Share the Goods, Or How to Use Deadlines to Your Advantage

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When life gets in the way of writing, I need to question my direction. Neither should pull from one another, they should always just dance.

The past few weeks have been interesting. My sister, Kelly, got married. I hosted my good friend, Laura, an Italian from Dublin. And I bought a bunch of mind-bending books, like Seneca's On the Shortness of Life and Kreider's We Learn Nothing. I wouldn't wish the memories away for the world. Or for my blog.

But the time away always offers the opportunity to reflect. And I've found that if I don't post, no one comes looking too hard for more. No harm, no foul. We're all out there, living lives. When I do post, though, you're here to read. And I have to thank you.

The thing is any idiot can write a few words and hit "Publish". And some do. God bless 'em. But after awhile, most sane boys and girls would stop reading the ramblings of a stale moron. Good writing is not about the deadline, it's about the message. Ryan Holiday makes this perfectly clear in his post So You Want to Be a Writer? That's Mistake #1

"The problem is identifying as a writer. As though assembling words together is somehow its own activity. It isn’t. It’s a means to an end. And that end is always to say something, to speak some truth or reach someone outside yourself."

I like to think you stick it out with me because I do say something, speak some truth, and reach out. After almost (almost!) three full years of writing regularly, I'm still so happy to hear someone rolled their eyes over my words, one way or another. You could be doing anything else and you decided to see the nonsense that came out of my brain and fingertips. Right on!

But I don't want to be the idiot pressing the Publish button for the wrong reasons. Of course, writing to a deadline can do some good. It's a hustle in learning to do well what some do so poorly. Or not at all. Entrepreneur and author Seth Godin examines this from an interesting angle:

"No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say, and sits quietly, or days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down... Just write. Write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better."

Just a taste of my tiny book collection

The danger is when you reach a plateau where the words finally work together and the ideas suck ass. I'm a big fan of small books for this reason. They get right to the point. 

Good work takes time. Only now do I realize that creating and sharing every day or week doesn't have to mean you write your best product constantly and give it away. Tarantino took six years between writing and directing Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. There were three quiet years between Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d City" and "To Pimp A Butterfly". The example are endless. And when we're happy with the product, we're glad the artist took the time. 

Taking your time makes sense on the everyday level too. Neuroscientist and author Daniel Levitin takes the idea out of the artist realm to remind us that technology over time has changed our efforts. Levitin writes, "Because the very act of writing a note of letter to someone, took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn't go to the trouble unless we had something important to say."

When the deadline starts to feel like a hamster wheel, it's time to experiment.

I want to steal a page out of Austin Kleon's book Steal Like An Artist. Like Kleon, I want to stick to a deadline of sending a weekly message out that's more of a collection of ideas I'm exploring here and now. Sharing ideas is the reason I do this. I want to encourage idea sex. Get it on! It's not enough in this world to digest and accept, we need to dive deep and explore. 

Really, this shouldn't be a big change at all. As Simon Sinek repeats in his popular TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, "It's not what you do, it's why you do it." The medium doesn't matter nearly as much as being clear on you're trying to achieve. 

And so I'd like to end with a quote from Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund:

"Before you finished getting out of bed, brushing your teeth with clean tap water, putting on clothes, making breakfast, turning off the light, walking out of the door, you are benefiting from the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals from all around the world. They all deserve your spirit of generosity. So walk with humility and reverence for the human endeavor, and know it's your job to help take that endeavor forward.

Please know you have my gratitude for even reading this far and I'll continue to "take the endeavor forward" as best as I can. Idea sex means nothing without someone to share it with and I'll keep on sharing my very best.