Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Confluence Workbook, among other things

Readers, I have several things to tell you about: a workbook, a podcast, a FAQ, sales, plans, and reviews. 

The Confluence Workbook

As I worked on Confluence over the past two years, thinking my way through the examples you see in the book (and many other examples that didn't make it into the book), I drew hundreds of thinking-space diagrams, on paper and using the computer.

While I was doing this, I kept thinking that at least some of the people who read the book would want to draw their own diagrams. That is the point of the book, after all: to help people think about situations by filling up thinking spaces and noticing patterns. So when I created the downloadable exercise materials for the Confluence web site, I included some "coloring book" pages people could print and write on. 

But as I talked to people who were reading and using Confluence, I realized that some people might like to have a place to keep their diagrams together, in a sort of Confluence book they wrote themselves. So about a month ago, I started working on a write-it-yourself workbook companion. It looks like this.

You can use The Confluence Workbook to think about organization and self-organization and how they flow together in situations that arise in your life, work, family, community, and organization. You can also use the workbook to record what happens when you do the group exercise described in Confluence.

The workbook contains 120 two-page spreads like this one.

A thinking space on the left is followed by three prompts on the right:

  • Context: Why you explored the topic, when, where, and how you explored it, and so on. 
  • Patterns: What you saw when you placed your items into the thinking space - clusters, gaps, boundaries, links, and contrasts. 
  • Thoughts: What you learned, what surprised you, what you are curious about, and what you would like to do next. 

There are 24 of these two-page spreads for the first (main) thinking space, and 16 for each of the other six spaces. For convenience, the workbook also includes a brief description of each thinking space (with examples), a summary of the group exercise, and copy-and-cut exercise materials.

To be perfectly clear, every word in The Confluence Workbook can also be found in Confluence or on the book's web site. In fact, you can assemble your own workbook by printing pages from the exercise materials PDF on the web site. The printed workbook just gives you a nice bound volume in which to store your diagrams. There's a blank space on the workbook's spine, so you can write in a topic or theme.

ComPlexus Podcast
My hope is that The Confluence Workbook will help all of us: you as you think through situations that matter to you, and me as I try to keep doing this work (I will get 1-3 dollars for each workbook sold). If you have any feedback or suggestions about the workbook, let me know.

Here I am talking about Confluence

Soon after I published Confluence, I had a lovely conversation with Bruce Waltuck for the Plexus Institute ComPlexus Podcast. That conversation is now available as Episode 4 of the podcast. 

In the interview, I talk about where Confluence came from, how I hope people will use it, and what I plan to do next.

A Confluence FAQ

People have been sending questions about Confluence, and I've been answering their questions and compiling the answers. As a result, there is now a Confluence FAQ on the web site, which I will continue to improve over time. 

Thank you to those who have written! If you have a question about the book, feel free to drop me a note (

Sales and plans

Sales of Confluence are coming in at almost exactly the same rate as Working with Stories in its first year. As I recall, WWS sold 250 copies in its first year. Confluence has sold roughly half that many copies in its first six months. It's déja vu all over again! Perhaps I have encountered some sort of universal word-of-mouth constant.

I am very glad the book is selling. At the same time, however, I am not going to be able to keep writing books at this rate. After seven years, WWS has paid me about one dollar per hour for the 2.5 person-years I spent writing it. I need to make more than that on Confluence if I am going to be able to write any more books.

Here's what I would like to accomplish over the next few years. I submit it to you (all of you, collectively) as a sort of proposal.

First, I would like to finish At Home with Stories, my long-gestating book on the interactions between commercial and conversational storytelling over the past few centuries. As many know, I have written about fifteen blog posts (some the length of book chapters) on this topic. This book will draw all of those thoughts together, along with some yet-to-be-completed due-diligence work on the history of these two forms of storytelling, from ancient times to the present moment. I think this book project will take at least a year to finish, but I'm hoping it can be done by the end of 2022. 

Secondly, I've been thinking that 2024 might be a good year to publish a tenth-anniversary fourth edition of Working with Stories. Based on many reader comments, I think it would be best to split WWS into three books, thus:
  1. A short (say 100 page) easy-reading book on participatory narrative inquiry for absolute beginners. It will introduce the basic concepts of PNI, but it will leave out most of the details that make the current edition of WWS too long and too complicated for many beginners.
  2. A slightly trimmed-down (say 400 page) main version of WWS. This book will keep most of what is in WWS now, but it will remove some less-than-essential elements that I now think could have been placed elsewhere. I will also update the new edition with several new exercises, insights, and ideas that have bubbled up over the past seven years of work in this area.
  3. A PNI-for-professional-story-workers book. This will have everything that is now included in More Work with Stories (a book I never got around to finishing), plus some of the bits to be trimmed out of the main WWS version. I will also update MWWS to reflect more experience-based insights, drawing from dozens of new projects I've consulted on over the past several years.

I believe that splitting up WWS in this way will make the whole body of work more useful to more people. Probably the mid-size version of the book will keep its original title. The professional version will probably be called More Work with Stories (as it has been called all along). And the simple version will be called . . . something simple.

I don't know how much of this plan I will be able to carry out. It depends on book sales, and it depends on consulting. I love helping people do PNI projects. I learn something new on every project, and it's wonderful to see people using PNI in the world. At the same time, however, it's hard to concentrate on large, complex writing projects while dealing with frequent meetings and emails. So I guess I'll see how things work out.


This brings me to my final point, and to a request. Confluence needs more book reviews. If you have read the book, please consider writing a review: on Amazon, on your blog, on LinkedIn or Twitter or wherever you post things. Simply put, if you want me to keep writing books, a good way to help me do that is to post reviews of the books I have written. The more books I sell, the more books I can write. 

And of course, many thanks to everyone who has helped with this work, whether through collaboration, consulting, word of mouth, or encouragement. Every little thing makes a difference.