A Hipster-Inspired New Year's Resolution
By Tai Anderson, December 31, 2016
I want to write a book. I’ve developed a simple, fun, marketing framework that I feel like could help many businesses better connect with their customers and help turn those customers into fans. I’ve created the outline and even given a keynote on the subject a dozen times. I call it “Market Like A Rockstar.” In my talk, I translate lessons from the best practices in music to the business world in ways that are simple to understand. I want to get the thoughts down into a concise book that I can give away to the people I meet to help them grow their businesses. (I'm a big fan of the Tribes-sized books that can be read in just a few hours.) The thought has been swirling in my head for 12 months, but every time I sit down to write the book, I find myself distracted. In 2016, I failed to turn my intention into reality.
Here is my problem with writing. (Look at that squirrel!) I am easily distracted. Whenever I sit down to do any writing on my laptop computer, I find a world of distraction just a new browser tab away; Twitter, Facebook, news feeds... Soon, my margin to work on turning the outline in my head into words on paper is evaporated into the Grand Canyon of Internet distractions.
I’m writing this blog on a new tool that I’m hoping to use to help bridge the gap between intention and execution. A few months ago, a coworker sent me a link to the Qwerkywriter, a Bluetooth keyboard with the look and feel of a vintage typewriter. It looked to be beautifully crafted, but a bit expensive at $300 for a keyboard with no more functionality than one I could pick up for $29.99 on Amazon.com. I thought it would make a great gift for the accomplished writers I know, but not really a sensible purchase for someone who primarily writes blogs about his son’s high school football team.
However, this Christmas, I decided to use some "Christmas cash" to treat myself to the Qwerkywriter, and this blog is its native journey. With every letter I write, I feel the type lever descend and a click that emulates a type bar striking paper. My hope is to utilize this tool to help me complete a book in 2017. Why would I think a retro-modern keyboard would help me finish a book?
Recently, a professional acquaintance, Tripp Crosby, who hosted Leadercast 2016, posted a picture on Instagram of a new stereo and turntable setup he had assembled with his desire to be more intentional with his music listening. At first, his post felt like another tribute to the nostalgic longings of the millennials we often discount as "hipsters."
Why listen to music on vinyl when it is far less convenient? Like everyone else, I can now listen to music in more places than ever. All of my thousands of songs are stored in the cloud, accessible on any of my iDevices. Additionally, I subscribe to Apple Music, where I can listen to just about anything I would ever want, as long as I have an internet signal.
So, do I? Actually, no. Despite the accessibility, I’ve listened to less music than ever in 2016. Apart from a few "mourning marathons" for George Michael and Prince, as a primary activity, I listen to music far less than ever. Even my commutes and jogs have been filled with podcasts instead of music.
So, eager to tap into the intentionally Tripp had described, and far too old and far too beardless to ever be labeled a “hipster,” I hooked up my old turntable and pulled out a few records. Then, I sat down to emulate an activity of my youth; listening to music as a singular activity.
The resulting hour felt a bit like a meditative exercise. I wasn't skimming through tracks. I was listening to an entire album start to finish. I had to will my mind from wandering. I was restless. I wanted to get up and do other things while I listened. I had to push through my own short attention span and the impulse to relegate music to a secondary activity. The result wasn’t life-changing. But, I felt just a bit more focused, less distracted, perhaps a bit more of my true, authentic self. I heard nuances to the music that I had never before heard.
My friend and mentor, Jim Huling, speaks and writes often about the whirlwind of life, and he helps business teams navigate out of them to better clarity and execution. I don’t know if my music listening exercise rescued me from the whirlwind, but the time certainly felt like a shelter from the storm, and it gave me an idea. Perhaps, the same focused energy I applied to appreciating music could have a similar effect on my ability to write without distraction.
It was in that spirit, that I purchased the Qwerkywriter. I am hoping that it will prove to be a tool, not just a nod to a bygone aesthetic and craftsmanship.
So, this blog is my pilot experiment. I’ve synced the Qwerkywriter to my iPad and am writing with Google Docs. I have no notifications on my iPad turned on, and I’ve put my phone in my backpack. My sole activity is putting words on the page, one keystroke at a time. The success of the larger experiment will ultimately be determined by the results; does it help me write my book in 2017?
This is what I can tell you so far. Writing on the Qwerkywriter makes me feel like a writer. I’ve removed some of the distractions of life and have written this blog in about 1/2 of the time as normal. It's less practical and even a bit more clunky than just writing on my laptop, just like listening to music on vinyl is far less convenient than just streaming it on Apple Music. However, it feels real. It's as if the sound of every keystroke is whispering in my ear, "you can do it."
I'm starting to believe I can.