Create Your Best Work by Forgetting About the Results
Write every day, publish when ready.
Tealfeed Guest Blog
I am a big fan of discipline when it comes to writing and creativity in general.
One of the best habits I’ve developed over the past few months is daily writing. Since October 2, 2019 — I wrote every single day, at least 1,000 words per day. This habit helped me go from 10 to 3,000 followers in 5 months, and to start making a part-time income from my writing.
Because this habit worked so well for me, like most people, I thought of it as a panacea. I started adapting it to other areas of life. In particular, to book writing.
“The best way to learn to write books is to write books,” I thought, and so — I disciplined myself to write (and publish) one every month.
Everything went well for the first few months, and I published a self-help book about becoming successful on Medium, a collection of lessons from my heroes and, recently, a 20,000-word manifesto on how blogging can change your life and career.
But then I stopped.
I started to feel bad about my writing.
When I thought of books, I didn’t think any more of the pleasure of coming up with ideas or bringing value to the reader.
All I thought about was, “Will I make it on time?” Will I publish the book before the metaphorical “bell” rings, and will I be able to keep going at one-book-every-month pace?
After much deliberation, I had to accept a painful truth: telling yourself to write a book per month is complete bullshit. For me, at least.
There are writers like Steve Scott, who can write a book every three weeks on topics such as “How to organize your Evernote,” and as much as I respect Scott for his work ethic — I don’t want to be that kind of writer.
Two Types of Writers
Of everything I’ve seen, it seems that writers, bloggers — and all creative people in general — can be broken into two categories:
- Quantity seekers. People who write for the sake of writing, the more — the better. (e.g., Steve Scott)
- Quality makers. People who write because they have something to say, and only when they have something to say. (e.g., Seth Godin)
Who you are as a writer depends on the game you play (quality game or quantity game), and it reflects your personality. Your inner values.
What do you value more: getting your stuff out there as fast as possible, as frequently as possible, or creating a masterpiece that will change people’s lives? There is no “better” way.
There are writers who write only one book in a lifetime and end up being famous and rich. And then there are writers who write numerous books for decades. There is no right approach — only yours.
Personally, I am somewhere in between. I believe in a discipline of shipping your work — because “making it perfect” can often be procrastination in disguise — but I also don’t want my pursuit of a quantity to hinder my writing quality.
Discipline is a two-edged sword, and it has diminishing returns, especially in the creative spheres, like writing.
I got rid of the pressure to publish the book every month and turned to something else: the process of writing. And I think that’s what most creatives should do.
Creative Habits Matter Most
I agree with both Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. Real artists ship.
After all, if you start something — but don’t finish it, it’s not worth anything. As Hemingway once wrote, “What you don’t finish is not worth a damn.” But even if you finish a mediocre product (a book, a business, a blog post), it’s worth something.
Finishing should be the goal of all creatives.
But a creative life is a long one. It’s about making things and creating every single day, at a sustainable pace, sometimes for years. The habits and the smoothness of the creative process matter most.
And even if you’re working on projects that have a finish date, I still suggest focusing on the daily process.
Focusing On the Process, Not the Result
When I built my video production business a few years back, I was struggling to find clients. But instead of telling myself that “I need to find clients,” I focused on the process: sending ten emails per day.
Ten emails is not a lot, but that’s 300 emails a month. Even if the conversion rate from one email was 1%, I’d get three new clients each month.
My sister is a painter. She has a lot of projects she’s working on at any given time, but her ritual is intact: she paints for 2–3 hours each day. That’s all she cares about.
Stephen King is famous for his 2,000 word-a-day rule. He writes 2,000 words every single day, and then he’s done for the day. Even on weekends. Even on his birthday. Even on the Fourth of July.
When you let go of the goal and focus on doing what you can, suddenly — you’re in control.
What Stoics Can Teach You About Creativity
The Stoic philosophy has a concept of goal “internalization.” In short, it’s about focusing on what you can control — and only that. In a world where we can’t control everything, the only thing we should focus on is our effort.
When you, as a creative, decide to internalize your goals, all you should be concerned with — is the daily effort.
Looking back, when I tried disciplining myself on “shipping” one book every month, I wasn’t a Stoic. I wasn’t internalizing my goals, and I was focusing on the external — getting my work published at a certain time period. But a book can take more than a month to finish. Something can happen. I might not be inspired. And pushing myself to finish on time would have only made my writing worse.
Neil Gaiman was internalizing his goals when he said, “Every time I followed the money, I ended up not having it. So I decided to never follow the money. That way, I would at least have the work.”
When you internalize your goals, you get something more valuable than creative success. Stillness.
This article was originally published by Sergey faldin on medium
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