With so much information available online, it can feel like learning’s gotten infinitely more complicated. But what if it were as simple as crossing a creek by jumping from stone to stone?
Consider this example: I’ve got a book coming out in the fall of 2015, so I want to learn how to create a platform to launch it online. As I’ve been curating information, I’ve noticed that the steps of my learning process look a lot like the steps you take to cross a creek.
To start, I jump to the stone that’s immediately in front of me. I track down a useful resource, like Jane Friedman’s blog on writing and publishing. In a recent post, she announces an upcoming webinar with author Tim Grahl, in which he’ll share strategies to help authors successfully launch their books. I sign up for the free webinar, participate in it, walk away with great information, and then organize that information online in an Evernote notebook.
Next, I jump sideways, to a nearby stone, because it’s the best way to move forward again. I’ve been listening to Todd Henry’s podcast, The Accidental Creative, for nearly a year. Recently he interviewed someone whose website led me to someone else. On that website, I learned about Jeff Goins, an experienced author who’s built successful book platforms. Notice that I had to make several horizontal connections – step sideways several times – in order to find Jeff. But it’s been worth it. His resources have been invaluable. He’s got a terrific website, a thoughtful blog, and he maintains a helpful Twitter stream. I’ve now read his book, You are a Writer, and I regularly listen to his podcast, The Portfolio Life. And Jeff’s resources have allowed me to connect to several experienced authors who’ve shared insights on their book launches.
At this point, I realize I need to step on the stone behind me in order to keep moving forward. Counter-intuitive, I know, but a part of the process. While accessing information in my online feed, I learn that someone interviewed Jane Friedman a while back about ways to develop compelling content for a book launch. While I hadn’t planned to backtrack, I decide to find the interview and see if it’s worth listening to. After I find it, I realize it’s worth it, so I schedule time to hear it. I then take notes and add them to my Evernote notebook.
Finally, in the process of leaping to another stone, I wind up falling in the creek, that is, I get sucked into learning something that’s only tangentially related to my topic. During my research, I happen to listen to a podcast episode in which Jeff Goins discusses how online magazines, like Medium, are shaping the publishing industry. In it, he references several articles that I end up reading. Just as I’m experiencing the dopamine hit that comes from learning a new word like platisher, it hits me. I realize I’ve fallen in the creek — I’ve gone down an information rabbit hole. At this point I catch myself, regroup, and get back to my initial learning goals. I start looking for the next stepping stone, one that’s directly in front of me.
That’s how simple the learning process can be, especially when you’re passionate about what you need to learn or when there’s some urgency to it. Four simple stepping stones. Write me and let me know which creek you’re crossing.