Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Small Step

As mentioned the other day, I've been reading this book on Kaizen and as promised, I will share with you what I am learning. My plan is to use it in all aspects of my life and share the process with my clients but on this blog, I will only talk about how it might relate to the writing discipline.
One of the first practices that Robert Maurer, the author of The Kaizen Way, writes about is the practice of asking small questions. The notion is two-fold. Our brain likes questions - that is why mindmaps work so brilliantly and why we like puzzles and games so much. The brain likes to wrestle with what it doesn't know. Like our muscles actually like movement. The other good reason to use small questions is that it helps us on our path to success (whatever that might mean for you) by flying under the radar of the mid-brain so that sleeping mammal doesn't wake up grumpy and frightened and put a stop to what we're endeavoring to change.

Here are some questions that I'm asking myself in regards to my writing:

  1. How could I incorporate a few more minutes of writing into my daily routine?
  2. What might I do in order to keep the fun in writing?
  3. If I knew that my time on earth was limited, which writing project would I work on?
  4. With each of my works in progress what small questions can I ask my protagonist in order to find out what next? (oh, oh, small question about small questions!!!!)
  5. Who could I ask for help with my writing?
That is where I'm at today. As I understand it, I will ask myself these questions again and again until my hippocampus (part of my mammalian brain in charge of storage and retrieval) will pay attention and create answers. The hippocampus's main criterion for storage is repetition so don't worry about a broken record approach.

Some other questions that this book poses to get us in the small question mode:

  1. If I were guaranteed not to fail, what would I be doing differently?
  2. What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal?
  3. Is there a person whose voice and input I haven't heard in a long time? What small question could I ask this person?
  4. Is there one small thing that is special about my writing?   (slightly adapted :) ) If you continue to ask yourself this, you will train your mind to look for what's good and right, and that will assist your writing. It is easy to focus on what doesn't work...
We have begun! If anyone who is keen on giving this a try would tell me what questions they are trying (one or two is fine) and how it goes - that would be very helpful. We could support each other in making these changes. Thursdays will be for Kaizen here at the ranch.

a photo from the Vancouver trip - seems like a dream


Karen Walker said...

The book sounds wonderful and I will put in my to purchase list. I will eagerly look forward to following this discussion on Thursdays, Jan. Thanks for sharing the book and your process with it.

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Thanks for sharing what you are learning. As you know, research shows clearly that we learn by answering questions - by wondering about what we don't know and fiddling with it 'till it makes sense. You've chosen some good questions to get yourself thinking.

GigglesandGuns said...

I get the short question thing since I have the attention span of a ...

Hart Johnson said...

Sounds like a great approach! I think that hippocampus is a little like a dog... if you repeat yourself enough and include rewards, it will learn... I love breaking things into baby steps, but I am not good about remembering all those 'raise the stakes' 'push in a new direction' questions. And when I ask things like 'what is one thing that might make this stronger' my inner smartass always comes back with something like 'an alpaca'.

Jemi Fraser said...

Very cool idea! I'm going to have to think on this a bit and see how it can work in my life. Thanks.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love the idea of this method! Think I'll link to your post for my Saturday blog...