Serendipity X.

The Rebel Writer Writes, ‘To X Or Not To X’


Disorder out of disorder? Yes. That’s the way I know creative thinking begins, with something that is seemingly un-pregnant with the promise of a brainchild. Once you accept that, your days as an un-creative writer are over. Then you will be the father of a brainchild one after another. Prolific. Terrific!

Welcome Serendipity X, the Serendipity Muse on call. Let x equals the unknown equals chaos equals creativity. I write this time about creativity 24/7, x’ing unlimited. Unknown becoming quantity first, then quietly transforming into quality. Structure giving birth to substance. X’ing is creative thinking like you’ve never known before. Serendipity eXtreme. To x or not to x, that is the (creative) question!

We begin with chaos. I am the Author of Chaos. In creating the universe as we know it, didn’t God the Great Creative start with chaos?

And the waters of chaos were upon the face of the depth, and God hovered upon the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and the waters were illuminated. And God saw that it was good.

God didn’t like chaos, but to be creative He had to start with it. We mere creatures must go do likewise. So we have to create chaos. The thieves create chaos in order to steal, the politicians in order to divide and conquer, the mathematicians in order to be able to plot order, and our enemies in order to weaken our defenses. So why not writers and thinkers to create chaos and master it for their own purposes?

According to Englishman Horace Walpole, who invented the word in 1754, Serendipity is ‘accidental sagacity’ (Richard Boyle, 2000,, that is, making a discovery when you’re not out making any discovery. So I say Serendipity is unconscious creativity, accidental genius, finding something wonderful when you’re not out looking for something wonderful. Great! Serendipitously, I have come up with my own; I say Serendipity X is conscious creativity, deliberate genius, actively searching for bright ideas by way of controlled chaos. As I shall show you in this essay, chaos is the raw material for creativity. With Serendipity X, bits and pieces of the confusion become the sparks of genius.

In fact, ‘Serendipity X’ is merely a new name for what I have been doing for the last 20 years or so, fooling around with ideas in what I happen to be writing, editing or reviewing (see my ‘PC Fools,’ So I know that Serendipity X is more creative than Edward De Bono’s Lateral Thinking, that which I have studied myself, and more promising than Tony Buzan’s Mind Mapping, that which I have seen at work. Indeed, it is more exciting than Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and less exhausting, as there is no daily journaling required at the self-appointed time, and any time you’re at it, Serendipity X gives you creative, quality time.

In Serendipity X, handled with an impossible mix of credulity and incredulity, chaos becomes creative chaos. You don’t have to be crazy, but it works!

So now, let me illustrate to you what I mean by that using a true-to-life example. I happen to have just finished my first draft of an annual report for the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB); it had taken me 7 days, from Valentine’s Day, to gather notes, create an outline, improve on that, and improve on that some more, and more, to arrive at my first complete draft. And on the 9th day, today, February 22, as I write these lines, I come up with the name ‘Serendipity X’ to put a short & sweet tag to everything that I’ve been doing. Yes, it just so happens that Serendipity X is born on the same day People Power was born, both events major and minor reflecting a coming to terms, liberation from the shackles of thinking like slaves, thinking inside the box. People Power liberated a country from a dictatorship of the elite with the formula of government; Serendipity X liberates the writer from a dictatorship of any formula of writing.

And yes, my coming up with its name shows that Serendipity X works like a charm. My previous drafts of this essay had the brief titles of first, ‘Creator Of Chaos,’ then ‘Author Of Chaos,’ and nothing mentioned about Serendipity.

So, we begin with my chaotic notes for that annual report (excerpts only):


People. PhD 23, MS 26, BS 50, undergraduate 38
Awards 8
Publications. 29 poster papers, 3 papers in scientific conference, 1 ISI journal paper, 1 refereed journal paper, 1 paper in proceedings
Commercially available biotech products: Bio-N, Mykovam, Mycogroe, Mycobead, Nitroplus, Bio-Green, Cocogroe, Brown Magic, mycorrhizal root inoculant
Animal probiotics
Virgin coconut oil
Plant diagnostic Kit
Ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse osmosis membranes from nata de coco

1. agriculture and forestry
Microbial-based fertilizers
Discovery/development of microorganisms that enhance use of water, carbon dioxide, nutrient uptake and mobilization, soil aggregate formation and under stress conditions
2. food, feeds and specialty products
Animal feed ingredients and additives
Enzymes for different applications
3. industrial and environmental biotechnology
Waste treatment, eg, decolorization of effluents from distilleries
Bioethanol – strains tolerant to high alcohol and temperature
4. bioinformatics and drug discovery
Exploration of new metabolites of therapeutic value
Isolation of lead antimicrobial compounds from microorganisms
5. communication and technology commercialization
Houses activities related to technology transfer / commercialization and exchange of information between researchers and target users or beneficiaries
Improves structure of information service

