Archives for the Month of November, 2013

Write or Wrong

Hope Lives

To be a writer you have to write

To celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’d like to share some hard-earned insights from writing my first ever novel, “The Dream Team Nightmare: Boost Team Productivity Using Agile Techniques“. In my experience, these insights apply to any creative endeavour, not just to novel writing alone.

1. Write daily
Bring your project to life then keep it going by working on it little and often. After all, you’re the sole caretaker of your creation. Its existence depends wholly on you. By “write daily”, I mean work on your project every day for at least 30 minutes. Why wouldn’t you do this if it really matters to you? Activities like brainstorming ideas or doing a simple sketch all count. If you get stuck, write about what’s stopping you from writing. It’s a surprisingly effective way of unblocking a gnarly case of writer’s block.

2. Rest one day a week
Take a day off every 6 days or when you feel you need to. If you take a break at the right time, you’ll want to get back to writing after the break. Imagine yourself as a vessel, a coffee mug or a tea cup or something more novel. Whatever works for you. By taking a break, you allow yourself to re-charge so that you have a full cup to work from or at least a new idea to get you writing again.

3. Clear your mind
Most creatives I know have many ideas buzzing in their heads at any one time. This makes getting things done really hard. The secret to focus is to empty your brain of all ideas so that you can focus more effectively on one idea at a time. Jot down all your ideas via brainstorming or make a simple list. Then pick one and focus on only that idea until you get as much written about it as possible right now. You can always add to the content relating to that one idea later on when, no doubt, more ideas will be jostled into existence by your busy imagination.

4. Separate writing from editing
There’s a time and place for everything. When you’re writing, be sure to focus on getting words down on paper. Write freely to achieve flow. Send your inner critic on holiday. Only when you’re editing do you invite them to the party.

5. Have fun!
This is absolutely essential if you wish to create something you love instead of resent. Play gets us moving and keeps us going. I get tedious or tough going tasks done by making it fun. It was really tough, at first, to sit down and work on my project for 30 minutes a day. So I treated myself to some really beautiful stickers and awarded myself one per day on my physical calendar. I figured that if it works for children, why not me? I only needed to do this for 10 days before working on my book took on a momentum of its own and the daily 30-minute timebox became a habit!

6. Stay fit and healthy
A healthy body begets a healthy mind and vice-versa. Go for walks or to the gym to give all your muscles a workout. This time doubles up as a break and a way to stay fit. Bonus!

7. Never give up
You can probably come up with a million reasons why your project won’t succeed and why you should stop right now. In fact, there are plenty of people out there ready to pat you on the back for giving up on an impossible dream. Only you can write your novel. “Just keep writing, just keep writing…”

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Labour of Love

The Dream Team Nightmare Paperback

On Wednesday, 20 November 2013, I held my second newborn child in my arms for the first time. I am, of course, referring to my first ever novel in print, “The Dream Team Nightmare – Boost Team Productivity Using Agile Techniques“.

I start by counting all the fingers and toes. Then I slowly study this printed creation, one feature at a time. Even though I’ve spent the past two years painstakingly breathing life into the book – writing, editing, rewriting and tweaking – I’m astounded by the stranger before me. It’s like meeting a penpal in person for the first time after having corresponded with them for years. And now that I can actually flick through physical pages, reading the gamebook is as much fun as I’d hoped it would be when I first decided on using the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style format for this business novel.

My greatest hope is that you, as Jim Hopper, an agile coach, and me can help make the world of work a better place, one baby step at a time.

The book is now on sale from the Pragmatic Bookshelf and It will be available in a couple of weeks on and other amazon sites.

Happy Agile Adventure!

A Question of Why

When we’re sixty…

“When you get older, time speeds up,” an old lady once confided in me as I fed the ducks by the pond.

Not long after, an elderly gentleman with whom I shared a bench at the playground said, “When you’re my age, you’ll have less time to do the stuff you want to do.”

While this phenomenon of time speeding up with one’s age has yet to be scientifically proven, I don’t want to take any chances.

I’ve learned enough life lessons and made many more mistakes besides over the years to leave my life to chance alone.

When I was young, I’d happily bumble along life’s well-trodden path like Frodo before the ring.

Now that I’m older, I’ve distilled my beliefs into a list of 3 guiding principles and devise strategies guided by them.

1. Have fun
Life’s too short to be taken too seriously. Let your hair down. Dance like no one can see you. Sing like you’re in the shower. Play brings people together and enables us to do impossible things.

2. Dream, believe and achieve – together
This is really three principles rolled into one. I first came across it as the motto of one of my favourite local primary schools. It inspired me back then and inspires me still.

3. Do things with heart
See a world where there’s enough to go around. Give freely whenever I can. Operate by a gift economy instead of only trade. What’s more, give generously to those who share my values and principles to co-create a better world.

Why do you do what you do?