How I built out a random idea in two hours just to see what would happen, and why you should do the same.
True story: When I started writing on the internet seriously, I set deadlines for myself.
In late 2008, I had just lost my job with a newspaper I loved and was waiting to hear back regarding another job, which I wasn’t sure was going to happen next.
I was rusty at web design, so, rather than continuing to be rusty at web design, I decided to build a blog from scratch. But rather than make it like all the other blogs on the internet, I built an idea I had never seen online before. I gave myself two weeks to get it on the internet. Three, two, one. Go.
I’ve sort of followed that philosophy ever since, though the target has always changed. For the first year I ran ShortFormBlog, I gave myself a hard-and-fast goal: Ten posts by lunchtime. (I worked a second shift newspaper job at the time, so it was totally doable for me.)
Then another: Get a foothold on Tumblr. Check.
And recently, I gave myself one other: Build something small and weird, and see what happens.
You Have Two Hours. Go.
A week or two ago, I mentioned to a good friend of mine a crazy little idea I had.
“Have an idea if you’re interested. wouldn’t require a ton of work, could be awesome.”
My entire pitch was to make a Twitter feed entirely out of numbers. Cool stats that would stand on their own, but together would build a really interesting body of work.
I was familiar with this service, RebelMouse, that essentially offers the visual curation layer Twitter doesn’t have. It’s hackable with a little CSS, but is one of those things still relatively new, so it hasn’t been experimented with too much.
During a period of great procrastination, I built the account, mucked around with the CSS, and built what I was thinking of. It took me two hours. I threw up an announcement and started populating the feed.
After putting it online, a couple people noticed. I mentioned it in one or two places online and kept updating, getting a friend of mine to help. By the end of the week, RebelMouse had named DigitSlam the “Rebel of the Week.” When I have kids, I’ll tell ‘em all about it:
— RebelMouse (@RebelMouse) January 25, 2013
Could I have spent more time on it than I did? Sure. But does it convey what I was thinking of? Yep.
How Crazy Ideas Translate
So what does my side project that I built over a lazy Sunday have to do with TMG or the work I do on ASAE’s Associations Now? Explicitly, not much.
Implicitly, though, a ton. See, by playing with small ideas like this, you charge your brain. You let go of the status quo for a little bit. You let go of the processes you’ve taught yourself and the way you have to do things, and stretch the boundaries. As a result, next time you run into a hard boundary, you can push it out of your way. Just. Like. That.
When the opportunity comes, I’ll be able to think of another small idea like this for Associations Now, spend a couple of hours building it, and it will look unlike anything else on the internet. You know how many things there are on the internet? That’s really challenging to do — but worthwhile.
Should you run with your crazy idea? Yes. It will make you more creative and you will make you feel like a genius.
Even if all you did was put a bunch of numbers on Twitter.