What’s Your Context?

I’m in a writer’s workshop this week, having a blast. We write a lot: openings and short stories. Since it’s a fiction workshop, I feel quite vulnerable as a writer.

I’m learning how to write fiction. I can’t tell if it’s any good. I can’t tell if my author voice is working. I’ve been receiving some feedback, and all of it is actionable. And, I can tell that some people like my stories. So, I’ve been learning and adapting based on the feedback.

One thing I’ve noticed is how we all start in different places, even from the same writing prompt. I start with a puzzle-mystery, usually about some technology or technical issue. (I know, what a surprise!) Other people start with a dead body. (Think crime writers.) Still others start with a scary, horrible problem. (Think horror writers.)

We all start from our own contexts.

We are a sum of our experiences. In writing, we are a sum of what we have written, what we like to read, and where we feel comfortable.

It’s the same in our projects and our lives.

If you have been waterfalling your entire professional life, you will need practice with feedback to move to some form of agile as your new context. It won’t be fast. You will need to try and learn in small chunks, so you can integrate this new way of working into your context.

If you have been working out (or not!) in a certain way for 10-20 years, and you want different results, you will have to change something and learn from it, preferably with feedback to change your context.

We each have our own context, our own default. Our context has appeared to work for us for a while, so changing can be quite difficult. Well, changing my context in my writing is difficult for me. That’s why I feel so vulnerable in this workshop.

And, sometimes, changing context is necessary. I have a ton of experience with changing my physical context, what I can and cannot do on a normal day.

I also changed my work context to be agile and lean many years ago. I continue to refine that context, as I learn what works for me and how to achieve the results I want.

When people say, “That won’t work,” they are often talking about their context. If I want to help people change, I need to ask them for more details about their context.

In this writing workshop, I might try for a dead body in a story. I don’t normally read murder mysteries, so this is a challenge for me as a change of context. I might try something else, just to see if I can do it.

That, dear readers, is the question of the week: What is your context?

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