Chapter 8


If I learn anything from this project and experience, it is that endings should usher better beginnings. Here are seven learnings gleaned from my reflection journal, Evernote blurts, and between the lines on the making of this project.
1. Reframe, Reflect: at least once a week
Hyper Island taught me was the power of reflection. Through a few questions, I could distance myself from the task at hand, and little by little - document, observe, and untangle. Reflection wasn't confined to just the project, but many times, on life itself. Often we are faced with conflicts that have its roots in the emotional. I emerged from reflections usually triumphant, having cemented a learning or simply closing the loop.

2. Go analog: buy a notebook you like

For this project, I'd grappled with the best way to capture my learnings. A public blog was the first choice, befitting for an era of sharing and gloating. Then one day in a random coffee shop, feeling lost in space, time, and my topic, I rapidly filled six pages in a Field Notes notebook. A deep sigh and a tired right hand later, I knew the answer for me was going analog. The rapid motion of ink on paper, the indecipherable scribbling , the feeling of presence and mobility, all made the exercise joyful.

3. Know how you work: find the best circumstances
One of the biggest lessons of working solo on a long project is knowing how you work. Without the natural rhythm of a workplace, how does one persevere? It didn't start pretty. Wandering from the study to the kitchen became a mournful affair. Coffeeshops were not quite the answer either. It was a profound loneliness from a lack of real interactions. I found my perfect set up accidentally, when I lived with my mother for three weeks and injected myself in her routine of cooking, feeding, dish cleaning, and interacting with an elderly she took care of. I would often write intensely for half an hour, then help around the house, then write more.
4. Energy units: Don't work eight hours a day
I'd audaciously set full days for work on this project, picturing monks in solitude. I woke up to the research, and went to bed to the research. My mind constantly inundated. Many ambitious days were unproductive. As an interviewee mentioned, we should think of our time as energy units instead of hours. So I learned to structure my days better, splicing my day with learning new things (news, magazines, fiction), going to the gym, seeing friends, and sometimes not even working intensely until the afternoon for four hours straight.

5. Get your technology together: Tech might be perfect, you're not
Tech makes everything easy these days. Dating is a swipe. Photos are a click. Recording interviews from industry leaders is a push of a button, a cinch. Yet somehow I still ended up missing significant portions of two good interviews because I'm an imperfect human using perfect machines. Know your gadgets. Whether you're taking photos, or recording interviews, be vigilant. Make sure to take notes in case either fails.

6. Lay Traps: Trap yourself with action deadlines
How to be proactive in a project that involves twenty interviews? To motivate myself for the meetings, I laid traps for myself. In one afternoon I approached a dozen candidates in an email / WeChat frenzy, including the date and time I'd like to meet. Before you know it, I'd locked myself in with mini-deadlines for the interviews that had to be prepared and faced. In the end, I'd only faced two rejections (no responses), and the majority of the conversations were wonderful sharing sessions for both parties involved. In other words, just do it. You'll have fun.

7. Talk to Her: Talk when you're stuck
I'd spent a month and a half dragging a previous research topic through mud trying to make it work. Then one day I simply started talking to some of the people I wanted to interview. In talking, I was hitting less of a nerve with my topic (gender), but when it came to managing teams and people, strong opinions emerged. This was a fertile topic and one that aligned with what I'd been learning. Talking to people even though I "wasn't ready" gave me direction when I was stuck. Meanwhile, I'm grateful for "all the hours wasted." It taught me that defining the problem, most of the times, is really the biggest problem.
Woolfe, Z. (2016) A Composer and His Wife: Creativity Through Kink. [Online] [Accessed 27 Feb 2015]

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