College of Agriculture
Gearing for the UP centennial
Publication of CA Almanac (coffee-table book) deferred to give way to Dr Bernardo’s twin history books
A permanent CA home by 2008. The CA Building Fund Raising Project has raised P183,300 and $600, with pledges to P1.5 million and $400.
Hibiscus. Released in 2007: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Nelia T Gonzalez,’ ‘Emerlinda R Roman’ and ‘Estrella F Alabastro.’ Mussaenda ‘Emerlinda R Roman.’

Strengthening the pillars of distinctive excellence. 1. People
1. Retooling of CA REPS/Faculty in support of recognized CA themes / programs. Shelved in deference to the external review of CA reorganization
2. empowering CA REPS/Faculty to publish (thru systematic mentoring program)
3. institutionalize award system and build-up endowment fund to recognize outstanding performance of faculty, REPS, administrative staff and students –
[ ]

Excerpts. How do you like that! My initial notes for the annual report came up to 36 pages single-spaced, more than 9000 words (almost 3 times longer than this essay), everything typed by me – and that was not complete. I had to read the individual reports and jot down notes some more.

Why do I use my own hands to type my own notes? They go to my head. And when they do, I can digest them. That’s using my head using my hands, two necessary steps toward creativity, using the memory of the eyes and the memory of the mind. If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good typist; if you want to be a better writer, you have to learn word processing (worping). With worping, the software becomes your second mind, with which you can graduate to creative chaos.


So, how do I write the report based on that chaotic mass of notes? First, while gathering those notes, I was actually also creating an outline (the lines in bold are headings):


College of Agriculture
Gearing for the UP centennial
Strengthening the pillars of distinctive excellence. 1. People
Strengthening the pillars of distinctive excellence. 2. Resources
3. Environment
DE contributions to nation-building

College of Arts & Sciences
Nation building
College DE (1M fund)
Other programs / projects

College of Development Communication
Nation building
College of Engineering and Agricultural Technology

College of Economics & Management
College DE program (1M) – no remarks

College of Forestry and Natural Resources
Gearing up for the Centennial
Nation building
College DE Program (1M Fund)
Other programs / projects

College of Human Ecology
DE Program
Other programs

Nation building
Other programs

Nation building
DE Program (1M)
Other programs /projects






OVCRE, Biotech, OICA

Nation building
DE Program
Other programs / projects
[ ]

That’s the first complete outline of my notes for the annual report. So far, so good? You’re getting the hang of chaos. Actually, it’s not as chaotic as many of the entries are repetitive of each other, suggesting how they can be reorganized.

If you can now get an idea how to write the report at this stage, congratulate yourself. But you’ve hardly begun.

Now, I knew my outline above was not final but it was necessary to start with something, anything, to help the ideas flowing in my head out of the information I was trying to absorb. In other words, I had had to read my notes and digest all those bits and pieces of knowledge coming from the different units of the University, tagging them to find out later all their similarities and differences.

With that, the creative work had barely begun.


Now, I will show you what I came up with in my first attempt to create a new outline using the old outline (above):

The UPLB 3-Year Plan (2005-2008)
Our vision
Our core value
Our niches

Contributing to the UP Centennial Celebration
Nurturing People
Developing Resources
Enhancing The Environment
Exhorting Partnerships
Core Fields/Areas
Looking Into The Future
[ ]

Much shorter and completely different from the previous outline. Now, where on earth did I get such an outline? Traveling the road of Serendipity X, the active pursuit of insight. I gained insights as I read my notes again and again and tried to squeeze the essence of all those disparate parts, even as I kept tagging and retagging and reviewing and revising my outline and kept doing other things in between. I also had to relax. That took about 3 days.

And then that outline would disappear, as you will see shortly. That’s the fate of all outlines in any creative process, but especially in Serendipity X.


Then I had the real beginning of a full-pledged manuscript with this new and different outline:

Keeping An Eye On The Vision, Teamworking For The Mission

UPLB Contributing To The UP Centennial Celebration

Distinctive Excellence (College Level)

Strengthening The Pillars Of Distinctive Excellence
1. Nurturing People – staff
2. Developing Resources – structures and systems
3. Enhancing The Academic Environment – students
4. Exhorting Partnerships
5. Cultivating Entrepreneurship – UPLB CTTE
6. Contributing To Nation Building – incl publications
7. Cultivating Core Fields/Areas

Looking Into The Future [ ]

While writing, I viewed that outline again and again and it went through many reincarnations, and it had changed much when I had completed my first draft.


