Creativity Cross-Training In the HTML Sandbox

April 11, 2009

In the past couple of weeks I have spent a lot more time than usual giving feedback to colleagues and clients on their marketing. Much of the discussion has been about web presence: what matters most and how to get it on a tight budget. With the perspective of distance, I always advise people to focus on first things first, like getting a clear message and worrying about the appearance after the message is done. But instead of working on my own marketing message, I spent all my marketing time this week changing a web template to format my pages.

It might actually make sense. I’ve written about the HTML sandbox a couple of times. It’s a fun diversion that uses a different part of my brain. It’s a break from the work of ideas, planning, and communication, and it’s also one of those creativity cross-training things Barbara Winter suggests in her Buon Viaggio blog. This post about her sister Margaret is just one of several she has written on the subject.

I also found that, although I strongly advocate doing business development things in order – based mostly on my repeated slides into doing things completely out of order and getting stuck – sometimes the “obvious” order isn’t the best. My web site text is focused on coaching and related tools for finding your vision, setting goals, and achieving them on a path of self-discovery and personal development. I need to add marketing copy that includes my Outside The Job Box Career Expert © Consultation with people who want to work at what they love in a more balanced and fulfilling live. I haven’t even added marketing copy yet about my focused work with people transitioning to self-employment and growing their small businesses.

This week as I came to the planned time in my schedule to look at examples of marketing copy for Outside The Job Box consultations, I couldn’t get past the frustration that I didn’t have a template for my web site. I pulled down my ten-page starter site in March, when the annual contract was up for renewal, but I hadn’t replaced it with a hosted site. The irony is not lost on me. I didn’t get a hosted site in place during the entire year I had the starter site, even though I have guided several people through easy steps of having a hosted beginner site.

The angst was unbearable. Finding a good template became my focus. Salient advice from colleagues early in the week was to give up on a perfect template, or even a great one, but to find something satisfactory and get going.

I dug back in to the template I have for, a WordPress based site. I put it up months ago but lost enthusiasm about writing the text because I couldn’t get the font colors right.

Font colors. Yes, I said font colors. The default was blue, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I tried the meager things I knew to experiment with changing the colors but they wouldn’t budge. The site was stuck on blue. And so was I.

With renewed enthusiasm and a more pressing need, I ripped open the code and started tinkering again. I got the blue to disappear finally, except for the color of hyper-linked text when you hover over it. That’s my next battle. I even figured out how to format pages without the date stamp and comments box that posts have. It involved creating a separate template for pages, called page.php, which many themes have, but mine did not.

With that much progress on the appearance of the site, I loaded the main pages of my old starter site to my new hosted site. Immediately I quickly saw how I want to re-work the pages and where I need the new marketing copy for specific areas.

Having the site in front of me on a browser is a very different experience from looking at the text in a document. There is something kinesthetically important about seeing the formatting and clicking through the site to let me know if the words are right. I’ve written forms, manuals, handouts, and reports for years and always noticed that I rearranged and rewrote things after they were placed in a specific format. When I wrote simple print ads, they always changed when I put the words into the physical structure of an ad space.

It matters to me where words fall on a page and how text is framed. I can’t consider anything a final draft until it is placed within the headings and footers and borders. It’s so obviously important when writing for the web that I’m embarrassed I didn’t think about it before.

I was holding up writing updated text for my web site because I needed to see it in the format of my web template. I stopped working on my “good enough” template when I got frustrated, but I didn’t go back to it and I didn’t ask for help. I left it for another day, so I stayed stuck on writing my text while I waited to address the formatting.

Self-described desktop philosopher Ken Robert is a brainstorming artisan and a fellow Outside The Job Box consultant. He wrote an insightful post about first things first on a profound level, reminding us there are prerequisites when preparing for big changes. Working with people transitioning to self-employment, I see all levels of prerequisites showing up in the road. Some require detours and some are just fallen trees people have to move out of the way. Some are simply tales of a difficult stretch on a particular route that keep people from even heading down that road to see what it’s like.

Most of the things we solo entrepreneurs encounter as we create our businesses as part of our ideal life work fall on this continuum, from practical skills we need or simple business infrastructure that must be in place, to wrangling with the ghosts of our self-limiting beliefs. I don’t know yet if the obstacle that caused me to postpone writing my new web copy was a fairly straightforward thing or if it was much deeper.

There is a practical side that was outside my awareness, that I need the visual format to evaluate the writing and decide next steps. There was some soft resistance because it’s much easier for me to help someone else create a marketing message and format it into copy than it is to work on my own.

But there’s also the shift that has happened for me since I set my web copy aside. I learned I love working with self-employed people, from idea to business model to startup and success. I learned I am naturally drawn to the creative brainstorming of helping people figure out ways to turn their natural gifts, talents, and passions into an income in ways that complement their ideal lives.

I found my focus. It defines who I want to work with and how I want to work with them. It is a clearer answer to my guiding question, To What End? One obstacle is pulled off my twisting road. Hopefully there’s an open stretch ahead.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey
Ideal Life Work & Self-Employment Advocate


3 Responses to “Creativity Cross-Training In the HTML Sandbox”

  1. Darcy on April 12th, 2009 2:35 pm

    Steve, you rule. I set up a self-hosted WP blog site months ago and haven’t moved in yet b/c of font-related issues. So, I feel ya.

  2. rEvolution : On The Twisting Road on July 3rd, 2009 11:24 am

    […] I wonder if I can figure out how to get that new theme I bought to work the way I want it to? Or will I need to choose a completely different theme? I think it’s time to jump back into the HTML Sandbox! […]

  3. Big Play Lab Day : Twisting Road on April 13th, 2011 9:41 pm

    […] way I knew to embed it in my web site. I’ll figure out better ways to do it in the future in my HTML sandbox. But for now it’s good […]

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