may not have imagined.

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Until tomorrow,  Jeff