When I first started this blog, I was soo ready. I had hundreds of ideas I wanted to communicate, and I just needed somewhere to put them. For the first week or so, I wrote a lot. Or at least, it *felt* like a lot, for a number-crunchy non-writer like me. I wrote what was on my mind. I wrote posts inspired by feedback I had gotten from people who read my earlier posts. I had never counted writing as one of my strengths, yet people were saying positive things about what I had written.
And then it occurred to me:
Crap. People are actually reading what I’m writing. What should I write next? Should I finish the networking series? Should I continue to write about self-exploration? Should I write things that will be useful to the undergrads I’m speaking to next week, or should I write something for my friend who’s going on a sabbatical? Who should I write for, and when?
So, you’ve probably noticed (or maybe not, because who’s really waiting for my next post) that I haven’t written anything new for more than a week. Here’s the advice I had a hard time putting into practice:
There are two types of thinking: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Both are useful in creativity and problem solving, but you must keep them separate.
Divergent thinking is what you’re doing when you have some sort of central idea or question, and then start branching out from that center as you explore possibilities. What do I want to write about? I could write something useful for undergrads, such as informational interviewing or pitching your own summer internship. Or, I could write something about personal growth, like debunking deleterious mental models or coming to terms with your inner critic. Or I could write about how I’m feeling right now. You may follow a train of thought all the way out to the furthest tangent, jump back to another idea and continue brainstorming down that branch. During divergent thinking, your ideas grow and expand outward.
Convergent thinking is what you’re doing when you start applying criteria to various ideas and eliminate them if they don’t work or aren’t optimal. I should write about something relevant to all audiences who may read this blog, so I don’t turn anyone away. I should write about something I’ve been thinking about for a while, so it’ll come easier to me. I guess I’ll table the undergrad specific topics for later, as well as some of the topics that aren’t currently on my to-write list. In convergent thinking, you prune away possibilities until you close in on *the answer*.
When done separately, divergent and convergent thinking are great tools for answering questions like “what should I do.” The divergent thinking stage is full of inspiration and possibility. The convergent phase leads you through practicality and eventually to clarity.
However, simultaneous divergent and convergent thinking just leads to a whole lot of feeling stuck. And that’s where I was for the past few days. As soon as a new thought about writing popped into my head, it got shot down. Another one would sprout up, and immediately would get cut down.
I really should post something to my blog or folks will stop reading it.
Thanks a lot, should-monster. Hey, I tell you what. Why don’t you take an hour-long nap while I write about what this next post could say, and then when you wake up, you can tell me whether I should post it or not.
Looks fine to me. You should post it.