View profile

Weekly 3: See your work as a mirror

Summary: Make your clones happy. Use your anxiety as a guide. Pass the right test. (~5 min read)

Idea Journal Weekly 3

February 24 · Issue #75 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Make your clones happy. Use your anxiety as a guide. Pass the right test. (~5 min read)

#1. Create the work that you yourself want to see
In an interview with entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, writer and creator of the Wait But Why blog Tim Urban says that a lot of advice to young writers, especially advice targeting writers who want to build an online presence, centers around trying to win readers over.
As he puts it, “If you think of your potential readers as pegs, this advice is about trying to mold yourself into the right-shaped hole – a hole that will fit a lot of readers or draw in a bunch of readers quickly, or some other means of getting a writing career going.”
But Urban argues that the opposite advice is a better approach: you should obsess over figuring out the most exciting and natural shape of yourself as a writer, and start doing that.
There are tons of people on the internet, and they can all potentially access your work with a tap on their phone. Even if only 1 in every 1,000 (0.1 percent) happens to be a reader whose interests match your writing style, that amounts to over a million people who will love what you’re doing.
This is the exact approach Urban used to create Wait But Why: “I started out basically imagining I was writing for a stadium full of replicas of myself – which made things easy because I already knew exactly what topics interested them, what writing style they liked, what their sense of humor was, etc.”
He ignored the conventional wisdom that articles should be short and frequent.
And it worked.
As Urban points out, by focusing inward on yourself instead of outward on what you think other people want to read, “you’ll end up creating the best and most original work, and that one-in-a-thousand person who happens to love it will end up finding their way to you.”
#2. Anxiety can serve as a "weather vane"
What if you don’t know what kind of work you should do?
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin writes in his book Linchpin that anxiety can serve as a useful guide for identifying the work you most need to do.
For Godin, there’s a particularly insidious form of anxiety that can keep you from doing your best work and making a meaningful contribution: “the resistance,” a term coined by the writer Steven Pressfield.
The resistance is the voice in our heads that is afraid of change and the unknown, of standing out, of being laughed at. It favors immediate gratification, and fights against acts that involve long-term growth, health, or integrity.
Here are some examples of how the resistance expresses itself:
  • Procrastinating with claims that you need to be perfect.
  • Spending hours obsessing about data collection and research, and ignoring what’s essential.
  • Focusing on revenge or teaching someone a lesson, rather than doing the necessary work.
  • Embarking on a never-ending search for the next big thing, and abandoning yesterday’s thing as old.
  • Starting committees instead of taking action; joining committees instead of leading.
  • Making excuses for your inaction based on your gender, handicap, health, race, religion, or shoe size.
You know you’re onto something when you feel the fear and pull of the resistance: “Whichever way the wind of resistance is coming from, that’s the way to head – directly into the resistance.”
Godin himself nearly succumbed to the resistance as he was completing Linchpin: “I stopped writing this book a dozen times … I realized that my lizard brain was afraid of this book, which is the best reason I can think of to write it.”
#3. Passing the wrong test isn't so impressive
Entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog that we all grade ourselves by different measures:
  • For some people, it’s about how much they make – when their net worth is going up, they know they’re doing well. For others, what matters is how much money they give.
  • For some people, what matters is how many people’s lives they can influence for the better. For others, it’s how deeply they can influence just a few people’s lives.
For Sivers himself, it’s how many useful things he can create: from articles and companies, to songs and websites.
If he creates something that’s not useful to other people, it doesn’t count. But he’s also not interested in doing something useful if it doesn’t need his creative input.
How do you grade yourself?
Knowing this in advance helps you focus on what’s genuinely important to you, instead of simply doing what others think you should.
Quote of the Week
“You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul.”
- Writer George Bernard Shaw in his play As Far as Thought Can Reach: A.D. 31,920
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue
New York, NY