Julie Duffy is a writer and the host of StoryADay.org, a creative writing challenge held in May every year.
I've just finished up StoryADay May, in which a bunch of writers sat down every day and wrote, well, a story a day.
It's a real challenge and each year it teaches me something new about writing, creativity and productivity.
This year it helped me identify four building blocks for a stable and productive creative life.
"Start before you're ready.
Don't prepare. Begin."
-Steven Pressfield, Do The Work
It's scary, right? Yes, yes it is. And there will come a time when you
have to break off and research 12th century sanitation or how carbon
nanofibers are created, but that day is not today. Today is all about
the ideas and getting words on the page.
There were days when I had to literally put my pen on a piece of paper
and start making shapes. Soon the shapes became words, and soon the
words became a sentence, an idea, the germ of a story. By the end of
the day, that doodle had become a story with characters, movement and
a world to live in. It was hard and messy at times, but I never
regretted just starting.
"Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into
being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms."
Finishing a piece of art requires a whole different level of courage.
It is in finishing that we see the whole shape of the piece. It is in
finishing that we put ourselves on the precipice, looking woozily down
at the void that is the wider world of readers/viewers/listeners.
But one of the best things about finishing is that once you're out
there on the precipice, you start to notice that there are a lot fewer
people around than before.
Doesn't it sometimes feel like everyone is writing, drawing,
composing, creating? It's wonderful and it is intimidating. But if you
look closely, the number of people finishing and polishing and
publishing (even trying to) is a surprisingly small subset of all the
creative artists you know. It is a far shorter distance from
‘finished’ to ‘successful’ than the distance between ‘working on it’
"The day I start a book 200 other people start books. And they're
smarter, and funnier, and more talented than I am, and you would enjoy
them much more than you're enjoying me. But too bad for them and too
bad for you, 'cause I'm the guy that finished the book. That's the
-Stephen Hunter http://authorsontourlive.com/stephen-hunter-podcasts-i-sniper/
So these are two prongs of your creative life. But a two-legged stool
is pretty unstable. We need a couple more legs to really brace this
Yup, not 'quality'. To a certain extent you need quantity.
If you write or draw or play every single day, and if you have any
talent at all, you can't help but get better. It's a simple as that.
Create daily and you will get better. You will find it easier to get
into that creative zone quickly, and you'll find it much, much easier
to survive a bad day because you know you'll be coming back tomorrow.
"Start early and work hard. A writer's apprenticeship usually involves
writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he's almost
ready to begin. That takes a while."
There is a book that is taking the sales world by storm, called Go For No.
The authors contend that the route to success is not a journey away
from failure and towards success,
failure <<<< you >>>> success
where you move towards either one end of the scale or the other.
Rather, they say, the route looks like this:
you >>>> failure >>>> success
where you traveling through failure in order to become a success.
Look around at the world (business, personal, creative, whatever) and
this starts to make a lot of sense.
If you stop creating every time you have to face rejection or
criticism, how much closer will you be to finishing? Now imagine if
you plough on through the ‘‘failure’ and keep creating anyway. Where
are you now?
So start today, work on your project everyday, recognize when it is
finished and, if it's not perfect? So what? That's one less crappy
story/picture/song you have in you. Now move on to the next one.