My come to Jesus moment happened mid-February.
Who knows what brought it on. One too many self-righteous rants? A steady diet of hummus and IPA? Maybe it was the combination of wearing clear-framed glasses and listening to prog.
Whatever it was, it brought on this realization:
“You are well on your way to becoming a bitter aging hipster.”
“Think about it: You live in LA. You work in marketing. You feel pangs of jealousy whenever someone mentions the success of their creative projects. You have a thousand opinions and still, somehow, you never share an original thought. You’re a card-carrying member of the ultra-passionate, yet unblooded, spectator class.”
That, my friend, is the sound of the last train leaving the station.
But I wasn’t going to be left behind. At least not without one last-minute, Hail Mary sprint for the carriages.
So I made a deal with myself: Twelve weeks of writing every day; publishing, at minimum, one newsletter each week. I’d write under my own name. I’d only write about what I’m interested in. Most importantly, I would not change the plan or try to assess my performance until the very end.
So, now that we’ve reached the twelve week milestone, what’s the score?
- My newsletter has grown from zero to fifty followers–ten of whom I have never met.
- To my surprise and pleasure I’ve received the most wonderful responses from people wanting to talk about the things I’m writing about.
- My wife says she has never seen me so fulfilled with my day to day existence.
These twelve weeks of publishing have changed the way I interface with the world. It has been one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve ever undertaken and, having hit my first milestone, I’d like to share a few of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
1 – Writing Helps You Live Originally
Your beautiful brain is the source of your creative power but it also works something like a funhouse mirror—distorting and warping things out of proportion.
Writing bridges the gap between the unconscious and consensus reality. With every finished piece, you prove to yourself that you are able to wrest meaning out of the apparent insanity that is the depths of the mind.
Over time, you develop faith in your own judgment and the courage to wade deeply into creative waters, bringing back new and exquisite objects for the world to consider.
2 – A Public Commitment Will Change Your Life
Talk about one decision that saves a thousand decisions. Committing to an aggressive publishing schedule is akin to introducing a new gravitational field to your life. All other habits either fall into orbit or drop out completely.
3 – It’s Normal To Feel Like You’re Out Of Ideas
Every time I am about to finish a newsletter I’m visited by the most nonsense thought,
“I have no idea what I’m going to say next week, so maybe I should just stop writing altogether.”
I’ve had this thought every single week and, so far, it hasn’t been a problem yet. My current solution to this weird psychological bug has been to say,
“Eh, we’ll deal with that next week.”
4 – Your Brain Will Find Any Excuse To Avoid Doing The Hard Things
Be prepared that as soon as you sit down to write your brain will perk up with a million suggestions for things you could be doing other than writing. Stephen Pressfield calls this “The Resistance”. Ayn Rand calls this “white tennis shoes syndrome” (as in, “golly gee, I should clean my white tennis shoes instead!”).
5 – You Can Only Give Yourself What You Can Imagine
There is a significant difference between what we say we want and what we believe we deserve. Think of all the unfinished screenplays hidden in a folder marked “To Sort”. All the musical instruments gathering dust in someone’s garage.
As you follow your grand vision, you’re going to turn a lot of people into believers.
The first person you need to start with, however, is yourself.
Recognize that it will take time and early victories for you to buy into your journey.
Knowing this, we can give ourselves manageable milestones, some margin for error, and maybe a few constraints to prevent the future self from making any rash decisions (mine was refusing to assess the performance of the newsletter until the 12th issue).
6 – Embrace The Dichotomies
An undertaking of any complexity is filled with apparent contradictions.
You will often receive conflicting advice. When this happens, your job as a newbie is not to argue that advice, decide that the advice giver is full of it, dogmatically hold to the first piece of advice you were given, or eschew the idea of expertise altogether.
Embrace the contradictions. You’ll work it out soon enough.
Sometimes things operate on a logic that requires greater experience and wisdom to appreciate.
7 – Community Is Everything; Except When It’s Not
The benefits of a community in habit/identity formation are second to none. That said, and in the spirit of embracing dichotomies, searching for a community at the beginning of your journey can lead to crippling procrastination. Not the least because it may be too soon for you to have any idea where you fit in.
8 – Systems Beat Goals
Goals are essential for setting a direction but, when it comes down to it, you’ve still got to plan a route.
Calendar reminders, todo lists, alarms, weekly reviews, down-time, and self-care. These are the unsexy steps that turn your whiteboard dream into a reality.
9 – Compound Interest Is A Force You Want On Your Side
There are few one-off transactions that will change your life. For obvious reasons, those opportunities are hyper competitive. What you want to seek instead is a practice that will return compound interest over time. This means that sustainability is as much a priority as vigor.
10 – None Of This Matters If You Don’t Start
All the advice in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t start.
I believe that there is a journey for all of us. One that calls our best qualities forward and helps us grow into fulfilled individuals. That journey is waiting for us to be still long enough to hear its call.
Maybe it doesn’t happen the first day you listen. Maybe it’s still not clear on the 12th week. But what is important is that we set time aside to show up for our inner selves like we would any other part of our existence we considered valuable.
Where Is This Going?
Well I’m sure as hell not stopping.
Priority number one is to come to a better understanding of what it is that I use this channel to communicate and how that improves the lives of my readers.
There are a few ideas at play here:
- I believe that we all live lives according to stories we tell ourselves
- I believe that books are more like magical incantations than they are inert paperweights
- I believe that the most interesting ideas are locked away in language that is, for most of the world, totally inaccessible
- I believe that a good story must transform its reader
- I believe that all of us have some parts of ourselves we wish we could change
What this all adds up to, I’m not yet sure.
But I can promise that in the coming weeks you’ll see me trying my best to make work of these ideas—always with a view to creating writing that can be of practical use to you.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Hand to God, this is the most fun I’ve ever had and I’m just so very grateful for you who lend me your ears.