All Posts By

Brendan Schlagel

Eight “Better Than Free” Generatives for Learning and Side Projects

By | Experiments, Learning | No Comments

I’m a big fan of Kevin Kelly’s post “Better Than Free”, where he posits eight “generatives” that cannot be infinitely copied and thus accrete tremendous valuable in the new digital economy even as prices of raw digital goods (copies) themselves trend toward zero. (If you haven’t read that, please do! Otherwise my thoughts below may not fully make sense.)

As this is one of my favorite articles about new ways of approaching ideas of value and transactions in the digital age, I thought it would be a fun exercise to try applying this framework to the loose assemblage of projects I’ve been working on under the “Self Starter’s Guide” umbrella — which includes things like Idea Exchanges and other group learning events, Antilibraries, lesson material on self-directed learning and building a creative writing habit, and assorted embryonic writing projects.

With all these in mind, I’d like to think out loud and try to tease out some new ideas for how I might structure my work to stand out and create value in interesting ways. I think these eight generatives — immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and findability — are useful lenses for thinking about all sorts of projects, and I’ll probably continue to return to them when I need to recharge the strategic batteries. Read More

Daily Writing and the Power of a Good Prompt

By | Creativity, Habits, Prompts, Writing | No Comments

The value of a daily writing habit can take many forms. A few hundred words a day might be my therapy; your brainstorm session; his story workshop; her blog building.

Whatever your creative goals — from journaling to ideating to reflecting to storytelling to teaching to inventing to sharing — there are unifying factors what it comes to mustering the will to write on a consistent basis.

Writing can help you bring clarity to your thinking, generate new ideas, build discipline, and make progress on long-term goals. These benefits are tied together by threads of exploration, invention, and discovery. And at root, they’re all united by a powerful practice of giving yourself space to focus and create.

Finding a Creative Catalyst

However, it’s often not enough simply to set yourself a writing goal — like most challenges worth taking on, this is easier said than done! If you want to make your writing habit stick, one incredibly useful way to start is to find a strong catalyst. That could be an external goal like NaNoWriMo, a certain structure to hold you accountable (a class, a writing group), or a reliable source of creative inspiration.

For this latter class of catalyst, one of the best things you can do for your writing is harness an array of sparks or prompts to use as inspiration. Read More

21 Ways to Make Magic Happen by Writing Daily

By | Creativity, Habits, Writing | No Comments

I’m big into writing, and in particular, I’m kind of obsessed with the Miraculous Magical Wonder-Well of Writing Every Day.

Okay, I don’t have like a quick and easy incantation, or specific GPS coordinates to the treasure map, exactly, but I’m serious — dive deep down into the rabbit warren of regular word-making, and you’re liable to find incalculable riches.

What use is a writing habit, you might ask? Please, allow me to proselytize.

Personal Goals / “Life List”

Consider your aspirations for next week, next year, next decade. Write them down; sort and shuffle the resulting lists. This is a good exercise for thinking deeply about your goals, and you can do it across many different time periods and segments of your life (career, relationships, health, creativity, etc.) A few years back, my parents encouraged me to try such an exercise, and I ended up making a document I called my “life list”, containing various goals for things I wanted to do, make, or become in the future. Every year or two I’ll go through it, think about what’s changed, evaluate my past year, and write out new goals for the future.

Daily Journal

Reflect on the events of your day — what did you experience? How did you feel? What was positive and what was negative? This can be a great way to process your emotions and raw experience, and think through significant (or mundane!) things that happened to you. This can be useful for evaluating your recent progress in some area of your life, tracing some kind of emotional trajectory, and keeping a simple record of events you’ll probably treasure years down the line. It’s also a great way to blow off steam!

Recent Reading

Think out loud about the book(s) you’ve recently read, or are reading currently. Or write up your thoughts on various other things — blog posts, essays, articles, podcasts, videos — you’ve watched or listened to lately. What’s your take on the thing? How would you change it? Where did it lead you in terms of thoughts, feelings, memories? Read More

Creative Prompts to Spark Your Writing: Part 1

By | Creativity, Prompts, Writing | No Comments

From October 2013 to October 2014, I successfully completed a personal challenge of writing at least 750 words per day for 365 consecutive days. Over the course of the year, I found myself writing about a ton of different things, and came up with a huge list of writing prompts to draw on — an important resource, given that in-the-moment inspiration doesn’t always come so easily!

I’ve gone back through all 365 of those posts and drawn out my favorite writing prompts. I’ve rewritten them to be a bit more clear and specific, and listed many of them here — from reminiscing about quirky favorite childhood activities, to mining your everyday experiences for stories, to considering what you’d change about how your favorite subject is learned — for you to use as you like!

I hope they’ll prove a useful resource, whether you’re just starting to build your own writing habit, or are a long-time writer looking for new sources of inspiration.

