Being Wrong but Useful

Alyssa Wright reflects on how creating value and being right don’t always align. Beliefs shape lives, but the utility of those beliefs is often more important than their truth.

We all want to be right, to have a true understanding and right perspective on the world around us. We look around at different perspectives that clash with our own and think those people are ignorant, stupid, or evil. We look into the past and see all the times people were wrong and laugh at how stupid they were.

But in the future, people will look back and laugh at us and how stupid we are. Are, as in right now in this current moment. We are wrong about a lot of things, and don’t even know it. Probably a majority of what we believe to be true isn’t.

In some cases, our wrong beliefs have a functionality. If they have enough sense, they cohere with the rest of our understanding of the world. In science, models are simplifications of reality. In the past, models for atoms were incorrect or an oversimplification. But in high school chemistry class we still learn about Bohr’s model of the atom before we learn about the more complex, more current models. Because there’s a usefulness in the wrongness. The model is inaccurate, but it helps simplify the concept so it is comprehensible.

For this post, I’m drawing from two videos. “On being wrong,” a TED talk by Kathryn Shulz, and “You have no idea how wrong you are,” a video I watched during Praxis last month.

We’re wrong, a lot. Kathryn Shulz said in her talk, “Being wrong feels like being right.” And it does, until or unless we realize we’re wrong. But in the realm of religion or philosophy or etiquette or any number of other things, we will never know if or that we’re wrong. We can change our minds, sure, and think we used to be wrong in what we believed, but we can’t know.

For example, I don’t believe in any god or gods. But a lot of people do. I used to. I don’t know if I’m right or if some of the people who believe in a god or gods are right. I could very easily be wrong. They could very easily be wrong. Everyone is probably wrong. And we’ll never know what’s right. But what we believe is right shapes our lives.

That most of what we think and believe is true doesn’t entirely matter. Most of it is probably wrong. Whether it works and makes sense in relation to what we know and understand of the world matters. Though most of our understanding is probably very wrong. But it works, just like Bohr’s model of the atom. It has a utility.

When we can relate to the world and to each other in a way that makes sense and use that relation to create value, we can succeed. Even if a decade, or century, or millennium from now people look back and think we’re stupid for how wrong we are. If it works and we can use it to create value and improve people’s lives, including our own, we’ve succeeded.

How right we are doesn’t matter. How much value we can create does.

Learning the Digital Design Tool Easil

Alyssa Wright shares her experience learning Easil and the fun she’s had with the tool over the last two days.

For this week’s value prop, I’m designing social media posts. I was initially planning to learn and use Canva, but was turned off by the price barrier. I did a search for free alternatives and found Easil.

For the moment, I’m actually not using the free version. I have a free trial of their premium with all the advanced features that includes.

The tool has a quick, simple tutorial to explain the basic functions. Beyond that, it was easy for me to figure out how to do what I wanted.

At first I built off of their templates. The first image I created I didn’t even change the background image. After that, though, I changed the images, the text, often the fonts. If I used a template it was for a specific element that I knew how to create myself but could save time by not.

Yesterday my blog post was “Robin Hood’s First Theft,” a short narrative poem I wrote in January 2015. In only 20 minutes, I found an image on Pexels that I liked to represent Robin Hood and created a storybook cover for the poem. If you follow the hyperlink at the beginning of the paragraph you can see that image.

I’ve had a lot of fun making graphics for this value prop and for my blog. I’ve temporarily taken a step back from writing for Over the Invisible Wall, but I’m going to make the images for the blog posts in addition to continuing to help edit. The first one will be up tomorrow, so be sure to visit the blog to read the new post and check that out!

First Value Prop

The details of Alyssa Wright’s first value prop, for Fundera.

Last week I created my first value prop for Fundera. They’re a business that helps other businesses get funding, make financial decisions, and learn about running or starting a business.

I wrote on my blog about learning SEO to write an article for them. I also learned about crowdfunding to dissect the pros and cons of using it. Both of those articles can be found here.

I had a lot of fun writing those two articles for Fundera. I learned a lot about SEO and crowdfunding, and I pushed myself to write quality articles in a short amount of time. I did all my research and all my writing for those two 1500+ word articles in only ten days total.

It was a bit stressful at times, but I pushed through to completion.

This week I’m working on my second value prop. I’ll share the details on that next week.

Learning SEO in 5 Days

Alyssa Wright details how she taught herself SEO basics in only five days for a value prop.

On Wednesday, Johnny Roccia, one of the Praxis placement advisors shared three open positions at a potential business partner called Fundera. One of them was a staff writer which involved creating frequent blog posts for their niche — small business financials. I was immediately drawn to and excited about applying for this position.

I sketched out a value prop — one blog post for them by today and one to two more by next Monday. I thought of three possible topics, and chose to write a beginner’s guide to SEO.

Before Wednesday, I had never delved into SEO. I had heard of it, seen a blog post from a fellow Praxis participant about her experience learning SEO and how her blog traffic improved upon implementing it. But I had never learned about it myself.

Over the past five days I assigned myself a crash course in SEO from various Youtube videos. (You can check out the resources I found helpful in this playlist I’m making.)

I learned enough about SEO to write an article about metadata, keywords, finding more keywords including long-tail keywords, finding content gaps, backlinks, and conducting an SEO audit.

Not only did I learn the SEO basics in only five days, I simultaneously wrote a ~1500 word article about it for Fundera.

