People ask me what I do for inspiration? Shouold I tell them it’s an imaginary monkey?
Yes, really! An imaginary monkey named Skippy.
Let me tell you about my long-term relationship with Skippy. He first appeared in my life in 2003. I was working for the Ontario public service and a new government had just been elected. They had gotten elected with an ambitious policy platform and were determined to implement it ASAP. For those who read THE ROAD AHEAD, you will understand what I mean.
My team was assigned a project to deliver an automated selection process to matched patients with doctors for specialized assessments. When I spoke to the IT people, they told me that they would expedite my request. Once I had my specs worked out, it would only take a year to design, build and test.
The only problem was I had been given 3 to 4 months to have it operational.
I gathered my team together to brainstorm on ideas for an interim system until the automated system could be developed and put in place. We met in a meeting room with me at the front manning a whiteboard and markers. After an hour the whiteboard was still blank and frustration was starting to set in. Then I announced, “we’ll hire Skippy to run a manual scheduling system until the automated system is ready.”
Someone asked, “Who’s Skippy?”
“My pet monkey. He works for bananas, which is perfect since we have no budget.” Then I wrote on the whiteboard: ‘Option 1: Skippy.’
That seemed to be the icebreaker needed to get the creative juices flowing. Within a half-hour, we had four or five options (excluding Skippy) to present to the political masters. But Skippy didn’t disappear from the unit. Whenever an impossible task had to be undertaken, I would tell the person assigned that today they would be Skippy.
Skippy became the invisible team mascot. Eventually, it lead to a monthly team award to recognize exemplary achievement – yes, the Skippy Award.
When I left in 2011, my staff presented me with a small Skippy trophy (pictured above) which I now keep in my office. When I get stuck and need inspiration, I pull Skippy off the shelf and ask him to get me past my block. He always comes through for me.
All writers need to find their Skippy. Something to get them through the rough spots.