A proverbial desert nonetheless but here we are, day 100 of Create not Consume. 100 days of writing (98 if I’m being honest, as I accidentally missed two days.)
The following post is going to explain what the practice taught me and why you’ll benefit from doing it too. This was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in the past few years. The premise is relatively simple whilst simultaneously being a total pain in the ass.
For 3 years I wrote 1 piece every few months. It took up hours of my time, needless procrastination, and endless frustration. I was a firm believer of ‘writers block’ and only writing when I had an exceptional story. Really this was a get out of jail free card, part excuse to not do the work and part fear of perfection.
This was until Seth Godin introduced the idea that a plumber doesn’t get plumbers block. A plumber goes to work and does the job they’re trained to do, each and every day. They don’t say “I can’t install this water heater today, I’m just not feeling it.” So I made a commitment to myself, to write every day for 100 days and upload it, so I was being held accountable by a virtual audience. I made my intentions public via my social media, which I had at the time, and welcomed feedback. There was no minimum word count or specific topic, just write. I went from days of feeling that this was my calling only to be followed by days of doubting if I’d ever had a valuable thought in my entire life. So what have I learnt?
If you do anything enough you will create works of value. If you paint one picture per year expecting it to be a masterpiece versus painting one picture each day for a year, purely with the intention of painting, the likelihood that you’ll have a masterpiece by the end of the year greatly favours the daily approach. Consistency is key. You know this instinctively, but the thought of continuous effort can be discouraging. Get rid of the idea that every jigsaw piece must be in the perfect position in order for you to start. That day will never come and you’re using it as an excuse to not start, in the same way I was using “writers block.”
You won’t love it every day. If you find value in an activity, be aware you won’t “love it” every day. Acknowledge the bigger picture. We get obsessed with this idea of “passion” and working remotely from a beach in Bali. It’s more about finding value and purpose. There’s nothing worse than that person who won’t shut up about how amazing their job is and how they were born to do it. Does Usain Bolt hit the track every day exploding with enthusiasm? If the intention is to progress and get better, you’ll have to do work in the process that you don’t love. If there’s no struggle, there’s no progress.
Keep learning. Writing is one of those activities, like running, that you may feel you know how to do instinctively. You can either do it, or you can’t. I’ve been writing since I was spilling milk at school so of course I know how to do it as an adult. Wrong! Do you ever take a minute to examine how you’re breathing? Just because you do something all the time, doesn’t mean you’re good at it. The practice meant unlearning a multitude of bad habits that I had developed through texting and casual YouTube comment reading. I would passively read the work of other great writers, not paying any attention to what elements of their writing captivated me and then write a half assed piece having learnt nothing. It takes a conscious effort to be actively engaged in what makes good work good. Thankfully you have Google. The answer to any question you might have is at the end of your fingertips, but, you have to ask the question AND you have to listen to the answer.
Self doubt is a part of the process. You’ll have days that will make you wonder if you’re wasting your time and if you’re just as worthwhile sitting on the couch binging Tiger King. This will come but it will also pass. This is the dip. Is spending time working on an activity you value worth more to you than passively sitting in front of the TV? Even if your work is total horse shit at least you’re working on yourself. Even if you’re jogging 1km at total snails pace, you’re making the effort to improve better instead of sweating into your sofa.
Love the process. At the start, I was focused purely on the outcome. This meant I was unable to enjoy the process of reading, coming up with ideas, writing, editing , and exploring new territory. Whereas if you treat each aspect as “training,” then you have potential to grow. My insides turn at the visual imagery of everyone “being on their own journey” but it’s an accurate way of describing our differences in learning. As a result I can appreciate the moments when I suck, because I know that when I hit the mark I’ve progressed. If you can progress once, you can progress again, which leads me on to my next point.
Create momentum. Newtons first law of motion is that objects at rest, stay at rest and objects in motion, stay in motion. The hard part is getting from rest to motion but when you do, that’s when the magic happens. That’s why the hardest part can be getting off the couch to put your shoes on or putting pen to paper. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page, get drafting on scrap paper, then your object is in motion.
People don’t care. Don’t enter this looking for praise from others for your hard work. Your friends and family genuinely don’t care. Sure they’ll be happy you’re doing something positive but they have their own goals and worries. This is not for them, it’s for you. When you start, you’ll get positive reinforcement from those you talk to, they may even ask to see what you’re doing and show what seems to be genuine interest but very quickly that will die off and the only person you have to keep you on track is you. That’s ok because that’s the only person you need to impress. That’s the person who will be keeping you awake at night thinking about your development.
How can you adopt this approach?
- Pick an activity you want to develop or turn into a habit (20 press-ups, 10 minute walk, cook a fresh meal, sketch, learn a new language)
- Keep it simple but continuous (Kaizen)
- Decide on the minimum effective dose per day i.e. walk 10 minutes.
- Do it for 100 days.
- If you fail to do it for a day, just get back on track the next day.
There’s nothing more to it. Does this mean it’s easy? Not at all. You have to hold yourself accountable, you have to be prepared for those days when the last thing you want to do is your thing, you have to be prepared to make it work last thing at night or first thing in the morning, you have to plan ahead, you have to be ready for those days when you fail and instead of giving up entirely you get back at it again the next day but the reward you will get for your continued effort will lay the solid foundations for a lifestyle habit.
What better time to start than now, on the traditional day of new habits. Jan 1st (This will take you up to 11 April 2021.)