I’m going to pay attention to my traffic, Google rank, and subscribers to compare before and after implementing SEO on my site. This will help me measure how much I learned and how well I applied it for myself. I have yet to do a full-site update, though, so posts about the results will have to wait.


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Indifference

“The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, p. 42.

Both love and hate are a feeling, indifference is the lack of a feeling.

This line in the War of Art struck me. I’d never heard or read something like this.

We so often view love and hate as diametrically opposed to each other, as opposites, and in a way they are. But the opposite of feeling is not feeling, apathy, indifference.

When we love or hate or are angry because of something, we have a feeling. We care about it in some way, positive or negative. If we’re indifferent or apathetic, we don’t feel anything.

In that way, Steven Pressfield is right.

As far as a spectrum of emotions, love and hate may appear opposite.

But they are really rivaled against indifference.

How Praxis Teaches Self-Directed Learning

Praxis, the one year educational bootcamp and apprenticeship program I’m in, encourages and guides self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: Learning you pursue yourself.

In the one to two months of pre-program, Praxis participants build their website, LinkedIn, pitch deck, and professional email address. More detail on that here. This is a foundation to build on throughout the remainder of the bootcamp.

In Module/month 1, those pre-program deliverables are refined and further improved. More things are built, including some blog posts to give insight into who you are, how you work, and how you are growing. More on that here.

In Module/month 2, the self-directed learning really goes into full swing. Now participants think of, plan, and execute a month-long project to showcase existing skills or build a new skill. The project is self-directed with additional guidance and feedback from the program advisors and fellow participants.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in the program, but already I’ve taught myself the basics of making a pitch deck, telling my story on LinkedIn, making a pitch video, some video editing, and how to create and self-publish a poetry collection.

I had guidance and input, but I pursued these and the knowledge required for these on my own. I am being taught how to teach myself.

I’m developing my notetaking skills during the Wednseday calls, while reading books, and in the learning I pursue not directly tied to Praxis.

In all this, I’m being encouraged by my peers and advisors to lean in to my curiosity and seek out knowledge, and to showcase my capturing of that knowledge. That’s primarily on my blog, but I’m working to expand that to YouTube as well.

By doing projects and leaning outside of my comfort zone, I’m learning skills and expanding that comfort zone.

Based on my experience, I would say the best way to effectively master self-directed learning is this: Find or build a community of people who seek out knowledge, share that knowledge, and encourage each other in the pursuit of knowledge. Use what you learn. Do a project to learn something or to show the world you have learned it.

If you like reading this blog, please check out my Patreon. There’s some cool rewards available, just waiting for someone like you to claim them.

Choosing a Poetry Collection Organization Style

Last month after I finished organizing Inside a Writer’s Head, I shared what I learned from the experience. Before you pick an organization style, you should check that out. It has four things you should know about the overall process.

This post discusses some different styles or types or organization you could choose when creating your poetry collection.

One thing you should already know if you’re making a collection: The first and last poems, especially, need to be strong.

Topical

If your collection contains poems of a variety of topics, it could be useful, beneficial, or aesthetic to group them based on topic. You can then create defined or undefined sections in the collection as well.

A defined section would have a title, and an undefined section would not. Either way, you’ll want to open and close the section with a strong poem, just like opening and closing the collection.

In the case of Inside a Writer’s Head, I initally tried to have a topical organization based on the subcategories of themes. This didn’t work, in part because it’s a topical collection. This style works better with more than one topic.

Emotional

You can also organize the collection based on the emotion a poem creates in the reader. In the same way a novel shifts in emotions as it progresses and has ups and downs, you can an emotional “plot” with your poetry collection. To do this, first group your poems based on the emotions they evoke.

You can then weave the poems together based on similar lines, topics, etc. throughout the collection, keeping in mind the emotional journey you intend to take readers on. Plan the ups and downs and pick the poems that feel right in each place.

For Inside a Writer’s Head, I incorporated some of this. I placed some poems together to amplify humor, or emphasize certain feelings or reactions to the poems around it.

Lyrical

A possible organization, especially for a collection with a variety of topics, orders the poems so each poem repeats a theme, subject, word, or image from its predecessor. This could create a plot, or add to the emotional effect of the poems. By connecting them in this manner, you allow the poems to speak to each other, as it were, adding more insight or a divergent perspective on the ideas.

This can be an organization style on it’s own or be paired with a topical or emotional style.

Inside a Writer’s Head is largely lyrically organized, blended with some emotional influence, as I mentioned. That isn’t all I employed though. Which brings me to the next style.

Collage

A collage is a smattering of thoughts and images paired together in one place, seemingly or actually at random. They may or may not go together, but they create an effect based on how they are placed.

If you have a topical collection or a large disparity in the number of poems in different topical categories, a collage organization might work well. You can create a mix of the topics, not following a specific rotation of topics, but moving similar topics away from each other.

This is another thing I did for Inside a Writer’s Head. I had a lot of poems about not having inspiration or dealing with writer’s block. Far more than the number of those in the other subcategories I had created. In order to create more balance, I spread out those poems among the other poems. A couple of them are paired together, but they are a bit of a unifying theme in a collage.

 

These are four possible organization styles used in poetry manuscripts.

If you have any questions about these styles, Inside a Writer’s Head, or your poetry collection, leave them in the comments below! I’d love to talk to you about that.