This is Part 1 in a series where I’ll be sharing my complete collection (thus far!) of my favorite writing prompts. Scroll to the bottom and enter your email to download a free PDF of all 50+ sparks. Read More

How I Wrote 750+ Words Every Day for 365 Days

By | Creativity, Habits, Writing | No Comments

Beginning a year’s worth of writing 750+ words every single day…it wasn’t easy. In fact when I started, I had no idea I’d keep the streak going for so long!

When I first set out to start a writing habit, I’d never been too conscious about writing on consecutive days, let alone actively keeping a streak alive.

In the post below, I share my story of a full year’s worth of daily writing, as well as several of the most important lessons I learned from the experience. I made a nice clean PDF isolating just the most important stuff — these lessons, including a few more I couldn’t fit in below (11 in total!) You can download that for free by signing up here:

[convertkit form=4861194]

Read More

Teaching Everywhere

By | Events, Experiences, Learning, Teaching | No Comments

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to create effective small-group learning experiences. I host a series of “Idea Exchange” dinners, which have been going quite well — but I want to explore other types of events as well: get-togethers, workshops, and other ways to bring together people for fun, exploration, and valuable learning.

Over the summer I was lucky to speak with BJ Fogg, who not only teaches in fascinating, innovative ways at Stanford University, but also enjoys taking his teaching outside inside formal classroom environments and directing cool learning experiences in other contexts.

Here are a few of the most useful things I learned from this conversation, followed by my takeaways — ideas for putting these lessons into action. Read More

10 Lessons from Hosting Idea Exchange Dinners

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

What I’ve learned by bringing small groups together for conceptual show and tells.

About a year ago, I started thinking about putting together a meetup centered around sharing ideas, a sort of intellectual show and tell. I wanted it to be rigorous yet unpretentious, and intimate — no loud crowded room or straining to see a stage, but rather small and comfortable.

Towards the end of the Orbital Boot Camp last summer, having had the “launch, share, iterate, repeat” mindset drilled in and hammered home week after week, I finally decided to make this idea happen.

I’ve now successfully hosted four “Idea Exchange Dinners,” and have learned a lot from the experience, including many useful and specific details for hosting good events that I didn’t expect.

Here are my top takeaways so far: Read More

Let Me Be Your Curriculum Concierge!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Originally posted to Tumblr

In today’s educational reality, it’s no longer enough to go through a subject by way of a predetermined, sequential pattern that’s the same for everyone. Even MIT is considering breaking up some of their courses to become more modularized and configurable to better match how students actually want to learn.

For lack of taking into account your unique mix of interests and abilities, typical “fixed-route” learning is not only less interesting than it could be, it’s also less effective. By instead recognizing what you already know, love, and are curious about, it becomes easier to wend your path through the adjacent possible, exploring new ideas and areas of study that have just the right mix of challenging, fun, and useful for you, and getting where you want to go.

I’d like to try helping a few individuals through the process of designing and implementing a bespoke curriculum.

The core ideas behind this are that you learn best when you 1) have a curriculum that matches your interests and learning style, and 2) have individual encouragement and guidance along the way. Read More

Introducing the “Idea Exchange” Dinners

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Originally posted to Tumblr

Inspired in part by an Orbital Boot Camp email thread about optimal event conditions/qualities for introverts, and in part by a long-held desire to run some kind of meetup focused on sharing ideas, I’d like to introduce the Idea Exchange dinner series.

My girlfriend and I just moved into a new apartment, and in addition to it being a nice in an awesome neighborhood, I’d like it to serve at least part-time duty as a space for learning and community. I think having a small community for sharing, exchanging feedback, and creating cross-pollination of ideas is really valuable, and I want to get some of that going as I explore various approaches to creating a community for learning.

My goal is to create an event that’s accessible and welcoming, while still having some structure and purpose…a bit more focused than the sort of dinner parties I’ve thrown before, but with a similar casual vibe. Read More

Experiments and the Studio Model

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Originally posted to Tumblr

Inspired in part by listening to another podcast in which Gary discusses side projects, showing your work, and not being afraid to try new things, this week I got to thinking about the overall direction and goals I have for SSG, and I took a stab at clarifying and redefining my ideas for what I want to do with the project, both now and in the long term.

The first half of the Orbital Boot Camp has been a great help for narrowing vision, paring down, and launching something small and manageable. I’ve started to do that, and have my work cut out building and improving my email course. But at the same time, I’ve been feeling kind of constrained and unsure about the bigger picture of what I’m doing, and also feeling that I’ve maybe lost some of the wild experimental spark that I think I could be better harnessing to test out more things during my time at Orbital.

I’m lucky in that outside of the parameters of this class, I have no hard deadlines, no revenue goals that I must meet, no impending end of a runway or KPI minimums that will determine whether I can keep working on this project. I have relatively high freedom of time and money, I like my day job, and I’d like to start taking more risks and challenging myself more. So I want to figure out how to do that in the most efficient, effective way possible…and also have fun doing it! Read More