UP Los Baños 2007
Celebrating UP Centennial
Cerebrating Distinctive Excellence

Keeping An Eye On The Vision, Teamworking For The Mission

(A) UPLB Contributing To The UP Centennial Celebration

(B) Strengthening The Pillars Of Distinctive Excellence

B1. Nurturing People
Administrative Staff

B2. Developing Resources
Income generation
Structural improvement
Systems & resources enhancement
Repair & maintenance

B3. Enhancing The Academic Environment
Courses & classes
Scholarship & thesis support
Recruitment & admission
Reviews & tutorials
Student welfare

(C) Nurturing Minds & Cultivating Relationships

C1. Enriching Knowledge, Improving Skills
Intellectual property rights
Basic research
Non-degree training program
Ugnayan ng Pahinungod
Conferences / forums / symposia

C2. Fostering Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship & intellectual property

C3. Contributing To Nation Building
Management of natural resources
Biofuels & forest products
Science & Technology Park
Culture and the arts

C4. Exploring & Enhancing Partnerships
Pursuing active linkages
Technical assistance & training
Alternative energy

(D) Looking Forward

D1. Reviewing Today

D2. Looking To Tomorrow
Grand reunions
Structural & systemic growth
The Future
[ ]

If you ask me, it’s not yet perfect but it’s looking much better now. You have just seen the miracle of Serendipity X. Now, don’t forget that my creative outlining had much to do with my writing from chaos to first draft.


Since about 20 years ago, outlining using software has been the open secret to my productivity for other people and my creativity for myself. I have been using Word in all its incarnations – except Word 2007, by which Bill Gates’ Microsoft unfortunately has turned me into a total dummy, what with all its strangely new, Out-Of-This-Word command module. Well, nobody’s perfect, including Bill Gates. That’s why I’m not on speaking terms with this strange species (see my ‘Call Me User,’

Notwithstanding, I have found that Word 2003 is the perfect word processor (worp) for the writer in me, so now I am more than willing to freely share with you a few little Word commands for outline-organizing your own way to a higher level of creativity.

Now, can you be creative without learning Word’s outline-organize feature? Of course. But with Word as your worp, you can be x times more creative. With Serendipity X, outline-organizing is actually fooling around with ideas, and I have already written that you have to become one of my ‘PC Fools’ to become really creative (

Ready with your Word 2003?

Open a new file (blank screen). Click the AA icon beside the Normal box on the menu; it should say ‘Styles and Formatting.’ (If not, click ‘Getting Started’ and then ‘Styles and Formatting.’) You will then see these entries in the style sheet on the right side of the screen:

Clear formatting
Heading 1
Heading 2
Heading 3

For your exercise, type the following:

The Fox & The Boys, The Donuts & The Mascot

(1) The Quick Brown Fox
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Did you see that?
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. I told you, didn’t I?
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Now I’ve seen everything.

(2) Five Puzzled Boys
Five puzzled boys watched six quiet girls kiss just me, Frank. Was I fantasizing?
Five puzzled boys watched six quiet girls kiss just me, Frank. That was yesterday.
Five puzzled boys watched six quiet girls kiss just me, Frank. It was fun while it lasted.

(3) Donuts

Please buy me a boxful of donuts, the sweet, sticky kinds. It’s been half a year since I smelled a Dunkin’ and I’m famished!

(4) Mascot

That teddy bear is for a new store selling encyclopedia-size PCs. For quality, they’re very cheap, but I’ll pass. Keyboard too small for a big touch typist like me.

Position your cursor anywhere on the title ‘The Fox & The Boys, The Donuts & The Mascot’ and click on the style sheet on your right to format as Heading 1 (first-level heading).

Go to the line ‘(1) The Quick Brown Fox’ and this time click on Heading 2. Then go to the line ‘(2) Five Puzzled Boys’ and also click Heading 2. Do the same for ‘(3) Donuts’ and ‘(4) Mascot.’ (If you make a mistake, click ‘Clear formatting.’)

Now click View, Outline.

Next, position your cursor on ‘(1) Five puzzled boys’ (Heading 2) and click the icon negative (–) to hide the text. Then position your cursor on ‘(2) Five Puzzled Boys’ and click the same. Repeat for ‘(3) Donuts’ and ‘(4) Mascot.’

Congratulations! You have just made and seen your first outline using Word 2003.

Now all you see is this:

(1) The Quick Brown Fox
(2) Five Puzzled Boys
(3) Donuts
(4) Mascot.

So, can you be a creative writer and combine all 4 topics and write 1 charming little essay? Probably not.

Now, for the magic of outline-organizing: Select the whole line (3) and drag it up so that it follows (1); so now it reads like this:

(1) The Quick Brown Fox
(3) Donuts
(2) Five Puzzled Boys
(4) Mascot.

To un-hide text, click the icon positive (+), or click View, Normal, and you will see that the accompanying texts have also moved.

Click View, Outline again. Just looking at those 4 lines should now give you ideas. My ideas are these: You can feed donuts to the quick brown fox and the lazy dog. And actually, the mascot (teddy bear) was called ‘Frank’ and that was the one the six quiet girls were kissing. Creativity, Sir, is the name of the game.

In short, with a little knowledge of outlining and a little fooling around, Serendipity X makes you very creative like never before.


In Serendipity writing, what you need to do first is to create disorder: you take notes, you jot down thoughts here and there, tagging them as you jot them. Disorder will trigger your mind to create order. Make sure you research your topic well. Apart from other sources, you must search the Internet. Be sure to include in your search indirectly related topics, as merely scanning them will surely increase your understanding of your topic at hand.

Tagging your little notes will give you more ideas. The title you assign Heading 1; the tags you assign Heading 2. And then to create a great deal more disorder: you gather some more notes, jot down some more thoughts. Try assigning Heading 3 to some tags. Click View, Outline, then hide the texts and see if you can move around some of the headings together with the texts underneath them. Surely ideas will come to you how to organize what you’re writing.

As my book The Rebel Writer’s Guide For Non-Dummies will show, if you can’t create great disorder, you can’t create great order. (In sequential order, you have been reading from Chapter 1 to Chapter 3. If you want to be a creative writer, I recommend that you start with Chapter 3, which is this one.)

Remember this: You are your own creative god. Creator of Chaos – that’s what you should first become, what each writer should first become if he wants to be creative, or to be more so.

You must cultivate that chaos habit. When being the author of chaos becomes second-nature, Creativity becomes second-nature to you. You’ve grown accustomed to her face, to her wiles, to her blessings.

To mix metaphors: When you’re creative, wherever you go, sometimes you bring a closed flash drive and always an open mind; you have perhaps 4 gigabytes in your hands but certainly infinite, enigmatic bytes in your head.

Since February 6, with my new HP Compaq Presario C737TU laptop (notebook) with a pair of Intel Dual Core processors both running at 1.6 GHz Microsoft’s Vista Home in 1 GB RAM in a wide creativity expanse of a 120-GB hard disk, my mind is open to work/play 24/7. When you like work, work’s like play. Before February 6 this year, 9 Hilarios had to take turns on the desktop Powerlogic (the name on the tower case) with an LCD from LG and Intel Core 2 Duo running Windows XP in 2 GB RAM. Branded and unbranded, each of these machines is Beauty & The Beast. On top of all that, when you’re creative, your mind is a mean machine. Now, with my HP notebook on my lap, or on the table (or in my carrying case) and not having to share the machine with 8 PC-active children, Word 2003 is a most delightful tool for my writing waiting for me all the time.

If you’re a writer and you don’t know outline-organize as according to the Word 2003 paradigm, you don’t know what you’re missing. Try it sometime! Drag your headings and subheadings every which way – along with the corresponding text of course – and see instantly if this sequence makes better sense or that sequence makes much better sense, or this tag & text will have to go, or this text will have to be the beginning or that text will have to be the ending, or this statement is the first thing to say to attract attention or that statement is the last thing to say that leaves a better aftertaste.

Now then, you might say Serendipity X is outline-organizing (OO) plus the unknown (X) equals OOX, license to thrill. With Serendipity X, outline-organizing becomes one of the most powerful tools for creativity that I have ever seen, and I thank Microsoft Word for that.

In Serendipity X, or creative chaos, the journey itself is many journeys; you are always making a new first step, never the last, until you’re happy with the end results. Going the way of Serendipity X is an adventure into the unknown, creating chaos in mind as a foundation for creating essay on paper. Sounds crazy it just might work!

To x is for me to take notes and add more and tag and retag them and create and recreate my outline using my favorite worp. With Serendipity X, Word’s outline-organize is the best thing that ever happened to my writing. With this feature not found in any other word processing software that I know of, it’s a Wonderful Word out there for creative writers who want to be the best they can be. I wish them only the best.

Explore posts in the same categories: serendipity on call, serendipity thinking

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